Sunday, December 30, 2012

My loss...

... the chickens' gain. Some of them anyway: what turned out to be disappointingly starchy and definitely not freshly-picked sweetcorn was a real treat for the old hens who ripped into it immediately, though the new ones had no idea what to do with it, regarding the cob suspiciously, as though it was an unexploded grenade (as if they'd know what that was, either). I look forward to the new corn, though it's a bit like the fallen mangoes that I scooped up with delight in Cooktown: they were just lying about on the road verges under the trees there and I couldn't resist making a pig of myself with them, fortunately in private. It's not actually the fuzzy teeth that's the main problem with sweetcorn, though that mustn't be discounted: it's the Mark of the Cob that I end up with on my upper lip, an odd red mark that lasts for days. Mystery.

And travel connection? Has to be Washington state, though in fact it could be anywhere in the States, in the rural areas: the corn maze is a fixture in the Fall there, and deservedly highly popular. Here's the start of a story about it that I must get around to finishing some day:

“We lost a teacher in there this morning,” said Farmer Pete with a cheerful smile. “The kids all came out ok, but I never saw the teacher again.” Standing there in his plaid shirt, braces and name tag, he seemed quite unconcerned that there might be a wild-eyed woman with a clipboard still flailing about in the maze behind him, vainly peering into the leafy green walls, hopelessly disorientated in the tangle of narrow lanes, hemmed in by densely-planted two-metre high sweetcorn canes.

Over in the corn pool, children were laughing as they waded and swam through a vat of dried corn kernels. Beyond, in the pumpkin patch, mothers with toddlers loaded into wheelbarrows wove through the plants, looking for the biggest, brightest, most shapely vegetable to take home for carving into a Halloween decoration. The sun shone warmly, over on the horizon Mt Baker made an unreal white triangle against the blue sky, and friendly cats purred around our ankles. It was a hard place to get stressed in. One teacher more or less scarcely seemed to matter.

There was a satisfying kind of irony anyway, in that this maze, one of many that grow up - literally - outside cities all across America in the autumn, had been sown in the shape of the state of Washington specifically for use as an educational tool. Almost five hectares in size, every major physical feature of this state in the Pacific Northwest, tucked up against the Canadian border, was faithfully recreated in maize for classes of ten year-old fourth-graders to find their way through, answering questions as they went about history and geography. They might have lost their teacher, but they would have found out all about explorers Lewis and Clark, as well as having a whole lot of fun along the way...

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