I grew up in Iowa.
Or, at least, I lived there from second through sixth grades, from the age of 7, which is about the time you start remembering what happens in your life, until the summer I turned 12, almost a teenager.
I lived in the mid-sized, Midwestern town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Although the population is now about 250,000 people, I lived there from 1955 to 1959. In 1950, the population was 72,000. By 1960, it had grown to 92,000.
It’s easy growing up in a small, safe town. As an elementary school student, I could get on the bus alone, at the stop two blocks from my house, and ride downtown to the YMCA for dance and swim lessons.
I walked to school and rode my bike around the neighborhood, though most friends were within walking distance. I walked the three blocks to the candy store every week to spend my entire 25-cent allowance.
In fifth and sixth grades, my friends and I took turns hosting rock-and-roll dance parties in our basements for our birthdays. I wore a turquoise felt poodle skirt and Pat Boone was my favorite singer.
Cedar Rapids was surrounded by cornfields and, even now, grain processing is its biggest industry, providing 4,000 jobs directly and 8,000 indirectly. Rockwell Collins is the city’s largest single employer and employs 8,700. Whirlpool, the city’s seventh largest employer, has 2,225 employees. My father worked for Collins Radio, now Rockwell Collins, back when people remembered the stories of Tom Collins building an airplane in his basement, only to discover he couldn’t get it out because it was too big.
Cedar Rapids was home to Quaker Oats, Br’er Rabbit Molasses, and General Mills’ Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice (“The cereal shot from guns”), where you could see the “guns” on school trips. I learned, after moving from the suburbs of Chicago to Iowa, that Iowa corn is not for people. It is for pigs. Though I heard about hay rides. I didn’t know anyone who lived on a farm and never got to go on one.
I never heard of corn mazes. Until I was a grandmother and found out they are a Fall tradition here in Virginia. I live in the Western, rural part of Prince William County, once again surrounded by cattle, corn, and this time, sod farms.
I buy raw milk and fresh eggs and take my grandchildren to the farm where we own part of the herd. They have watched its growth as the farmers have added rabbit hutches, walk-through hoops to protect the goat pens and as much firewood as you could ever need. They have built a shop for cutting lumber, and have a pond for ducks. They grow grain to finish their cattle, some corn.
But, I’ve never seen a corn maze there.
Other farms nearby, though, do have corn mazes. I assume they are for children who otherwise don’t get to see a working farm. They have turned out to be a pretty popular tourist attraction, in a new industry called “agri-tainment.”
Dixon, California has a 45-acre corn maze. Bellbrook, Ohio has a 62-acre corn maze. There is an organization that helps farmers plant mazes, themaize.com. They have more than 300 members. They started out by introducing mazes to Utah and other Western states in 1996. 2,000 mazes later, they claim to be the world’s largest maze design and consulting company.
But, every time I go pick up milk, I go past the Cows-N-Corn farm in next-door Fauquier County. It is a third-generation family farm, dating from 1954, with 100 cows. The 1,800 acres include 300 acres of corn and 600 acres of soybeans. Their silo is painted like a huge ear of corn. This time of year, in September and October, ever since 2001, they have a corn maze. This year’s is in the shape of a cow carrying a Domino’s pizza box. Now, that’s advertising.
Hayride $10. Pizzas included.
Carol Covin, Granny-Guru
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