Hay Ride

Author – MC

It was a cool night in October. The forecast was clear, so it was an ideal night to take part in a traditional harvest time tradition- the hay ride. In a fairly small university town where there is not much to do, the local hay rides get a lot of traffic, especially as you approach Halloween.
Alex often joined the same group of friends for weekend activities, whether it was out to bars for a night of drinks or just to hang. He had never been on a hay ride though, having been from the city. When he got the call to meet up with his friends, he slipped on a pair of open-back, brown leather clogs with a wood sole and walked out the door, giving no thought to last night’s rain or the outdoors destination.
Matt worked the ticket line at the hay ride. It was an easy, seasonal job that only ran for a little over a month. The only downside, really, was the mud. With all the foot traffic, the waiting area for boarding the carts became very messy. Matt didnt mind though. He kind of liked the feeling of the mud tugging at his shoes.
He began to wear a pair of loose, brown low wallabee-style shoes which were large enough to allow his heels to lift up when he walked. They would get stuck in the mud and it was fun to have to pull his heavy low boots out of the muck. It was a good thing he didnt have to walk or run very much for this job. He was sure if he ever needed to run he would leave his shoes behind, stuck in the ground.
Matt also enjoyed watching the ride patrons who had chosen the wrong footwear to wear to this event. Too often he watched people try to walk from the bleachers where patrons waited to board to the cart while wearing flip-flops or slides. He couldn’t help the feeling of excitement as he watched a guy or girl struggle to keep on their sandals until at last the unsecure footwear is lost in the muck, only to have the owner fish them out and board the cart barefoot.
Then came the night Alex came to the hay ride. Matt stared secretly as Alex approached in his clogs and took a nearby seat on the bleachers, waiting to be called to board a cart. Working security, Matt had an excellent vantage point to watch as Alex momentarily slipped his socked feet out of the clogs, which had managed to stay relatively free of mud to this point. Unable to help himself, Matt moved in underneath the bleachers.
At a closer look, Matt discovered that the clogs were secured by a buckled leather strap that tightened across the top of the foot. Above, Alex was chatting with his friends, and none of them could see him under the bleachers in the dark. Matt wondered if he could unfasten the buckles without him noticing… He would surely lose them among the deep muddy path.
Before Matt could do anything, Alex moved his feet back to the clogs, placing his toes upon the end of the heel. He was holding them down securely enough… Matt carefully pushed the end of the strap on the right shoe through the buckle. With a tug, the pin came out of the strap and the clog was made unfastened. Nobody noticed.
Quickly and gently he slipped open the buckle on the left clog and backed into the darkness under the bleachers. Seemingly at that very moment, Matt’s co-worker approached Alex’s group to ferry them toward a cart that was nearly full from boarding. The group rose and Alex pushed his feet into the clogs and followed. Matt watched from the shadows.

Alex took his first few steps onto the road, the clogs sinking about an inch into the mud. The stepping motion forward made his foot pull the strap out of the buckle on his right foot first, then the left, and he knew something was wrong with his shoes. Matt could tell they had suddenly become VERY loose on his feet. Though, there was no stopping now, as the cart was boarding and so Alex pressed on.
Closer to the cart, the mud became deeper. Alex struggled to walk. Step after step, he tugged his shoes free of sticky mud, trying very hard not to lose one in the process. Matt’s breathing quickened as he looked on. Alex’s left foot sank deep, and from the bleachers Matt could see that a bit of mud had wicked onto the exposed heel of Alex’s light gray sock.
Alex tried to move through this step quicker, but the clog stayed stuck fast in the deep mud. Alex’s foot pulled up out of the shoe and landed in another spot of mud. He must have been up to his ankle in mud. At this point one of Alex’s friends turned and noticed his predicament. Matt heard him laugh. “Wrong shoes, dude.”
As the group was boarding, there was no time for Alex to do anything else… he slipped the muddy sock back into the clog and pulled upward. With a squelch the clog came free from the muck. He nearly had flung the shoe from his foot with the motion, but managed to catch it on the end of his toes before it flew off.
Another few steps and the right clog got stuck, but Alex caught himself before he stepped down. He stood on one foot for a moment, looking back to see where the lost clog was so he could slip his foot back inside.
Finally Alex reached the cart. He was the last to take a seat on the cart, placed on the very end of the flatbed. The only seat available, he had to ride with his feet hanging from the edge of the cart. It was only now that he could see that his straps were unbuckled, and as he sat himself on the edge of the hay cart, he realized that his shoes were too loose for him to keep them secure, but the mud had covered the vacant buckles so completely that there was nothing he could do about it but try to hang on. A gate was secured on the back of the wagon, and Alex was now stuck in his position with his feet dangling off the end of the cart.
An attractive girl was seated next to him, her feet also hanging. Alex noticed she was wearing a pair of black Birkenstocks, the model with one thin strap. Mud lined the outside of her sandals and in a few places her light blue ankle socks were stained brown from the wet earth. At the same time, she took stock of Alex’s muddy clogs. She smiled weakly. “We wore the wrong shoes.”
Alex smiled back, but his smile faded as the hay cart began to move. The mud and old wooden wheel design made the ride very bumpy. His right clog slipped down his foot to the end of his toes. Next to him, the bumpiness had made the same thing happen to both sandals on the girl next to him. She fought to flex her toes upward and keep them hanging on her feet. “Shit!”
Alex gripped hard with his left foot, attempting to hold the more secure of the pair in place. However, the slick mud between his foot and the wooden sole made for poor traction, and with the loose fit created by the opened strap, nothing was there to stop Alex’s clog from falling from his foot and into the muddy ground moving under the cart. Both Alex and the girl gasped. The cart rolled over something, likely a rock. The cart bumped in response, and her sandals were flung off too. As the cart moved on, they could do nothing but watch their shoes drift away into the distance.
After a moment, the pair looked at each other and shared a hushed laugh. Looking down, they saw Alex’s remaining clog hanging dangerously close to the end of his foot. She reached her foot over to the nearby hanging leg, and touched gently under Alex’s exposed heel. She flicked her foot suddenly downward and knocked off his dangling clog.
“I’m Alex,” she said coyly.
“…Me too,” he said with a smirk.
————————————
Later, they returned to the places where their shoes had fallen off. But standing ankle deep in the mud, their socks turned brown, they found nothing except the obvious indents in the soft ground where the shoes had impacted and the deep footprints of the one who had taken them.

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