I must confess to being a “peeker” … now, that sounds better than admitting to being a “peeper”. Many years of poring over Better Homes and Gardens or Birds & Blooms has led me to look for one-of-a-kind yard art or creative objects for my landscaping. I love to see how other homeowners design their gardens and property, and when passing by corner houses, I simply cannot help myself – I usually sneak a peek as I walk by. If I really like someone’s yard art or landscaping I always compliment the gardener if they are around. I know it always makes me feel good when I’ve been complimented on my yard.
There is the most interesting yard ornament in a backyard, done with a country twist, and as many times as I meander by, there is no one in the yard to compliment, or ask if this is their own creation. At first, I thought it was a very tall scarecrow. Then, I realized it was a prairie woman who stands high above the garden, much like a scarecrow would. She is essentially a metal frame, just a head and shoulders on a tall stake, and adorned with materials fashioned to resemble Ma Ingalls from the 70s show “Little House on the Prairie”. She is clad in a flowing calico dress that extends to her “ankles” and grazes the tops of the flowers. A slight breeze causes the filmy material to rustle a bit, as if she is walking. She is facing to the right. A huge bonnet is secured by a ribbon which flows down her neck and a sash holds it in place where a chin would be, and completely shields her face. Only one hand is visible and it is holding the handle of a galvanized watering can. She literally presides over the array of brightly colored perennials. Every time I go on a longer walk, like I did today, I make sure to make a detour to pass this house and marvel at Ma Ingalls.
Perhaps this yard ornament reminds me of my ill-fated Holly Hobbie more than three decades ago. For years I’ve alternated my garden theme between “Precious Moments” and country. I’ve always loved the character of Holly Hobbie and I always scoop up any items with her likeness that crosses my path. Years ago my mom and I frequented The Granary, a country store out in rural Newport, Michigan. There were many roadside vendors in Newport that specialized in cement statuary and wooden yard art. We had a favorite place where we stopped, and one day, while browsing, we spied a 3 ½ foot tall, solid wood Holly Hobbie ornament on a stake, which was similarly facing to the right. She was quite unique in that she was three-dimensional and she was pretty in pink, as that saying goes. Her vintage-type clothing was made of oilcloth. Her dress was a pale pink with cabbage roses throughout and she was wearing pink ruffle-edged bloomers. She evidently was bashful, as all you could see was a sliver of face beneath an enormous padded pink bonnet. Holly wore black boots studded with tiny buttons. Her arm moved up and down and she clutched a small watering can with a long spout. We bought this Holly Hobbie in a heartbeat, and while driving home we debated where to put her in the backyard. After much consternation, we decided she would look perfect between the pink rosebushes and the lilac tree.
When we arrived home, our kindly neighbor, Jim, saw us unloading Holly from the car’s trunk and came over to have a look. He immediately went home for a spade and a rubber mallet and told us to point where we wanted her to go “because a woman can’t hammer a stake that long into the ground without having the whole thing tip over” … we agreed and pointed where to stake her. Now, Jim was not a male chauvinist pig – he was simply a Southern gentlemen who thought women should stand back and let the men do all the work … and all the sweating. Well, we appreciated his effort and our new Holly just enhanced the backyard’s country theme. I ran in the house for a camera and we posed on either side of her.
The next morning I went outside to fill the birdbaths and feed the birds. I stole a glance toward Holly and noticed a huge blemish on the corner of her bonnet. Thinking it was a bird “plop”, I hurried over with the hose to spray it off. To my horror, the corner of her bonnet had been chewed and was on the ground along with wads of cotton batting that had been bonnet padding. I saw Jim in his yard and told him the squirrels had had a field day with Holly and handed the gnawed-off piece over the fence. He cussed softly, then told me he would fix ‘er up with epoxy glue and not to fret. He quickly restored Holly’s bonnet, then covered it with some brown wrapping paper so it would not be disturbed until it dried. The next morning, once again, I went out to tend to the birds, only to find the bodice of Holly’s dress had been ripped off and was hanging in shreds, with pieces of oilcloth strewn around the rose garden. I was furious! Again I whined for Jim who was enjoying coffee and the morning newspaper in his backyard. I beckoned him to come quickly. He tsked, tsked and promised to put her back together again, then suggested we borrow Bill’s BB gun to ward off that “dang critter” to which I agreed. Jim’s neighbor behind, Bill, a fellow Southerner, made no secret of the fact he routinely hunted squirrels in the large tree in his yard and used them to make a tasty squirrel pie. The third morning, I dreaded going out to the yard to check if the squirrels had once again wreaked havoc on the hapless Holly Hobbie. I was disgusted to find remnants of her high boots with gnaw marks scattered near the bird bath. Enough was enough! I asked Jim to remove Holly and put her out for that morning’s garbage pick-up before I changed my mind.
By the way, did I mention that I always put peanuts out for the squirrels and left them an occasional treat of a slice of bread slathered with a thick layer of crunchy Jif peanut butter? Never again after those squirrel shenanigans!!
[Photo of Holly Hobbie from Pinterest]