Creamed by the Corn

October 22, 2013 – I am the proud member of a species that has sent probes into interstellar space. That has manipulated matter at an atomic level. That has cancelled more sitcoms after one pilot than it has let run past two seasons. No way was I going to let a bunch of vegetables beat me.

Except that they did.

Right in front of my family.

It’s called the Great Vermont Corn Maze, and it was the first stop on our Vermont road trip a few weekends back. Located in Danville, the maze is run by Boudreau Farm, which has been weaving discombobulating patterns through its stalks for 15 years.

The maze covers 10 acres veined by three miles of paths. I’m bad at measurement, so I don’t know how that stacks up against other mazes I’ve done. I do know, however, that this is the first maze I’ve never completed.

In my Internet research prior to arriving, nothing really stuck out to me as unique about the maze. It had the usual peripherals…animals to pet, children’s activities, a night-time maze haunt. The only thing I thought was kind of weird was that they didn’t tout the theme of this year’s maze. You know, what image was crop-circled into the corn.

When we arrived, the immediate environs still offered no clue. It turns out you’re supposed to solve it to learn the pattern.

Or fail miserably at it. They let you know the pattern then, too.

When we purchased our admission stickers, the woman at the booth explained the maze to us…the fact that there was a kid’s version of it intertwined within the main maze. That the cards she was handing us were for punching holes in at stations scattered throughout to see what paths we took to get to the end. Also, that there were emergency exits. Actually, it was that last point that really should have tipped me off.

Only potential death traps have emergency exits.

The maze had two entrances side-by-side. The main entrance was just an opening in the corn. The alternate entrance was a large wooden door…the entrance to the kid’s maze. As tempting as it was to walk through a door into corn, we chose the tiger.

Walking through the maze, we were immediately impressed. The stalks were thick and green and rose a good 10-12 feet into the air. Every once in a while we could see a Fall-colored hillside in the distance. It was isolated and shady and filled with whispered rustlings of corn. It was exactly what I want from a corn maze.

It was the first 15 pleasant minutes of a horror movie.

Because then we walked.

And walked.

And walked.

Sweated a little.

Walked some more.

Most of the mazes that I’ve done offer clues along the way, either through the geography of the maze itself or at stations at the main cross-roads. The Great Vermont Corn Maze had stations as well, but they weren’t there to give you a better chance at picking the right path, merely to keep track of where you’d been. They were bread crumbs, not signposts.

Each mailbox-like station held a hole puncher anchored to it, and each hole puncher bit different-shaped holes into your card. At the end of the maze, you could compare your shapes with the map and trace your route.

There were a handful of landmarks…a couple of bridges, a tunnel, even a boat, but again, none of those pointed the way, just reminded you that you’d been there after you passed them for the tenth time, admittedly offering the rare opportunity to voice the classic line, “We’re going in circles.”

About 45 minutes later, we were still lost in the corn. And while 45 minutes isn’t really that long a time, we were 45 minutes in without a single clue as to whether we were even sort of headed in the right direction or if we’d ever find any kind of bearings.

Also, and these factors are probably more important, we had the rest of our road trip hanging over our heads, one of us had two-foot-long legs, another was pregnant, and a third was filling out his middle-aged paunch right on schedule. And, as the sun crept higher and filled the spaces between the rows, it started getting hot.

So the next yellow gated emergency exit we found, we took.

The emergency exit dumped us out not a dozen feet from the actual maze exit, which might seem like we gave up too early, but there was a good chance that a mile of twisting passages, plus or minus a couple dozen wrong turns, connected the two.

But, honestly, at that point I’d kind of already forgotten our failure. Because things got suddenly weird. Like weirder than giving up in a corn maze as an adult

Sitting there at the edge of the corn was an aluminum UFO the size of a small car. Seemed incongruous to me at first, but I guess aliens and corn historically go together. And who cares anyway because you could actually get in that thing. Which I did.

Eventually my family pulled me out of it, and we went to the pens and let goats slobber on us. Finally, we entered the gift shop to learn the shape of the maze.

It was aliens.

I suddenly realized that the admission sticker on my shirt was a clue. It bore an image that I had taken to be personified corn, which it was, just personified with green skin and slanted black eyes.

But what really revealed all was the pair of two-foot-tall aliens in the gift shop, right below the aerial photography of the current maze.

The maze was shaped like an undersized alien spaceship with two classic grays leaning causally against it, one throwing up a peace sign with its fingers. All around them, was a pattern of small circles in the corn arranged for maximum confusion.

I felt a little better about the maze. It had taken intergalactic help to beat me.

By way of coda, in a barn full of kid’s activities on the property, I found a crate. It was marked “Distortions.” This is the effects house that creates elaborate pieces for haunt attractions and which has its own show on the travel show called Making Monsters. Apparently, the Great Vermont Corn Maze is featured on the season finale this Sunday, the 27th, which, according to a sticker on the crate, will reveal what’s inside the box.

I’m going to watch the episode, and remember my failure.

All the best TV does that for me.