This article was published in the daily newspaper Lansing State Journal, USA, on August 29, 2002, written by Kara L. Richardson.
Life imitating art in rural cornfields
EATON RAPIDS - A crop circle suspiciously similar to the ones flashing across movie screens around the country appeared this week in a local farmer's field. Signs," the nation's top-grossing movie last-weekend, is about the mysterious phenomenon of crop circles, those geometric markings in wheat and corn fields some say are created by aliens.
But Eaton County Sheriff Rick Jones said the likely culprits of the markings in rural Eaton Rapids are copycat pranksters.
And their antics won't be tolerated, he said.
"Farmers can lose large amounts of a crop due to such nonsense," Jones said. A similar but less sophisticated crop marking was found earlier this month in the county's northwest corner, he said.
No arrests have been made.
"I realize it's been a No. 1 movie for three weeks, but destruction of property is a crime."
Someone caught damaging a field could face up to 90 days in jail and heavy fines, Jones said, and would have to pay for the damage.
Authorities have no suspects yet.
The two parts of the circle, one almost 100 feet wide, are joined by a 6-foot-wide path.
And although there are no traceable tire tracks and the corn is bent in a complete circle, the farmer's sister thinks kids are the cause.
"I don't really believe in aliens," Anne Cantine said.
Of course, Jones couldn't rule them out for certain. "I guess we'll never know," Jones said, "but last we checked, we weren't 'The X-Files.' "
Whoever did the damage may have had fun, but the damage was a serious loss of property, Cantine said.
It can cost farmers as much as $500 an acre, said Kurt Thelen, a professor at Michigan State University's Department of Crop and Soil Science.
"It's not funny to the farmer," he said.
Corn this time of year is mature and brittle.
"If a stalk is broken, it won't stand erect again," Thelen said. "Once it's down, it's down."
Farmers' fields often have been a target for tampering.
"Ever since we've had cars and cornfields, there have been teens taking joy rides through them," Thelen said.