Fortunately, there have been no reports this year of 911 calls from people stuck in corn mazes of America — unlike last year, when a family got lost amid the husks at Connors Farm in Danvers. Still, it’s fascinating to consider who best handles the pressure of these life-sized puzzles, which have become fall fixtures in farm country. Brett Herbst, the nation’s top designer of mazes, told The New York Times last week that people who are comfortable in the countryside don’t mind spending more than an hour in mazes, while mazes closer to urban areas attract visitors whose sense of comfort gives way to claustrophobia after “probably 20 minutes.”
Yet the real divide may not be geographic; it’s generational.
Up in Conway, N.H., Sherman Farm has just finished its 12,000-visitor fall maze season. (Deer-hunting season began last week.) Business manager Michele Dutton said the most fascinating thing is how children navigate the maze much better than adults. “When we see families struggling, we tell them, let the kids lead you,” Dutton said. “Adults get frustrated trying to think too hard, wander in circles and sometimes they cut through the walls to get to the outside where they see the road.” Children, meanwhile, will stay hours in the mazes, playing games like “Farm Scene Investigation,” trying to deduce, from clues in the maze, which farm animal “kidnapped” Farmer Joe. “The best thing is to see the children burst out of the end of the maze,” Dutton said. “They’re screaming, ‘We did it!’ It’s a reminder how they love being outside, being physical, and how kids don’t do that as much as they should.” As these mazes remind us, sometimes it’s best to let the little ones lead.