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A corn maze is no joke

The following is a public service announcement.

With fall’s arrival comes the bounty of golden-hued wonderment luring us out to one of several innocuous-seeming fall festivals. Jack-o'-lanterns’ toothless gobs bid me welcome and nestle into spent cornstalks. Did one of them cackle? A rustle of stalk leaves stirred by a breath of wind stops me at the entrance, but I venture forth, cheered by the smiling scarecrows with blue, flannel shirts and toppers that remind me of Dad’s lucky fishing hat. It looks fun.

But the joyful laughter of families piled aboard wagons driven by Farmer Bob fade, and the pumpkin patch dotted with children lugging squash several times too big for them seem far off; as I walk forward knowing it awaits me — maybe just beyond the barn or tractor shed. I know it’s out there, and a mournful caw directs me toward the entrance of the ... CORN MAZE.

It’s been two or three years ago since the day I never emerged from the corn maze. I admit to being directionally challenged, so I brought my friend Lane along knowing that with a cohort I’d have courage to set foot inside the intentionally confusing, supposedly entertaining stand of corn for which I must pay.

Lane was a pleasant but, perhaps, unwise choice because he shares my orientation deficit. We marched in laughing like two big kids with caramel apple residue on our faces and optimism in our souls. We occasionally passed others who looked bored. We never saw them again because they swished through and on to the kettlecorn stand. After what seemed like ample time for us to have been nearing the exit, we found ourselves in a center hub with bales of hay for resting. We began making jokes about nighttime coming and us still in there groping about. The humor of this aspect waned as shadows lengthened.

By putting our heads together, we had no plan. We were two adults lost in a corn maze. What we needed was a small child about then. We tried our darndest to take the opposite turn as the last one that landed us in the same spot as before, but no matter how we attempted to employ logic, we didn’t know our, well, let’s just say, we were losing hope.

“I wonder what time this thing closes?” I pondered.

“This is ridiculous,” Lane responded. I agreed and stared at the corn.

I suspect they sent an employee in to make sure no one panicked, became hysterical and tried shooting their way out, because when we returned for the fourth time to the time-out hub, there were people sitting there reading books. The first time we saw them, we said hello, faking cheer. Seeing them got old, and we made several quick reversals as they loomed up time and again. I wished Farmer Bob would drive that wagon through.

Lane was patient and appeared more optimistic than I did in that he continued to try. But pride overtook perspicacity. That’s when the reality hit that cornstalks are nothing more than pliable vegetation, so I crashed my way through a stand of them until I saw something besides the color green. The blood returned to my face. I felt like kissing the ground. Who knew corn could be so intimidating.

This weekend marks the opening of these fall festivals. One of them advertises a haunted corn maze after dark. Terror gripped me as I typed that sentence, but anything for truth in journalism. I might go with a group.

This year I’m looking at Fort Vannoy Farms in Grants Pass at 5791 Lower River Road because they had the gall to put a picture of last year’s maze on their website that looked so complicated I had to breathe into a paper bag. They’re open every weekend in October from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and I quote from their website, “it is very surprising how good it feels to be surrounded by corn.”

Heh heh. See how they get you? Be forewarned.

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