It’s that time again. In 2019 we entered a local scarecrow festival by submitting an entry we named Queen Vicstrawia and her Grainadier Guard.
The following year was scuttled by the Covid-19 pandemic but this year it has returned with the added change that our recent house move to the village have made us bona-fide locals. This year’s theme was broad – books! Our idea and its pun title was courtesy of my daughter who suggested we do a version of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse – Straw Horse!
After much prevaricating over what to do this year, we didn’t leave ourselves much time and so were up against it, timewise. Dividing roles, my equestrian wife and daughter attended to the ‘horse’ while I attended to the ‘war’ and set to work making an early WWI cavalryman of the Royal Devon Yeomanry.
A child’s second hand WWI costume was secured on an auction site which gave me the basis for the soldier and a cheap roll of fake leather purchased. For the cap, I took the ridiculously oversized peak in a trifle (don’t these children’s party costume people care about historical accuracy?). I then stapled a little faux-leather strip around the band and purchased a badly worn 1st Royal Dragoons cap badge from eBay for just a pound. Cutting a hole in the front of the fancy dress cap, the thing began to look a tiny bit more realistic.
The printed bandolier on the costume just wouldn’t do for me, of course. So, with limited time I set about making my own. Using some more of that faux-leather, I wrapped some Kellogg’s Variety Pack mini-cereal boxes (other brands are available) in more of this material and glued them to a leather belt of mine which I widened using more faux-fabric. Some spare buttons were found and something (very, very) vaguely bandolier-like was created.
Next, it was time for the straw. We secured a spare bale courtesy of our friend whose stable block is home to our (real) horse. Festival rules stipulated that straw must be used in the construction but I fear I got carried away and somewhat over-stuffed my well-fed yeomanry trooper…
My old trusted combination from 2019 – Paper Mache and balloon – came in handy to make the head which would go on to have details added by my daughter:
Some spare costume hair in storage came in useful, though I doubt he would pass parade without being given a dressing down by his NCO to ‘get your bloody hair cut!” Some sturdy wooden posts made him stand to attention. From the stables, some old and well-worn leather gloves, half-chaps and riding boots were kindly donated to complete his cavalryman’s uniform.
As stated, the horse was mostly the creation of my two ladies and I think it looked magnificent for such a large and ambitious ‘scarecrow’ put together in such a short time. Some old leather tack was added to his muzzle and the last of the ubiquitous faux-leather made for the saddle. Much of “Joey the War Horse” consisted of brown fleece, some chicken wire and the remains of the straw bale on top of our ironing board. Finally, as a finishing touch, some WWI propaganda posters and fake barbed wire were put up and Scarecrow Number 53 was ready!
The three-day festival was astonishingly well-attended and at one point ‘Straw Horse’ met ‘more horse’ as Mrs Marvin (on Woody) and other friends paid us a visit from their stables just down the road.
Needless to say, we didn’t win (given the number and astonishing quality of the entrants, hardly a surprise!) but much fun was had once again, nonetheless. In the meantime, I certainly haven’t neglected smaller scale military modelling and will be sharing my more miniature efforts soon.