it's an a-maze-ing thing
by Mad Dog
Cornfields, it turns out,
are dangerous places. In Iowa alone there are over sixty
corn-related car accidents each year.
Farming can be fun. I’m saying this as a city boy who can
spend hours driving through the countryside trying to guess what the
crops are and, unless there’s a roadside stand with a big neon
sign spelling it out for me, I’m pretty much always wrong.
Exhaust-spewing buses I can identify. The homeless, I know.
Billowing smokestacks are second nature. So what if I can’t tell
an artichoke field from an orange grove?
At least I know a good time
when I see it. That’s why it’s nice to find out that Brett
Herbst of Pleasant Grove, Utah is doing a booming business turning
corn fields into mazes. He made his first one in 1996 after seeing
“The Shining”, figuring that if people thought Jack Nicholson
was at his farm they’d pay good money to see him. Just kidding.
Actually it turned out they thought Shelly Duval was there and no
one remembered who she was. In spite of that, 18,000 people showed
up over a three-week period to walk through the maze. And why not,
who wouldn’t enjoy feeling like Orville Redenbacher checking his
inventory without a compass?
Herbst was so happy with
the success of his maize maze that he started making them for other
farmers. He’s built them from Hawaii to Rhode Island, doing sixty
of them this year alone. People come from miles around hoping their
dead fathers will show up and play baseball with them. Sorry, wrong
movie. Actually they come by hoping to see an accident, which
happens in cornfields more often than you think.
Scientists in Tokyo say
hornet juice gives athletes a big energy boost. It’s natural,
legal, and tastes better than tuna Kool-Aid.
Cornfields, it turns out, are dangerous places. In Iowa alone
there are over sixty corn-related car accidents each year. It seems
that when the corn gets as high as an elephant’s eye—sorry,
that’s Oklahoma I’m thinking of—I mean, when it gets tall it
blocks the driver’s view, causing them to mistake the cornfield
for the state fair so they start playing bumper cars. Of course it
could be that they just turned a little too much of their crop into
The farmers that hire
Herbst do it because they need the extra cash. Maybe they had a bad
crop last year. Or perhaps the price of corn is down. But chances
are it’s because they’re growing the same damned thing everyone
else is. Face it, if everyone around you is growing corn and
you’re growing corn, what are the chances that your corn will be
so much better that you can command higher prices? Not good.
Competition is fine, but the big money is in innovation. That’s
why these farmers should bag the corn and start raising hornets.
Yes, hornets. Now that the
Sydney Olympics are over and all the drug residue has settled in
everyone’s bloodstream, it turns out that Japanese runner Naoko
Takahashi may have won the women’s marathon because she drank
juice made from giant yellow hornet larvae. And no, that’s not a
band from Austin, though it might be if any musicians there would
take time out from looking for a girlfriend so they can move out of
their parents’ house and read a newspaper once in a while.
Farming bears probably isn’t all that bad, but
something tells me harvesting the bile isn’t great big gobs of
fun. I don’t even want to think about how you do that.
Called suzemebachi (Japanese for “try not to throw
up”), scientists in Tokyo say the juice gives athletes a big
energy boost. Best of all it’s natural, legal, and tastes better
than tuna Kool-Aid. If it turns out that suzemebachi works
you can expect to see Gatorade in “Happy Hornet” flavor, Raisin
Bran with “Two Scoops of Hornets”, and “Largely Larva”
energy bars on your grocer’s shelf. This will give those boring
old corn farmers a chance to raise something different, something in
demand, something that can sting the hell out of them. Hey, it could
be worse. They could decide to start bear bile farms like they have
It’s true. In China they
raise bears so they can get bear bile without having to track down
the bears. Bear bile, they say, is good for what ails you, including
hepatitis and cancer. Not to mention that it makes chugging suzemebachi
sound absolutely scrumptious. Farming bears probably isn’t all
that bad, but something tells me harvesting the bile isn’t great
big gobs of fun. I don’t even want to think about how you do that.
After all, there are some things you’re better off not knowing in
life, like what they put in those Krispy Kreme doughnuts you found
in the glove compartment of your car the other night and ate without
stopping to wonder why they hadn’t shown any signs of going bad
after four months. And how they harvest bear bile, of course.
Corn farmers need to
consider these options carefully, since people are increasingly
worried about corn. Kellogg recently closed down two manufacturing
lines because they couldn’t be certain the corn they were using
wasn’t genetically altered. They didn’t say why it might have
been altered, but I suspect it was to increase the nutritional
value. If they were smart they’d start altering it to grow in a
maze-like pattern or to have blinking red warning lights for
oncoming traffic. Or maybe they could cross it with giant yellow
hornets so we could get our daily dose of suzemebachi in our
succotash. Either way I hope they put up a big neon sign on the side
of the road so I can tell it’s corn they’re growing. Hey, I’m
a city boy, you know?
©2000 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Read
them while waiting for the hornet juice to kick in.