Cornfield Maze From the Past Was the Best Ever
The field lies fallow, silent and empty of people. Several years in a row, the best cornfield maze in Northeast Tennessee grew here. Laughter, screams and squeals of delight once shattered the night’s stillness. But today, all remains quiet.
I fondly recall all the fun this piece of Stanley Valley held. As autumn descended upon the Smoky Mountain foothills here, Pappy and the Younguns Cornfield Maze swung into action. The maze’s appeal attracted singles and families alike, in the attempt to solve its intricate puzzle.
Mild-Mannered Cornfield Maze Became Haunted Around Halloween
Near Halloween, this mild-mannered maze transformed into a haunted cornfield maze. On a cool crisp October night the eerie Halloween music mixed in with spooky goblins. This haunting involved more than simply solving a puzzle. It hinted of the fun-filled adventure about to unfold.
One such night comes to mind. As we bumped down the dirt lane in the hay wagon, we wondered what we let ourselves in for. Gripping the tractor’s steering wheel, Pappy barely concealed his amusement as he pulled the hay wagon to its destination. He offered homespun advice before revving up the tractor to drive off, while leaving us at the maze.
The Cornfield Cops Came a-Running Once You Hollered for Their Help
“Don’t bunch up. When you need help, just holler ‘help’ and the cornfield cops will come a-running,” Pappy chuckled. Straight faced, still with a hint of stifled laughter, Pappy reassured us he’d be back for us in an hour… or two. Somehow that wasn’t reassuring.
A huge wooden painted sign marked the maze’s entrance. As soon as we entered the maze, my group made a wrong turn and we instantly halted in our tracks. Our chosen trail turned out a dead-end and we came to a standstill, all bunched up against Pappy’s advice. Packed tightly with no room to spare, somehow we managed to spread out just enough to turn around and retrace our steps back to three converging trails.
Losing the Way in the Cornfield Maze Was All too Easy
Our new fearless leader, my sister in-law Amanda, picked a path and off we went. Choosing wasn’t easy, since a wrong choice often ended up in more wrong turns and dead ends. We unknowingly backtracked on earlier taken trails. During this tramp we journeyed back to a previous starting point more than once.
Helping or hindering, written and unwritten clues left along the way were often tricky. Signs posted at some intersections posed questions, listing two or more possible answers, determining which path needed taking. Picking incorrectly sent us the wrong way and once, even the correct answer put us on the wrong path. Perhaps a goblin switched the sign on purpose for the Halloween haunting. Many signs proved difficult to find and some ended up entirely missed. Taking a break at one of the signs, the cornfield cops sympathetically pointed us in the right direction. The unwritten clues were much harder to find, didn’t always help and held false decoys.
Creepy Music Added to the Ghoulish Atmosphere
Creepy music wailed from strategically placed speakers, adding to the ghoulish atmosphere. Vampires, goblins and monsters, hidden in the cornfield, lurked hoping to startle unsuspecting victims. That’s when they’d most likely pounce. Surprised screams, squeals and then giggles pierced the evening’s dusk, when least expected. This haunting was mostly hilarious and in lighthearted fun. The haunts meant no harm to anyone.
When darkness descended suddenly; the crunchy tan stalks, currently black and over six feet tall, loomed over us. One of the Stanley Valley hill ridges blotted out part of the horizon, making the maze appear sinister after dark… at least until those of us with flashlights switched them on.
A Hint of Musky Cornfield Odor Hung in the Air as We Went Slip Sliding in the Mud
A hint of musky odor from the slick mud hung in the night air, the mud sticking in gooey clumps to the bottom of our sneakers. In spite of the earlier light sprinkle, the cornstalks held a dry husky scent. The cool, fresh night air finally worked its way through the heavy stalks to us. Cornstalks rustled around us as already trodden stalks crunched beneath our feet, showing that other maze walkers passed by here, before us, with some of them still in the cornfield. The flashlights’ beams pierced the blackness, attempting to direct us along the paths which were slick after the recent drizzle. This caused us to slip and slide partway around the maze. Loose ears of dried golden corn laid by the side of the trail, perhaps pointing the way out.
Did I Mention How Easy it is Losing Your Way in a Cornfield Maze
Things turned out wrong, no matter how hard we tried. Landmarks and clues confused us. On we plodded anyway. Occasionally we proceeded too quickly and lost the rest of the group. They hollered for us to wait, until they caught up with us. Once after circling the same way three times we realized we were walking in circles. The maze duplicated a cut-out of a John Deere tractor, so we figured we were in the wheels. We turned around so much we didn’t know if we were coming or going. We laughed. Except for the tractor wheels, we lost track of which part of the maze we wandered about.
We stumbled upon the emergency exit, which we figured might come in handy. We might need it later on.
Ghoulish Haunt is Clue to Finding the Exit
Near the end, a ghoulish haunt menaced us, blocking our way, refusing us passage. A few managed outmaneuvering him by dodging his feints and body blocks. We averted our eyes from his sinister face and shot past him. Others behind us, not trusting Amanda, our fearless leader, chickened out and traveled an alternate route. So they wandered around, lost one more time. Poor souls.
The Brave Ones Made it Out of the Cornfield Maze First
We few brave ones exited the maze, first with grins and looks of relief. We hollered at those still wandering about the maze to no avail. They mustn’t have heard us since it took them another twenty more minutes to exit. That’s what they got for not listening. Pappy, true to his word, showed up to fetch us… total time in the maze, one hour.
They don’t make mazes like this one anymore. And it’s a shame. How I wish Pappy and the Younguns would reconsider with another maze. I yearn to tramp in their maze with family and friends once more, to laugh as we slide around on the slick trails, and breathe in the husky odor of dried cornstalks.
I go back to this happy memory, a ghost from my past of the best that ever was… Pappy and the Younguns Cornfield Maze in Stanley Valley. Where have all the cornstalks gone? We miss the fun after dark. Will there ever be another cornfield maze as great as Pappy’s and the Younguns’? It’s too quiet out there in the field now.
(I entered this article in one of Writer’s Digest 76th Annual Writing Competition in 2007. I also queried it to Tennessee Home & Farm magazine, also in 2007.)