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Flint, MI–Sitting on a bench outside of Steve Lowry’s house is a scarecrow with a pair of googly eyes, a protective face mask, and a T-shirt that reads: “Saydee’s Grandpa” with two paw prints.
Saydee was Lowry’s Cocker Spaniel who died last year. Lowry modeled the scarecrow after his late father, who passed on Aug. 2 due to COVID-19.
The scarecrow in Lowry’s yard is one of 67 others scattered across the Glendale Hills neighborhood in front of homes, street signs and trees.
Lowry, 64 (although, as he says, he’s not counting), made the scarecrows with the help of his husband, his brother-in-law and four other neighbors after the Glendale Hills Neighborhood Association received a Socially Distant Neighborhood Grant from Keep Genesee County Beautiful.
The neighborhood could come up with any project that would bring the neighborhood together while practicing social distancing.
“I couldn’t think of anything, but then right at about the same time my dad died, my brother-in-law mentioned he was working on a project in Cork town where they were using bales of straw,” Lowry said. “I thought, well, straw’s pretty cheap. What can I do with straw? Scarecrows.”
For seven weeks, the group spread out in Lowry’s backyard and assembled their scarecrows.
Lowry, who had never made a scarecrow before this project, put most of the scarecrow bottoms together and “stuffed the pants.”
For the tops, the crew stuffed nylon pantyhose with straw to create the tops of the bodies. The legs of the pantyhose became the scarecrow’s arms, and the top of the pantyhose, once tied, became the head.
The group got clothing donations from the neighborhood to dress the scarecrows, mask them up for COVID-19, and give each one its own style. Some of them even have names and stories.
Like Spartt E. Cuss, who has a cast covering a shattered femur that was signed by neighborhood residents. Or Piro Ette, a world-famous ballerina sporting a white gown with lace trim, and long white hair. One woman has a proposal scene in her yard with two scarecrows. She named them Mr. and Mrs. Scared E. Kat.
Tutu Little is a young scarecrow with pink hair and a teal tutu. She stands on the corner of Melinda Walker’s yard with a brother scarecrow and a grandmother scarecrow, which represent Walker and her grandchildren.
Walker said the kids in the neighborhood love the scarecrows and have had multiple scavenger hunts counting as many as they can find.
“It’s just wonderful,” Walker said. “And even now that I’m retired, it gives me happiness.”
People in the neighborhood recognize Lowry now because of this project, and have stopped him to ask for scarecrows, he said.
Lowry said the people in the neighborhood love and enjoy the new scarecrows, but some people from outside of the neighborhood have taken offense to them.
He said some scarecrows were taken down, torn apart, and even burned. A video circulated on Facebook of a few of the “Black” scarecrows remarking that the way they were propped up was “disturbing.”
Lowry said the group made a point of making the scarecrows racially diverse.
“The neighborhood is just fine, but this controversy is out there,” Lowry said.
The original intent of the project was to make it a yearly tradition, but in light of the recent backlash, Lowry said he doesn’t think it will be.
“My goal was to continue the whole thing and go around and give them names and storylines around the neighborhood, but all of this is kind of squashed,” he said. “The people that helped are just so shell shocked…I just can’t do anything that might cause more hurt.”
For more pictures and stories about the different scarecrows the group created, you can visit the Glendale Hills Neighborhood Association Facebook page.