Scarecrows, Rattling Cans and Howling Rice Guards
We have been staying in a house at the end of a narrow, short road, in the middle of Bali‘s rice fields. It is almost as if the house was picked up by the same tornado that took Dorothy and Toto in the Wizard of Oz, and dropped us here. We have been able to see up close just how significant rice is to the Balinese; it is not simply the food staple, eaten at every meal including breakfast, but also an integral part of their culture, the rice terraces also making Bali’s picturesque landscape what it is. We watched their daily work routines from morning to night. Not only seeing how it all works, but especially hearing it all too.
All of the rice fields are spotted with little huts. This is where the “Rice Guards” stay – that is what I call them at least. They are there to protect the rice from birds, who would otherwise eat it and cause damage to the fields. So from dawn to dusk, they stare out at their bright green rows of rice, watching for birds, and have all sorts of techniques to chase them away. It’s an extremely clever system, making use of old rusted cans, bamboo sticks, colored fabric, plastic, paper windmills, as well as actual scarecrows. The bamboo holds up long rows of string with all of these materials attached. The guard watches nonstop, and tugs aggressively on the string making all of the objects shake, the cans rattling violently, making noises that send the birds flying far away.
And off they go…
Even the cows are on guard, their bells adding to the orchestra of the rice fields.
But above all, the most powerful tool is the watchman’s voice. He shouts. All… day… long. Think sounds that you would hear in a haunted house or from a child jumping out from behind the wall to scare you or from a monster howling at its prey. Again, all day long. We looked forward to windy days, for the guard did not need to yell as much. The strong gusts of wind kept the windmills spinning and the cans rattling, a beautiful sight to see and much more peaceful sounds, thankfully.