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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 5 (August 1, 1936)

The People of Pudding Hill — No. 8

page 50

The People of Pudding Hill
No. 8.

[All Rights Reserved.]

The Talking Scarecrow.

You remember when the people of the cottage first came to live on Pudding Hill, the animals were not very pleased about it, but Johnny Black, the Blackbird, said that he didn't mind because they would be sure to plant all kinds of seed in the garden, which he could eat. “Grass seed, carrot seed, or even celery seed,”
“Seven very fat Field Mice.”

“Seven very fat Field Mice.”

was what he said, and he was perfectly right; the people of the cottage did sow a lot of seed.

First of all they dug up the vegetable garden and sewed carrots and parsnips, and Johnny Black, perched high up in the macrocarpa tree watched them with a bright and knowing eye. When the planting was done he flew down and ate some of that seed, but not very much, because it was planted too deep. Then they planted celery seed, and Johnny ate some of that too, more than he did of the carrot seed, because it wasn't planted so deep. After that he had some lettuce and parsley and spinach, and then spring went and summer came and there was no more planting, and Johnny went back into the tree tops and sang very beautifully for the people who had given him the nice seed.

And the people in the cottage, although they didn't forget that he had eaten an awful lot of seed, became very fond of him.

Early in the morning when the sky was still gray and the garden wet with dew he sang—

“I don't like the dark and I do like the day,
Here comes the sun so I'm happy and gay.”

Later on when the dew had all gone and smoke was rising from the cottage chimney—by which Johnny Black knew that there would soon be toast crumbs and marmalade on the drying-green, he sang—

“How did you like my song, boys?
I didn't, do it by chance
Wait till I've had my toast boys
And I'll show you how to dance!”

The boys in the song were, of course, the Sparrowdenes, who joined him at breakfast, and often enough he really did dance afterwards on the clothes line, until, perhaps spying Mr. Tom, he would pretend to be very frightened and fly away crying “Chich —Chich—Chich,” into the top of the macrocarpa tree.

But his best song of all was the one he made up about the lawn. He used to sing it in the evening when the shadows grew long under the gorse hedge, and Peter Possum could be heard muttering to himself as he moved about in the old gum tree. But he did not make it up until later in the year, and the way it came about was this.

One day after a shower of rain the people of the cottage began to dig the other half of the garden. Johnny was most interested. He came down and sat on a fence post and watched each spadeful being turned over. Then he flew on to a low branch to see better while the ground was being hoed. When, after this, it was raked out flat, he got so excited that he flew round and round the garden telling everybody it was grass that was being planted, and grass seed isn't buried at all, but lies on top where it can easily be picked up.

But the people of the cottage had not forgotten that Johnny Black ate quite a lot of their seed before, and so he was surprised when he woke up next morning to see what looked like a man standing on what was to be the new lawn. So surprised was he that he forgot to sing his sunrise song, but just went on looking and looking until the sun came up. And the man on the lawn looked back at him, standing very still and holding a stick in an outstretched hand. He was dressed in a ragged old coat and wore an old hat on the back of his head. At least Johnny thought he did, but he couldn't be quite sure if he had a head at all; not a proper kind of head—it looked rather like a pumpkin.

Johnny flew down to the fence, and was quite sure it wasn't anybody from the cottage, because he didn't say “Now then, J. B., these aren't for you,” or “Away back to your trees you black varmint!” like the people of the cottage always did when they were planting. In fact, Johnny had just about decided that it was only a silly old scarecrow after all, when it spoke.

It had a squeaky voice rather like the Field Mice, and sometimes, like the Field Mice when they were all talking together, it seemed to be able to talk and laugh at the same time.

“I've been told, Johnny Black,” it said, “to hit you very hard with this stick if you eat any grass seed!”

“Oh,” said Johnny Black, “is that grass seed down there where you're standing, well, fancy me not noticing that. I just came down to say good morning—you're a stranger to these parts, aren't you?”

The scarecrow did not answer at
“I have been told Johnny Black to hit you very hard.”

“I have been told Johnny Black to hit you very hard.”

page 51 once, but made giggling sounds instead, then: “Yes, I'm a stranger, Johnny Black, so beware.”

“Beware—what of?”
“Me,” said the scarecrow.
“Because I'm going to hit you if you eat any grass seed.”

“I don't eat grass seed,” said Johnny Black scornfully, “or if I do nibble a little bit now and again—just to see if its good seed you know—I always sing afterwards.”

“Yes, we know you do,” squeaked the scarecrow, “and we don't like it.

“Why do you say we” asked Johnny in surprise. “There's only one of you.”

“I suppose I can say 'we’ if I like,” the scarecrow answered angrily. And Johnny Black, not liking either the look of the scarecrow or the way it spoke, flew away to the drying green and waited for his breakfast of toast and marmalade.

The Sparrowdenes were there, and he told them what the scarecrow had said, and they decided that perhaps for the present it would be better to keep away from the lawn.

“I expect,” said Mrs. Sparrowdene, “it will be gone by to-morrow anyway.”

But it had not gone by to-morrow, nor the day after either, but stayed just where it was for more than a week, until the grass seed had sprouted and the new lawn was misty-green all over.

Johnny Black came down every morning and tried to make friends with the scarecrow. But the scarecrow was always rude and threatened “to beat him with a stick”—until the last morning, when a most remarkable thing happened.

While Johnny Black was talking to it the scarecrows’ head suddenly fell off its neck, and out of the head, which really was only a pumpkin, came tumbling seven very fat Field Mice, for they had been in there all the week, and had eaten the inside of it quite away.

Johnny Black was annoyed at first when he realised that it was only the Field Mice who had been speaking inside the scarecrow's head, but he pretended that he had known who it was all the time.

“Well,” squeaked the Field Mice, “why didn't you eat the grass seed if you knew it was only us?”

“Oh,” said Johnny, “I really did want the people of the cottage to have a nice lawn,” and then and there made up the song which he usually sang in the evenings, and which he thought was his best song.

“Beetles and crickets and field mice too,

Listen to me while I sing.
You like to play in the grass you do.
For grass is a beautiful thing.
But do you think as you run about
How the grass was made to grow,
How a noble Black Bird went without
Any seed to eat? Oh no!
I could have eaten that seed you know,
That's what I might have done.
But I wanted the beautiful grass to grow,
So that you could have your fun.
Beetles and crickets and field mice, too,
Play the whole day long,
But try to remember as you do,
The things I've said in this song.”

“The Great Train Robbery.”

This year, 1936, being the fiftieth anniversary of Thomas Edison's initial experiments with moving pictures, it is interesting to recall that the first actual story picture—produced in 1903—was a railway drama entitled “The Great Train Robbery.” It was a onereeler, and the principal players were Marie Murray and George Barnes. The story was the idea of Edwin Porter, one of Edison's early camera-men.

“O. W. Waireki.”