Swans Trail

He looks fairly ridiculous in his first bad attempt at a goatee, and his Minnesota Vikings hat draws more than one sidelong glance from the multitude of people wearing Seahawks gear today. His high school borrows the mascot, logo, and colors from the NFL team, so it kind of makes sense for him to be wearing it, though it requires more explanation than it seems like it would be worth. It’s just another sportsball tribalism thing that I don’t understand.

Well no, that’s not true. I understand it perfectly, I just can’t be bothered to give a flying fuck about it.

So, thusly reunited, our family makes like Dorothy and her friends on their way to the Emerald City as we wander along the muddy road to the front gate of the farm.

I’m not sure who I’m supposed to be in that simile. Maybe Toto.


The Farm at Swans Trail is a beast with two heads. Most of the property is a genuine, honest-to-god farm and all that entails. It’s huge and sprawling and I don’t think I’ve ever seen all of it. But the front end, the part that hosts all the autumn attractions, that feels like some sort of amusement park. Everything seems phony, like it’s putting on a show of authentic farm life as envisioned by nobody who has ever actually worked on a farm. There’s the quaint barn painted a bold shade of red. Antique trucks and farm equipment cleaned and polished to showroom finishes. Rustic wooden signs bearing lettering that has that unmistakable quality of being bad-on-purpose.

The crowd has a bit of a county fair atmosphere to it. Rory immediately wants to jump on an inflated rubber bladder the size of a school bus and the color of pumpkins, bulging out of the ground of a sandpit. Just over the fence to the left is a second of these rudimentary bounce houses. That’s new, this year. As is the 40’s era pickup truck with articulated truck bed that has been replaced by lengths of PVC pipe, turning it into a rumbling roller slide.

I secretly wish I was small enough that I could do this kids shit. It looks ridiculously fun.

Once Rory has tired herself out on the bounce thing–really, I have no idea what you would call it–she makes her way over to a slide set up in a hay barn. Really they’re just lengths of rigid plastic laid over bales of hay stacked to the tall ceiling like a Mesoamerican stepped pyramid. Rory and my nephew amuse themselves by climbing to the top of the pile and sliding back down on worn burlap sacks for the better part of forty-five minutes.

I tire of watching the repetitive sliding and climbing, and instead turn my attention outward to the fields that lay beyond the farm. The Snohomish River flood plain stretches out for a few miles before it gradually rises into undulating hills covered in brown and gold foliage. Beyond that are the blue mountains of the Cascades, carved into jagged, irregular spires by prehistoric glaciers over millennia. The sky is clear enough that you can see all the way to the perpetually snow-capped peak of mount… something.

The Cascades have a lot of named mountains, but I don’t know any of them.

Eventually my nephew grows sulky again, cursing a blue streak and being a generally nasty shit to his mother as he complains about how hungry he is, professing to not have eaten anything since breakfast.

Breakfast was just a little over two hours ago, incidentally. We hit a McDonald’s drive-through on the way out.

Still, the decision is made to hit the snack stand, which has the most bizarre way of operating. You stand in line to go up to a shack to order what you want and pay for it. They in turn give you some laminated bits of paper with visual representations of what you just paid for as tokens that you have to take over to the people who have the actual food, who dish it out to you. The lines are tremendous, and Rory wants popcorn, which is sold elsewhere. She and I split off from the rest to go find the spot where they sell huge bags of kettle corn for a five spot. It’s just as well, as I’m not really in the mood to sit there and listen to my foul-tempered nephew do his best to ruin the day for the rest of us.

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