When Bryan and Stella Gober discovered their cornfield had been poisoned in August, it might have slowed them down – but it wouldn’t stop them from opening their family business, especially when it had a legacy to live up to.
The Gobers, who run Gober Inc. Towing and Garage, decided they wanted to build a corn maze next to their shop on Hwy. 53 this year after the property was up for grabs with the relocation of the previous tenant, Uncle Shuck’s Corn Maze.
The couple wanted their corn maze to pay tribute to Bryan’s father, Glen Pat Gober, who loved all things farming.
“We’re trying to keep it agricultural because that’s what Papa Pat was. He was into agriculture completely,” Stella said.
When it came to picking a name for the new business venture, Stella suggested naming it Papa Pat’s in honor of her late father-in-law, and it fit perfectly with their goal to create a family-oriented place for fall fun.
Glen Pat Gober, known by his friends and family as “Papa Pat,” was born in Forsyth County, but had lived in Dawson County from the 1960s until his death in December of 2016. He was a U.S.D.A. poultry inspector for 35 years, worked as a farmer, served as president of the Dawson County chapter of Farm Bureau and was a founding member of the Dawson County Jaycees.
“He loved to cut hay. He loved to farm. Anything to do with farming Daddy loved it,” Bryan said. “Daddy was all about agriculture.”
“He helped a lot of people, too,” Stella added. “When people got in trouble they’d call him.”
Papa Pat was known for lending a helping hand in the community. Whether it was sponsoring the Dawson County High School FFA chapter or giving someone a ride home or a job on his farm, he was there to help, Bryan said.
He was also a “big talker,” according to Stella, who fondly remembers him.
“When Pat started talking everybody would just be real quiet and listen to whatever he was saying, whatever story he was telling,” Stella said. “They loved to hear him tell his stories.”
With Papa Pat’s name tied to the new corn maze, the Gobers were determined to honor his legacy and love for agriculture. As the Gobers began to cut the maze design, they saw the signs of a chemical attack.
“We had cut half the maze and then discovered that it had been (poisoned),” Bryan said. “The next day we noticed the change in the corn. Corn was bright green then it started turning yellow, and we stopped cutting to see what was going on.”
Dead, yellow patches of crop began to appear in the shape of an X in the 12 acre corn field on Aug. 17. Two days later, the Gobers saw the extent of the herbicide damage as swaths of corn had died.
The Dawson County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating the incident and no arrests have been made at this time.
Because of the damage, Bryan and Stella had to redesign the maze and eliminate some design elements to work around dead patches. Corn was replanted to help mitigate some of the poisoned patches, but due to drought conditions over the past few months, that corn did not fully grow in as the Gobers would have liked.
“We built it and had problems at the start and problems after we planted the corn, but we’ve worked through it,” Bryan said. “It’s not ran us off. It’s not going to make us close the doors and run.”
“We’re more determined,” Stella added. “We were taught to be more determined than that.”
Despite the rocky start to the first season, Stella said they’ve seen many families coming out to enjoy their two corn mazes, hay bale maze, hay rides and pumpkin bowling.
“We’ve had a lot of kids, and that’s what it’s about – the kids,” Stella said.
Papa Pat’s Corn Maze is $10 and is open until Nov. 17.