Swans Trail

Our search for popcorn takes us over by the animals. There’s a small pen of ducks that the farm has trained to have a swimming race to the end of a large trough of water a few times each day. They like to stick their heads out between the links in their fencing and nip you if you’re not careful. We don’t go into the petting zoo area, but the fence is short enough that I can look in as we walk by. There are a couple of goats standing around, and a lamb that is lying under a table, just out of reach of some children. He’s clearly having none of it.

There’s a chicken wandering the grounds that I keep trying to point out to Rory, only for it to disappear into a bush or something before she sees it. She’s convinced I’m lying.

We find the kettle corn stand and buy a bag before wandering back to the seating area to try and snag a spot for the whole family. The number of people in line to buy food outnumbers the total number of seats in the place by a ridiculous margin. I suppose there’s some calculus that people eating will finish and leave before everyone currently in the line can make it through, but there still just aren’t enough seats. Rory and I pounce on the first bench that opens up and stake it out for everyone else, eating popcorn and making small talk for maybe half an hour.

The others come back with a ridiculous amount of food, considering that we didn’t eat that terribly long ago. Foil-wrapped grilled corn leaking melted butter around the edges. A half dozen of the cider-spice fried doughnuts that are the farm’s flagship item. My nephew had one of the corn cobs and a corndog, but can’t finish it. This despite his claims of hunger so dire that he was liable to fall over dead at any moment. The moment this is pointed out to him, he indulges in another profanity-laced tirade.

And the world turns.


The line for the hay wagon ride is long, but it moves quickly. The wagons come in, usually two at a time, and each can hold a couple dozen people. In the meantime, we’re out under the bright sun, and I’m staring at the sky. There’s the steady drone of prop-driven airplanes crisscrossing the valley. A small flock of tiny birds zips by overhead, seeming to spend equal amounts of time flapping their wings as they do with them tucked in close to their bodies. A pair of dragonflies copulating in mid-flight hovers past in the staccato start-stop-start that they do.

It seems a little late in the season for dragonflies.

At first I think the guy ushering people onto the wagons is wearing some sort of combination Easter Bunny and Santa Claus costume as a gag, but really he’s dressed as a goat and I have bad eyesight at a distance. We load up into the wagons, filled with hay bale benches and hauled by full-sized tractors. The wagons have no shock absorption to speak of, and the path they take us out on is a rutted, muddy mess. We circle out past the corn maze carved into the shape of Washington’s highway system, and we glimpse what’s behind the curtain. Fields of pumpkins in various states, corn for harvest instead of mazes, that sort of thing.

The trip beyond the façade is fleeting, though. Within minutes the tractor has towed us around in a loop and taken us back to the false world of manicured lawns and staged tableaux. Nobody minds.


The pumpkin patch itself isn’t quite as muddy as I would have thought, given the rain and foot traffic through the area. There’s a good-sized puddle that’s a good three or four inches deep in places and yards across, but that’s the only hazard to speak of. Dozens of pumpkins stranded out where they’ll undoubtedly get waterlogged and rot on the ground to join the pulped remains of multitudinous other pumpkins in various states of decomposition scattered here and there. A scarecrow stands watch over all of it, its arms out at right angles from its torso and its legs bound together below.

I want to make some sort of joke about a scarecrow Jesus, but nothing’s coming together.

There’s a rough sort of order to the big squashes; the orange ones are roughly grouped by size, growing smaller the further back in the field one travels. Off to the side are smaller little sub-patches of particular varieties of pumpkins. There’re some white pumpkins, which I’m pretty sure are just an albino strain of the normal variety. There’s a small selection of princess pumpkins, squat little things with coloring that ranges from a super-saturated orange to something bordering on red. I always look them over first, determined to one day find one with even coloring that isn’t grotesquely bulbous or flawed in some other manner. But I’m always disappointed.

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