So many of the things we take for granted can come back to our memories in mere moments, triggered by the sense of smell.
When I was little we raised sheep. Most of my thoughts about them are that they butted me and tried to knock the five-gallon buckets full of shelled corn out of my hands when I fed them. I remember shearing time and the ticks while stomping wool in the huge gunnysacks. Last year while visiting with other ranch wives, one mentioned KRS, an insecticide that is no longer used on sheep. I could smell it! I hadn’t thought of it in years, but the memory of that odor was ingrained.
For five years we had a Grade A dairy. A salesman talked us into trying a product for odor control. Actually it did mask the dairy odor with a sickeningly sweet cherry-based smell. I believe the name was Odie Granules. Some derivative of it is still around and occasionally I get a whiff of it; then I’m right back in the dairy barn.
Diesel fumes? Though common in the country, they transport me back to my college days when I studied at the University of Paris (the Sorbonne) in France. The city buses were numerous and they spewed their exhausts in the face. Funny thing is, until the fumes were so concentrated, I never noticed them. Now they bring back memories.
The scent I love the most is newly cut alfalfa hay. It is indescribable. Figure out a way to bottle that smell and you would be a millionaire many times over. The market would be for anyone who ever lived in the country or would like to do so. Think of all the retired farmers who experienced the fragrance and their grandchildren who haven’t.
Two nights ago I awoke to the strangest smell and had to think about what it was. It has been a long time since we had enjoyed the aroma of rain. Two tenths doesn’t do a lot for the soil but it does wonders for the air and the soul. Even the scent of rain gives hope to farmers.
Not long ago a city friend stopped by for a visit. As we sat on the veranda, she said, “Smell that!”
I put my sniffer into high gear searching for smoke from fires that have plagued us all summer. I didn’t smell any. Then I thought she must be complaining about the cow lot but it had been undisturbed all summer and emitted no odor that I could detect. Even though I should be used to it, I really notice the smell when we clean pens. No, it wasn’t that. The dog hadn’t played with a skunk the night before ...
I couldn’t figure it out so finally I had to ask, “What is it that you smell?”
She replied, “Nothing.”
“Exactly. There is no odor and it’s the freshest air I’ve encountered since I was here the last time.”
Perhaps nothing is something after all. ❖