Those of you who have followed my caching career know that I have long held the ambition of carving the coordinates for a puzzle cache into a field of corn so that I can ask would-be solvers to fly over the field to read the coordinates.
Last year I made two attempts, with two different companies, to do this. The first time I contracted with Conway's Crop Carving, which didn't work out very well. Later in the year I tried again with Reclusive Ox Crop Art, with no greater success. Both times I swore I would never try again.
All that changed when I went to Wendover last weekend. I was walking back to my car at the State Line Casino when an LED sign suddenly displayed a straightforward advertisement:
Acme Sweet Corn
I stopped dead in my tracks. There was no one else around and no traffic moving, which is extremely unusual for a Saturday night. The ad remained for perhaps ten seconds before the sign resumed cycling through the usual messages. I stood in the same spot and stared for the next fifteen minutes, but the ad never reappeared.
Finally, I got in my car and drove off toward Salt Lake City, trying to figure out what I should do when I got home. I was in the middle of the Salt Flats, about 20 miles from Wendover, when my headlights illuminated an old wooden billboard on the south side of I-80. It said:
Conceal It Immediately!
I slammed on my brakes, but I was going so fast that I skidded past the billboard. I threw my car into reverse and backed up at 5000 RPM until I could see the billboard again. There was nothing on it except for a few scraps of paper hanging by their corners.
I sat in my car on the side of the Interstate, staring at the billboard. Part of me was wondering if I had imagined what I had seen, and part of me was wondering if the billboard would somehow change back. It wasn't long, though, before I got a sudden urge to get home as quickly as possible. I took off at 95 mph and didn't slow down until I reached the interchange with the Bangerter Highway.
I made it home about twenty minutes later. I took a notebook and pen from the hall closet, pulled a handful of geocaching swag out of a box in the basement, stuffed everything in an ammo can I found in a corner of the garage, grabbed my GPS receiver, jumped in the car, and drove off.
When I passed the bank on the main road, the time and temperature sign was displaying an unusual message:
Cache Is Important!
While I watched, the sign reverted to the current time, which was 3:00 a.m. I didn't even slow down.
This is the point where my memories begin to get fuzzy. Although I have a faint memory of taking a short moonlit hike into the foothills and hiding the cache a few feet from a trail, I can't remember anything else that happened between 3:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. That's when I was startled out of a deep sleep by a loud knock at my door.
It took a couple of minutes for me to wake up and figure out where the noise was coming from. When I finally opened the door, a tall man wearing tan work pants and a matching work shirt was standing there. There was an oval white patch on his shirt, which read:
"Call me Al," the man smiled. He offered his hand.
I shook it mutely.
"I just finished carving the location of your new cache into the corn field west of the house. Want to see it?"
I had no shortage of questions to ask him, but for some reason I couldn't bring myself to speak. How had he made those messages appear? Had anyone else seen them? Why was he doing this? Why couldn't I remember the last 14 hours? How did he know where the cache was hidden? Did he expect me to pay him?
Al stood there with an amused expression and waited a while before he spoke again. "I think you should get some more sleep. Here's the design I carved into your corn, and the coordinates you should post." He handed me a slip of paper. "Don't worry, I work cheap: seven bits per character. I'll send you a bill for $25.375. Have a good evening."
I didn't move a muscle until Al's truck had disappeared around the bend in the road. My first impulse was to burn the paper without looking at it, but my curiosity got the best of me and I took a peek. This is what I saw:
This had to be the most ridiculous carving job yet! I decided to retrieve the cache container and give up on corn field puzzles forever. I figured I'd find the coordinates of the cache in my GPS receiver. I grabbed it from the drawer where I keep it, turned it on, and was greeted by this message on the LCD display:
Al Says: "Cancellation
The message quickly faded and was replaced by the usual satellite tracking display. I searched through the GPSr, but I couldn't find a single clue about where I'd placed the cache. There were no new waypoints and no new tracks.
To heck with it. The container is out there somewhere, but I have no idea where. Better people than me have managed to locate Conway and Reclusive Ox, so maybe you'll find this one. Good luck!
Congratulations to kimbest for being first to find.