THE STEAMY SENTRY
By Cynthia Morrison

Dusty Anderson took a deep breath and gazed at the big orange setting sun that seemed to reach out with its warmth to nourish his beloved vineyard in northern California. Being the son of western pioneers prompted him to appreciate all that had been in order to provide him with his inherited avocation. His family took great pride when Anderson vineyards white wine took first prize at the Californian wine tasting challenge the year before. The grapes were in such a sweet productive state that even the birds joined in the taste test and ate a fifth of the un harvested product.
Dusty set his sights on creating a mechanical means that would ensure this would again not be the case for future crops. The scarecrows that he had situated in various places of the orchard seemed to lack in ability of striking fear into the local fowl. His brother in law, Earl, offered his assistance in creating a steam powered scarecrow!  The men started drawing up a plan by calculating the size, weight and material for their exciting new brainchild.  Using a thinner type metal would obviously cut on coal usage. This concept was acceptable as the machine’s purpose did not require it to be sturdy. The only task that this mechanical marvel had to perform was to stroll along within the vineyard during daylight hours. Earl piped up with a suggestion.


“Dusty I’m thinking it would be a good idea to put this monstrosity on rails similar to a train track. You wouldn’t want him wondering the neighborhood now would you?”
“I think you’re right there Earl. If we make him light enough we can also use a less expensive metal for the rails. This project is looking better and better all the time”
Dusty was pleased with the progress of the job but knew the coal fire box would be limited in size and the scarecrow would need to be refueled during the day.
“I’ve got a suggestion. Let’s take this draft to Pearl’s school mistress and ask her to formulate how much coal it would take to travel the distance of the vineyard so we can size a fire box”   
“Good idea. Then we can plan on the maximum size permitted and possibly calculate the burn time to place the scarecrow in a position that will allow you to refuel him easily”
“Brilliant Earl! I knew my sister married you for some reason”
The two men were amused by Dusty’s comment.  They continued on drawing the plans and eventually presented their hideous creation with an official unveiling ceremony held in the barn.


Dusty pulled the canvas cover off and there he stood, in all his metallic magnificence. The steamy sentry of the vineyard with his expressionless stare.  After a long silence Dusty’s daughter, Pearl, decided to comment as diplomatically as she could.
“Pa, he’s definitely right for his task. If the looks of him don’t scare the crows then nothing will. I’m not being mean Pa, just truthful”
“That’s fine Pearl. We weren’t looking to win a blue ribbon with him.”
Pearl’s younger brother “Beau” started laughing as he pointed in the direction of the scarecrow and saying
“I can’t believe you made this ugly hunk of junk and neglect to fix my 2 wheeler”
“That’s because you forget it after school sometimes. So you just keep on riding that mule until you better your memory son”
Pearl decided, in all her sibling rivalry, that she would adore the latest member of  the Anderson family. The hideous metal monstrosity. If only to spite her brother.
“I do love his big shiney brass rivets. Pa, can I name him?”
“Well of course Pearl. I don’t see why not”

“He’s so strong looking. I like the name Bartholomew. It’s a manly and strong name. We’ll call him Bart for short”
Beau had to get in his dig. Laughing at her comment he exclaimed
“Bart? What a stupid name. I can immediately think of a word that rhymes with it for the perfect stupid nickname”
“Pa tell him to stop or I’m gonn’a send him to the next barn!”
“Alright you two that’s enough. Bart it is and no silly nicknames. Now get along inside with your Mother”

Beau decided on a race to the house with his sister and shot off like a scolded dog. Pearl being older and of tall stature had the leg power to defeat him but unfortunately she still had on the two inch heeled ankle boots with spats she had worn to school. She planned a re match for a later date. Earl had concern for the scarecrow’s cost effectiveness. Dusty assured him that the railroad would supply him low cost coal upon delivery as long as he brought along a case of the award winning Chardonnay on his trips to the depot.   


Bart proved to be a good investment with his monotonous movements up and down the vineyard alleys. Upon returning home from school, Pearl would sometimes follow Bart and share with him her lessons of the day. He made a wonderful listener and a perfect confidant. The birds rarely attempted to challenge the metal beast or perhaps it was his undesirable steam assisted exhaust that drove them to fields afar. The neighbors weren’t very appreciative of the exhaust either. Even though most days the kids were away at school, they also began to complain. Their friends were actually scared of Bart’s inhuman appearance and didn’t want to visit the vineyard farm anymore. Then one day Pearl and her mother happened upon a travelling medicine show visiting town when they went on their shopping venture.
“Ma, can we go over and watch the show please?”
“That kind’a show’s run by swindlers. They only try to sell you some kind of mixture that they claim cures everything. Come on now, we got work a wait’in us.
“Oh Ma, please just this once? I’ll do the work. All the work. I promise. Please”
“Well, alright. But only ten minutes”
The Indian dancer had just finished his segment. He gathered his turkey tail dress and went back into the covered wagon.  The next performer arrived on stage. A handsome man with a perfectly manicured beard.


He wore a poet’s shirt and leather gauntlets. Reaching behind him through the wagon’s canvas partition he presented a wooden stand. Then he motioned with his index finger held straight upward, that he was about to present the next portion of his show. Suddenly a lady assistant joined him on stage dressed in a saloon showgirl fashioned gown with a feathered wide brimmed hat. She also had leather gauntlets. Except her gauntlets supported a bird of prey. She held a masked Falcon delicately upon her glove. Pearl was immediately fascinated and focused on the gentleman’s lecture about this bird and it’s behaviors. He demonstrated with the bird how they feed themselves in the wild by targeting vermin and other fowl. But most importantly how fearful other birds are when the Falcon enters their territory. Pearl knew she had found the remedy for her father’s vineyard dilemma.

Dusty was open to Pearl’s idea of using a Falcon to scare the pesky grape ingesting fowl that literally take a bite out of his profits.  They contacted a bird specialist and trained their new Falcon to oversee the vineyard and deter any hungry feather friends. Although Dusty was relieved to have found a newfangled vineyard security system he was also disappointed about overlooking the coal exhaust dilemma and having to now retire his beloved Bart. Pearl was right on the same track with her father in his ideals.


“Pa, can we put Bart in the Barn so he doesn’t rust? Maybe we can show him at the next State fair or enter him in the tractor contest. He could probably pull a hay wagon you know”
“Yes of course. That’s a great idea. Earl and myself put all we had into making Bart. It would be a shame to see him rust away.”

Bart the steamy sentry scarecrow had now taken his place not only inside the Anderson family barn but in their hearts as well. Beau decided he would master the Falcon and that he did. Dusty appreciated his interest as it took the task off him in the after school hours. He called the Falcon “Napoleon” ruler of the vineyard. Napoleon did his job very well. The Andersons brought in a plentiful crop that year. Relieved of their grapes, the vines start to go dormant, their leaves turning red and gold. The change of seasons after the harvest welcomed a laid back seasonal rest and of course the kids favorite holiday.

     
On Christmas day Mrs. Anderson gathered the scattered wrappings in the front room then she and Pearl made their way to the home of an elderly neighbor to share an Apple Pie they had made together.


The chore of Christmas dinner would await their return. Dusty was left to catch up on his reading and keep a check on the Turkey in the oven. In the meantime Beau went out to the barn to feed Napoleon and practice with his new knife throwing set that he had gotten as one of his holiday gifts. He began to wield the throwing knives at the barn wood panels but they didn’t seem to stick well. He rearranged his footing and distance and tried again only to find his knives preferred the floor much more than the barn wood. Beau became frustrated. Then he noticed Bart standing in the corner. Beau figured him to be useless at this point and would make a great target. Could his knives impale Bart’s thin metal skin he asked. Thwap! Went the first blade hurled into the hideous steam powered beast. Then the next and the next until Bart stood helplessly against the wall looking as if he’d lost a bout against Geronimo!

The hackney cart came to an abrupt stop.
“Whoa, Pearl take “Missy” into the barn and feed her after you take the harness off. Leave the cart out for your Father to put away later. I’m going inside to start peeling the potatoes”
“Ok Mother”    

   Pearl tugged at the large barn door that was unwilling to open due to its warped condition. Finally gaining access, she led Missy behind her and made way to into the stall. As she turned to make way to the hay she noticed the knives stuck into Bart’s industrial anatomy. She was horrified at the sight she had found! Her inanimate companion’s sympathetic state gave rise to Pearl’s fury. She knew there was only one scoundrel in these parts that would attempt such a ghastly act. He happened to have fallen from the same womb as she. Brother Beau!
“Alright you little sap sucking weasel where you hiding?!”  
Her outburst made Missy freeze in position with her ears perked. There was sudden silence. Then a bit of rustling from behind the large tractor back wheels.
“You better get on out here or I’ll come in and drag you out by the ears”
The barn was still. Pearl closed the Barn door and secured it with the latch bar. She didn’t want to chance his escape. Pearl began to remove the knives from Bart as Beau slowly appeared from behind the tractor. Pearl gathered a length of rope hanging on a stall hook.
“He ain’t noth’in but a big ugly stupid and useless hunk of junk. So what’s the problem?”
“Come here Beau. I’ll show the problem.”

 
Pearl grabbed Beau by his shirt collar and forced him to stand against a wide wooden post twice the width of Beau himself then tied the rope to secure him. He became increasingly nervous. The two siblings had their differences in the past just as any other family would but this time Pearl was beside herself. Her passionate rage had unbalanced her reasoning.
“What are you doing?!”
“Shut up and stand still or I’ll knock you silly Boy. I’m gonn’a show you what it feels like to have the fear of god put into ya.”
“Stop it! You’ve gone plumb crazy! Or maybe you’re teasing just to see me squirm”
“Oh teasing am I? Just like you was teasing Bart. See if this is a tease!”
Pearl drew back the throwing Knife and hurled it towards Beau. The knife impaled the wood beam next to his ribcage. Beau could feel the vibration of the knife’s impact and began to cry.
“Pearl stop it! Oh my God. Pa! Help”
“No good calling Pa. He can’t hear you in the house. Quit wiggling. Hold still”
Pearl wielded the next two knives. Luckily one landed in the hay stack behind Beau but the other glanced his shoulder on it’s way into the wood. His shoulder began to bleed.

“PA! HELP, anybody please help!”
“ok Buddy Boy. How’s it feel? You need a couple more or you had enough?”
Napoleon began to squawk and pull against his leg tether. Missy started kicking up dust and wood shavings in her stall. The air was filled with sounds of her ever increasing equine snorts. She watched the mayhem closely through her dilated pupils. Mrs. Anderson began pounding on the barn door.
“Pearl, open the door. What’s going on in there?”
Pearl knew she had harsh punishment on the way. But she also felt that it was all worth it to teach her poor excuse of a brother that he just can’t go around tormenting anything he wishes and especially those dear to her. Pearl made her way and opened the barn door. Her Mother stepped inside and found Beau sobbing with his head hung downward.
“Ma, she was throwing knives at me and cut my shoulder. Look”
“My God Pearl! What’s gotten into you? Have you lost your mind?”
“No Mother, I needed to teach him a lesson. He threw his knives into Bart so I wanted him to know how it feels. I wasn’t going to kill him.”
“Well how nice of you pearl for not wanting to kill your Brother. Now get into the house! Your Father will deal with you later”

******

Pearl did as she was told. She later did her “time” for the crime that she had committed against her Brother.  Although Pearl never really possessed any remorse for her actions. She really did hold Bart closely as a trusted confidant. Even if her feelings only existed in her secret little steam world.