A murder of (scare)crows
• Girl Scouts' scarecrows are knocked down, attacked.
There are knowns and unknowns in The Case of the Dismembered Scarecrows, a grisly tale of seven straw-filled compatriots standing in a Portola Valley field, placed there two and a half months ago by local Girl Scout troops to guard their wildflower project.
Girls from seven Portola Valley elementary school troops were trying to protect an investment of $1,200 on a specially assembled mix of native wildflower seeds, including poppies, bluebells, white yarrow and sky lupine, said Kelly Villareal, a troop leader for the seventh grade.
Six of the seven scarecrows were found lying dismembered in the Spring Down open space adjacent to the Town Center on Wednesday, Jan. 4, Ms. Villareal said. Each was a cross-like structure 7 to 8 feet tall, filled with straw and wearing donated clothes, including Girl Scout uniforms found online, Ms. Villareal said. For the heads, the girls used pumpkins or sheets filled with straw, she said.
The scouts coordinated with Town Hall, the town's garden club, and the Palo Alto-based environmental organization Acterra, Ms. Villareal said. To help defray the cost of the seeds, she said, the town matched the scouts' contribution of $600, which they earned fundraising and selling cookies at $4 a box, at a profit of 50 cents per box.
"It wasn't trivial," she said. "It's a fair amount of work."
The plan had been to celebrate the Girl Scouts' 100th anniversary in March with a pancake breakfast near what they hoped would be a flowering field, though the lack of rain has been a concern.
"We've been in this town a long time and we don't want to just do things for ourselves," said Tricia Law, another troop leader interviewed about the incident.
The vandalism did not have the hallmarks of a typical prank, like knocking over a mailbox with a baseball bat, Ms. Villareal said. "It was sort of disturbing," she said. "It was repeated stabbing."
There is some disbelief, she said, adding that one person on the town's online forum for residents suggested that a mountain lion might have attacked the straw-filled guardians.
The remains of the six scarecrows are in a driveway awaiting reassembly, Ms. Law said.
One scarecrow remains on duty, perhaps the only witness to the violence, but it isn't talking. A police report is on file with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office, Ms. Villareal said. A Sheriff's Office spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
As to whether the scarecrows were living up to their name, some pieces of recovered clothing had been soiled — with bird droppings, Ms. Law said.