Monday, September 14, 2009

Children of the Corn

It's been a couple of weeks since my last entry. A lot has happened since then. Labor Day has come and gone. Football has returned to rescue Saturday and Sunday afternoons. And my wife and I have endured the always fun process of closing on a new home and packing to move. I also did something I'd never done before. Just over a week ago, Meredith and I took our three kids and my mother-in-law to visit a North Georgia corn maze. A corn maze is just what its name suggests. It's a maze cut out of a field of ten to thirteen-foot-high corn. People (of their own free will mind you) pay their hard-earned money for the "privilege" of getting lost in and trying to find their way out of a field of corn. If you think about it, a corn maze is really a monument to rural capitalism. Where else but in America can a down-on-his-luck farmer look at a field of corn, say to himself, "Hey, I bet if I took my big John Deere and cut a maze in that son of a gun they's people from Atlanta dumb enough to pay to walk through it," and proceed to rake in big bucks from folks who, because they've heard that this is what families do during the fall in Georgia, are eager to spend a Saturday meandering through corn. Somewhere, the agricultural entrepreneur who came up with this idea is sitting at a table, counting his money, and laughing it up with the guy who got rich proving Americans are stupid enough to buy water.

I can honestly say that I have never had a burning desire to go to a corn maze. But one of the magazines I occasionally write for asked if I would check one out in exchange for them flipping the bill for my family. So, my wife and I loaded up the minivan and headed up highway 400. After picking up my mother-in-law, we arrived at our destination about an hour later. Being a small-town boy from North Carolina, I'm a country guy. I love rural settings, country folk, and the quiet, simple life. But even for me, this place was out in the boonies--the kind of place where Deliverance is considered a romantic comedy and folks are shunned for marrying outside the family. Nevertheless, as we pulled up, I saw people smiling and laughing, apparently having emerged from the corn maze alive, so we parked and unloaded our crew.

One thing I learned fast: Don't go to a Georgia corn maze in early September. It's too freakin' hot. If you're just dying to navigate crops, hold off until October when the weather is more bearable. We entered the corn maze just after the sun reached its noon time peak (a tactical mistake on my part). As I led my children into the agricultural labyrinth, I was handed a map that, in theory, was supposed to insure that we found our way through without any problems. It proved useful for all of ten minutes before my family and I found ourselves lost in a Stephen King horror story. As sweat poured out of our rapidly dehydrating bodies, our tiny band wandered aimlessly among the ears of corn. Our only remaining connection to civilization was the occasional sound of another father somewhere in the field calling out in anguish, "Where the hell do we turn left! The map says we should turn left!" All the while, I'm certain that Vietcong soldiers are hiding in the jungle-like rows, waiting to ambush and kill us. The last time a group got so lost trying to find where they were going, an entire sea parted and their leader was given ten commandments.

As Meredith and I grew more and more frustrated (each blaming the other for failing to correctly read the map), my children proceeded to add to the "fun" with comments like: "Daddy, I'm tired... Daddy, I'm hot... Daddy, please carry me... Daddy, I'm scared... Daddy, can I pee in the corn..." (By the way, as a side note, before you eat corn on the cob again, you might want to find out if it came from a corn field near Dawsonville.) Of all people, it was my six-year-old daughter, Emerson, who finally led us out. Relieved to escape the dusty heat of Hee-Haw hell, we rushed the lone concession stand and loaded up on Gatorade and water as fast as we could. A few snacks and one hayride later, and we were back in our minivan--our first (and possibly last) corn maze experience in the books.

There were some good moments. Sitting with my arms around my sons and daughter as we rode on the hayride was one of those moments that, at the time, seems almost unnoticeable; but you know that when you look back one day it will be one of those special memories you always treasure as a dad. Even the corn maze, itself, had some endearing moments. Hearing my youngest son, Carson, laughing hysterically as he rode on my shoulders and stopping to take a few photos here and there as we traversed the corn-husk-laden trails made for some fun moments too. Come to think of it, I guess the trip wasn't a total bust after all. Anything that provides a few precious memories with your family can't be all bad.

So, if you're going to head out to a corn maze this fall, be my guest. Just be prepared. Go when the weather is cooler and take enough provisions to survive three or four days in case you get lost and don't have my daughter to lead you to safety. As for me, I think I'll spend my Saturdays playing with my kids in the backyard or in some other place where Deliverance isn't a love story.

1 comment:

  1. Well done, Kindred! My dad has been telling me for years that's it's all about creating memories that you and your kids will cherish for a lifetime.

    We did our one corn maze a few years back. Can't say we've been all too eager to tackle another one. Reading your story helped me to remember why and banish any thought of adding it to any famyily itinerary this fall.