Adult Children of the Corn

What did we do over the Labor Day weekend? Rather than make any big plans, I just said to Barb on Saturday, “Let’s go for a drive and see where we end up.” Spontaneous holidays are a sort of fantasy I have.

We headed south on the Historic Dixie Highway–I suspect any highway that leaves any northern city going south is named “Dixie Highway.” We’ve gone down this route before, prowling antique malls or taking the scenic route to the nearest Lowe’s in Bourbonnais, but this time we kept on going south a little further. Passed some nice little river towns with great old houses. Too bad living there would run counter to my goal of spending less time commuting to work, unless I change jobs.

We decided to go as far as Watseka before we turn around, but just before we get near that town, we spotted a small sign reading “Corn Maze.” Immediately we decided to detour six miles west and came across the Shule Family Corn Maze, near the unincoporated town of L’Erable. (Apparently this is no longer in operation)

So yep, we spent a few hours wandering around a corn maze, looking for “scavenger hunt” clues: lettered slips of paper that would make us eligible for a drawing. These folks have been doing their corn maze since 1997, though only on odd-numbered years, since farmers need to rotate corn with soybeans that fix nitrogen back into the soil.

I, of course, worked in the fact that I had spent a few summers detasseling seed corn. Even so, Mr. Shule warned us to watch for black-and-yellow banana spiders, which are harmless and beneficial, but are also pretty noticeable, especially when they spin webs right across your path. I had never encountered these back in Iowa. We almost considered taking one home to help with our mosquito problem. The ones we saw were a lot plumper and more colorful than this photo suggests.

Wikimedia Commons photo

As darkness approached, we abandoned the scavenger hunt, and were directed to a local restaurant in nearby Clifton, IL, called the Long Branch, were, coincidentally, Mrs. Shule worked. But that was okay, since it was the only nearby place to eat. We had some nice entrees with homemade bread, and an appetizer of corn fritters in commemoration. (The other attraction in L’Erable is one of the country’s largest all-wood Catholic churches).

Corn mazes are a good place to get the kids to burn off energy. Many farmers plot out and make their own, or there are companies that do it for them (and here’s a Google link to help you find some). Some are part of “U-pick” farms, others may be local fundraising events. And if a maze incorporates a “crop circle,” all the better!

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