My first hayride at age nine in a creaky farm wagon — a 4-H outing — puzzled me. A novelty? No. Tractors prowled in fields surrounding our little Indiana town. My siblings and I rode in the back of a pickup at highway speeds, so burning up country roads at 15 mph didn’t shake me up.
Waving at farmers? Fun, but not extreme entertainment.
So, why did chaperones’ heads swivel as we chugged along? Just because they were responsible for children who had danced around a campfire, waving unfurled metal clothes hangers armed with burning marshmallows. Just because we’d consumed 10 s’mores apiece, why eyeball us like tractor hijackers?
By junior high, though, I’d figured out that mass sugar buzz didn’t cause the adults’ angst. Even clothes-hanger-marshmallow weapons appeared less threatening. The big concern: harvest moons, starry nights and chilly temperatures invited major snuggling.
Chaperones blackmailed into volunteering wished they’d signed up to dig the school’s new basement instead. But they yelled, “Heads up!” and bravely dug seventh grade babes and their current Numero Unos — generally six inches shorter — out of the hay.
Meanwhile, skinny nerds like me took extreme interest in local soybean crops.
Those popular kids were stupid. Embarrassing.
By high school, few stared at soybean fields, and no one waved at farmers. Our choir performed a wholesome, cheesy song at fall concerts — “Hey, hey, hayride!” Privately, we chuckled. Dumb old people would believe we were equally wholesome.
The old people — aka our parents — didn’t buy it. Later, when our own children reached adolescence, we didn’t, either. Surprisingly, though, hayrides no longer seemed popular.
However, recent years have brought a hayride resurgence. Given helicopter parents and predatory lawyers, are wagons now equipped with car seats and airbags? Or is everyone swathed in Bubble Wrap?
Yet, hayrides have evolved to scary, elaborate levels we 4-Hers couldn’t have imagined. For example, a Maryland “family” attraction offers haunted hayrides in which zombies assail the wagon, even crawl aboard. Also provided: refreshments, bonfires, live bands, plus a haunted hotel, haunted corn maze, and a haunted circus.
Give me the boring version, with only a full moon, crisp fall air, and burning up country roads at 15 mph.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever gone on a hayride?