Hayrides shouldn’t be fun, but they are. We’re a generation raised on limitless entertainment. We can play video games that let us steal cars, zip through space, and fight zombies in World War 2. We can go to the movies, sit in plush leather seats while we suck sugar into our faces and watch cities explode.
Yet, we still enjoy a hayride.
The bales of hay are hard, the wagon creeps at parade speed—but that makes it even more fun. Kids love hayrides because you’re in the open air, you’re free with your friends, and best of all you see a familiar world through fresh eyes.
I remember my nephew’s first hayride. He pointed to buildings he’d seen a hundred times from a car: “Look, it’s Mr. Reed’s house! Oh, that’s grandma’s road!” Passing by in a hay wagon was like flying over them in an airplane. Then my nephew’s dog Kenya ran underneath the hay wagon, and was killed instantly.
There has always been a pet curse in my household. The Arey family crest probably reads: “Another Day, Another Collar.” A few of the furry casualties from my childhood:
- Our cats, Ebony and Ivory. A car hit Ebony. She was lying in my parents’ room, waiting to die. I peeked. I remember half her fur being ripped away, exposing her naked red flesh. Looking back, I think maybe she was just covered in blood. Soon after, Ivory was eaten. My brother found pieces of him behind our trailer.
- A stray dog I took in and named Kipper. I always had a big heart for stray dogs. I was six years younger than my brother and sister. When they had friends, over I was locked outside their bedroom doors. I didn’t have many friends, so it was a blessing when one wandered into our yard and needed me to feed him. Kipper lasted maybe a week, before Dad and I drove him out to the country and dropped him off. I watched him chase after us until he disappeared into the dust of the gravel road
- A cat named Piawackett. He was a stray, already fixed and missing his front claws. One day he started choking. He could barely breath. He had been with us a year (an Arey record) so we took him to the vet. We stored him in a cheap cardboard pet carrier. He thrashed around in the box like a captured raccoon. He kept thrusting his nose through one of the box’s small air hole. He rammed his face into the hole, until his head finally burst free. The look in his eyes was terrifying. He looked insane, like our soft Piawackett was possessed by a demon cat. The vet discovered a mouse lodges in his throat. There was some kind of internal bleeding, and Piawackett was put down.
- Katie was our first puppy, a newborn collie. She liked to chew my Grizzlor action figure, and when I came home from school she was unconditionally excited to see me. One day my sister was crossing highway 41 to go to the general store. Katie decided to follow, and was hit by a car.
There was nothing we could do for her. The family gathered in the living room, and we took turns holding her until she died. My sister was consumed with guilt. She carved a tombstone for Katie, and we buried her in the garden. I put Grizzlor on her grave.
Pets teach kids how to take care of another life. We invite animals into our homes, and they become our friends. In some cases, they’re our only friends. Pets also teach kids that everything will eventually go away. No matter how much you love a pet or a person, someday they will leave you forever.
When you learn tomorrow isn’t promised to you, today is brighter. Simple hayrides on familiar roads will fill you with constant, total amazement.
NOTE: I owe a debt of gratitude to John Patrick Shanely. The last sentence is paraphrased his wonderful film “Joe Versus the Volcano.”