Farm kid puzzles over mystique of corn mazes, hayrides

Burt’s Eye View

As a card-carrying farm kid — well, I would carry the card if I hadn’t lost in the pasture during “the incident” — I’ve been asked to drive a tractor this fall at an area corn maze.

(No, we do NOT need to talk about the pasture incident. I don’t remember screaming like a little girl like my gleeful cousins reported. But that cow weighed 1,200 pounds, she was having a bad day and she was moving fast. My cousins could have at least fetched a ladder. I was too busy with matters at hand to pay attention to the route I took up the tree, so I couldn’t calculate how to come down other than falling.)

I never understood the thrill of corn mazes. I’ve been lost in a cornfield. I was a short 8 or so years old. I couldn’t see anything but towering stalks of corn and a hint of daylight above the tassels.

In those unenlightened days, we planted our corn in straight lines. All I had to do was follow one row and eventually, I’d pop out of the corn — on the end of the field closest to the house, I hoped. Those were long fields.

Why city folk delight in intentionally getting themselves lost in a massive cornfield that’s been carved into curves, curlicues and elaborate pictures you can only see from an airplane, I don’t know. Must be the boredom of trekking the tedious monotony of city blocks every day.

Or maybe it’s related to the escape room craze in which folks allow strangers to lock them in a room full of riddles and clues. Personally, that sounds like my typical work day — although, sometimes if you can distract the bosses with a phone call, you can make a run for it without the bother of trying to the solve the riddle of how in the world they expect you to solve whatever insane task they’ve assigned you this time.

Anyway, I don’t have to navigate the corn maze. My duty would be hayrides. It will be one of the few times I’ve chugged around a hay field without a beat-up, red International Harvester hay baler hooked between tractor and wagon.

Growing up, my entire summer seemed to be one continuous hayride. It was hot, sweaty and dusty work that always ended up in a hot, sweaty and dusty hayloft.

Come fall, my city friends grew giddy with anticipation of hayrides.

“Why?” I wanted to know. “You sit on hay bales on a wagon. The bales aren’t even stacked. You haven’t lived until you’re sitting 14 feet high atop shifting, jostling blocks of hay while the wagon bumps and sways across a rutted field. Now THAT’S excitement.”

“You’re not doing it right,” my buddies would say. “It’s fall. You’re outside. It’s cold. So you snuggle in close and hold your gal to keep you both warm. Woo, woo!”

The girls I baled hay with in the summer were my cousins. They slung 80-pound, tightly packed bales around like battering rams.

Also, did I mention hot, sweaty and dusty? On teenagers? Even if the girls weren’t my cousins, no one wanted to get THAT close to anyone under those circumstances.

Come October, I stayed home. One: I didn’t have a girlfriend. Two: How can you cuddle comfortably on rock-hard bales with all the dried, scratchy ends of cut hay poking out? Whoever romanticized the notion of frolicking in the hay didn’t live on a farm. It would be like wrestling on bricks of cat claws.

Or maybe once again, I misunderstood the amazement of the maze.

• Hitch your wagon at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com or the Burton W. Cole page of Facebook.


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