Outgoing, friendly and fearless, 26-month-old Patsy, a beautiful child, drew attention everywhere she went.

It was a good farming year, especially the corn, in southeastern Michigan in late August. The stalks stretched more than 9 feet high and long, well developed ears in the fields surrounding three sides of our rural house.

Eagerly anticipating Bob’s return from work, dinner was almost ready. Patsy and I waited on the big side porch overlooking the driveway where the landlord’s grain elevator and barns sprawled over the property.

Blue skies and warm, inviting sunshine made the day perfect. Patsy chattered away at the neighbor’s new puppy as I ran into the kitchen for a quick peek at dinner. Back in less than about 30 seconds, she was gone. And so was the puppy.

Scouring the property, calling her name, there was no response. After circling the outbuildings, she was nowhere to be seen. Fear gripped as my fearful thoughts shifted to the road. After a quick glance, that was checked off my mental list. Calls to neighbors were fruitless.

The only place left was the enormous cornfield. At that moment, Bob pulled into the driveway, saw my face and became frantic as I explained our dilemma — searching everywhere I had already looked. We both called her repeatedly, then listened for a response that didn’t come.

The landlord’s brother Rob and a couple of his hands pulled up. Bob explained our situation and immediately they formed a search party with more than a dozen guys combing the area, including Rob’s two teenage boys.

In consensus, the most likely scenario was that she had followed that young beagle pup into the cornfield. They dispersed quickly, spreading out over the field and even driving to the other side a full mile away on the adjacent road.

Because of my infanticipating condition, the order was for me to stay home in case she returned. It was a challenge not to turn into a blubbering mass of worried mama yet somehow I controlled my composure for what seemed an eternity.

The men agreed that if they didn’t find her within the next 30 minutes, they would call in the state police with tracking dogs. Darkness would soon creep in, and my mind conjured up images of her lying filthy and freezing on the hard ground among the long rows overnight. That image is still vivid 54 years later.

Rob had always teased and terrorized Patsy. He was her foe, though his gruff exterior hid a big teddy bear. When he returned in his pickup, he shared an update.

He had spotted her on the backside of the cornfield; but when she recognized him, she spun around and hurried back into the endless rows, the puppy wagging his tail and nipping at her heels. Rob stayed in the truck but his boys, Keith and Roger, bailed out of the back and followed her. Had she been in the water, she would have left a wake.

Keith called out to her. She recognized his voice. In her words, “Keith is my boyfriend.” She ran to his open arms. They got into the back of truck so she could avoid her nemesis and headed back to our house.

Then Keith arose from the truck bed with her cradled in his arms. She adored her “boyfriend.”

She was a mess as enormous tears dripped smearing her dirty face. She smudged them with her pudgy, dust-covered hands — her beautiful gold dress with black velvet trim likely ruined. I ran to her, but Bob got there first.

This little girl who never enjoyed a snuggle or hug, clung to him and then to both of us like a magnet to steel. We all sobbed in unified relief.

She struggled to escape our grasp as the young beagle appeared. Obviously, she had followed him an entire mile through the corn field. She was tiny enough to escape cuts from sharp blades of corn but was utterly exhausted.

Profusely thanking everyone involved in the frantic search, we headed inside to the bathtub. Exhausted, hungry and relieved, we ate and relaxed giving praise to God for returning her safely to us. Five days later, her little brother made his debut.

It takes only a few seconds for a child to disappear no matter how closely they are guarded. Anyone participating in a corn maze this fall, needs to be especially watchful of children.

A couple of years ago, I chatted with Keith at a funeral. He inquired about Patsy and instructed me to, “Tell my girlfriend, ‘Hello.’” It’s been a long love affair even prior to her corn maze adventure.

Oh, the stories corn could tell if they only had mouths to go with their ears.

— A coal miner’s daughter born in Appalachia and schooled in Michigan, she currently lives in rural Athens. Hill describes herself as a cook and cookbook author, jack of all trades and master of none, a Christian wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She shares her home with her husband, Bob, and their spoiled-beyond-belief dog, Molly.

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