Out on River Road, near the Stanislaus-San Joaquin County line, the streets are winding, the orchards are blooming, the nature is calming, and the scarecrows are … year-round?
Linda Ridenour put up a scarecrow – named Javier, or, more affectionately, Javie – as an inside joke with her family about 25 years ago. She is currently an elementary school counselor at Sipherd Elementary in Modesto but considers home to be Oakdale.
Though her oldest son is now 30, when her boys were younger the family would drive out for trips to Yosemite. On that drive, inspiration struck.
“In Chinese Camp, there used to be a person who had a scarecrow out there in front of their house,” Linda relayed. And for holidays, especially Fourth of July, she added, “this scarecrow would have his family out there and would be barbecuing.”
The Ridenour clan would always be sure to look out for the landmark when driving through and would honk their horn at it. Pretty soon after, Javie appeared on the Ridenour’s porch.
Initially, Javie was just a Halloween decoration for the family. However, after a couple of years they decided to put him out on the front of the lawn for drivers to see as they whizzed by … that’s when the real fun started.
“Sometimes people send cards or gifts for Javie,” Linda shared. He’s gotten poetry, flowers, inspiration rocks, St. Patrick’s Day decorations, “and people will often stop to take pictures.”
In fact, school buses often drive by the Ridenour house, so a whole generation of students living out near River Road could see Javie as part of their morning and evening commute. Linda started dressing Javie up not just for Halloween, but other holidays which has piqued interest.
Apparently, someone in the community didn’t like the fact that Javie was all by his lonesome. A few years ago, a female scarecrow was dropped off next to him and she’s stayed by his side since.
“I was gone for the weekend and my husband sent me pictures,” Linda recollected. “He said ‘apparently Javie had a family we didn’t know about!’”
The new scarecrow was quickly deemed “Sally,” after the Nightmare Before Christmas character. Now, she and Javie are currently sporting summer festive wear together and will continue to be dressed up seasonally for holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Easter, graduation, and Fourth of July.
When the coronavirus hit in March, Javie and Sally held a sign that read: “we’re all in this together!” and now sport masks along with their decorative gear.
Linda does her best to care for her two scarecrows by sprucing them up, washing their clothes, exchanging their weathered outfits for cleaner and brighter ones, and shaking them out as needed. She’s been relatively thrifty with their body shape, using a mannequin’s torso as part of Javie’s build and a satin pillow as Sally’s head. In the wintertime when it rains, she’s sure to put a rain jacket on them to keep them safe.
The family plans to keep the scarecrows up for as long as they can. In the time they’re out by the road, Javie and Sally also serve as a reminder to take time to slow down and enjoy the ride.
Keep up with Javier Ridenour on his Facebook page and even send him a friend request to see his seasonal outfit updates at https://www.facebook.com/javier.ridenour.