The Electric Scarecrow

As always, the whole thing starts innocently enough. Lawrence and Mildred live on a small place at the edge of town. Retirement provides the time to care for the lawn, flowers, a bee hive and especially the fruit trees. They have only five fruit trees, but that is enough.

The peach tree is their favorite, and Lawrence makes sure it has all the care it needs. The fate of the Missouri peach crop is always in doubt; a late spring frost can wilt the peach blossoms, or hail can strip the tree of blossoms and leaves. Still, if well cared for, and the weather is cooperative, the peach tree can produce a bumper crop - and this year it does. It's July, and the limbs of the peach tree sag from the weight of the ripening fruit.

Lately a problem has developed. A squirrel has taken an interest in the peaches. At first, Lawrence tolerates the visitor as it helps itself to the ripening fruit, but after several days his attitude changes; Lawrence now views the squirrel as a costly nuisance.

Day after day, the squirrel climbs the peach tree, eats a few peaches and knocks loose a few more. Lawrence, waving his hat, charges the tree and shouts insults; the squirrel jumps from the tree, runs up a hickory tree at the corner of the lawn, scampers out on a low limb and returns a few insults of its own. Finally, Lawrence decides to communicate more directly with this insolent pest.

There is no malice in Lawrence's heart as he eases the 12 gauge shotgun around the corner of the house and aims it in the direction of the peach tree. The squirrel is facing away from him in the center of the tree. The distance to the tree is 35 yards, and the shotgun is loaded with bird shot. At that distance, Lawrence reasons, the bird shot will not harm the squirrel, but a few pellets flattening out against its fat rump will carry a stern message. At the sound of the gun, the squirrel jumps out the opposite side of the peach tree - as planned - and scampers across the lawn, but this time does not stop at the hickory tree. Instead, it runs to the edge of the lawn, races part way up a white oak tree, jumps to another tree and disappears into the woods. Message received.

Lawrence walks over