Terrifying effigy keeps the crops safe

Philip Olsen, a farmer near Galveston, Texas, saw a news report about the record-cold weather that was about to hit the Lone Star state.

He wasn’t worried.

More than a decade ago, when he lived and farmed in Kansas, Olsen invented what he called a “Scaresnow,” a variation on the traditional scarecrow that frightens away not birds interested in destroying crops but bad weather.

“It’s a patented technology,” said Olsen. “I can’t tell you how it works. But I can describe to you how it works, if you feel me. When I put that Scaresnow up in my fields, the snow starts to come down, but then it turns around and goes right back up into the sky.”


“It’s the gol-darndest thing,” said Patricia Olsen, Philip’s wife.

“Gol-darndest?” said Philip.

“I just mean that, well, whoo-eee, I wouldn’t have believed it until I saw it,” said Patricia. She proceeded to describe her first encounter with the invention, back in Kansas, back in 2009. “Our daughter Lauren was probably 7, a bitty thing, about as high as a grasshopper’s knee, and here comes ol’ Phil, toting what sure seemed like ugly man with an ugly hat, and he’s fit to bursting with pride, and he sets it up in the field, and Lauren and I ask him what he’s on about, and he says ‘the snow, Mother, the snow.’ We thought he was plumb crazy but sure enough when the storm started, the flakes started to drop but when they caught sight of that thing Phil set up, they just turned around and went right back up into the sky.”

“You said that already,” said Philip. 

“So?” Said Patricia. “I’m just telling the man how you could stand next to that thing, which looks like it fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down, and feel snug as a bug in a rug.”



“Bug? Rug?” said Philip.

“Sugar, please,” said Patricia.

“This is preposterous,” said Philip. “Why are you talking that way? You’re from Westchester. You went to Vassar. Why are you putting on this show? It’s almost like minstrelsy.”

“Well, I never…” said Patricia.

“Just stop,” said Philip. “I’m a trained mechanical engineer with a graduate degree in computer science. We met at Stanford. Remember? Talking this way to a reporter is insulting to the whole idea of Texas, our adopted state. People here are just as smart as we are, and they don’t need you acting like some kind of cartoon.”

Patricia turned and ran back to the house. A moment later, Lauren came out of the house. “Father,” she said, “Mother seems disturbed, and when I asked why she mumbled something about no longer wishing to endure your opprobrium.”

“We were talking about the Scaresnow,” Philip said.


“That thing?” Lauren said. “I’m grateful that it lessens the meteorological burden, but can’t bear to direct my gaze in its direction, so objectionable is its appearance.”

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