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The smells of the country are strong reminders of the past.

Brent Murphree, Content Director

April 30, 2020

2 Min Read
The smell of freshly cut alfalfa can evoke memories of long ago and lost tennis shoes.NeilLockhart/Getty Images/iStockphoto

I spent about four years away from the smells of the country. During that time, I still traveled the rural routes because of my job, but it's not the same as smelling the lingering scent of a newly overturned field or freshly cut hay throughout the day.

The smell of a city is not something that necessarily evokes fond memories, often those smells trigger something else entirely.

My recent move back to the country has brought back many smells that I had forgotten or didn't know I liked. They are smells that are linked to years past and good times and places I hadn't thought of in years.

A few days ago I dug a trench to alleviate a clogged drainage channel on my property. I worked hard and came back to the house muddy and in a really good mood. I think more than anything I was happy to get in the dirt. It dawned on me that I hadn't smelled fresh dirt on my clothes in a while.

The obstruction in the channel was mostly vegetative and last season corn cobs from the field above my property flowed into the weeds and decomposed in the mud. It's a distinctive odor that I haven't smelled since I was a kid when a pile of corn cobs rotted alongside the family feed lot.

About a half mile down the road from my house someone has livestock. I pretty much know what they have on their pasture without even seeing the place. I know they have a few cows and maybe a horse or two. I don't smell any goats and if they have chickens, it's only very few.

We always had animals on our place growing up. Sometimes we had them for business, sometimes for personal reasons (4-H, FFA, food, pets). Of course, different animals manifest different scents. I don't mind the smell of beef cattle, I'm a little less thrilled by dairy cows. I can tolerate a few chickens, but I stay as far away as possible from egg farms.

Needless to say, I think I love the smell of most crops. The first frost on a cotton crop is distinctive.

I grew up surrounded by alfalfa hay. When I was about three or four years old I stepped into the muddy end of an irrigated alfalfa field and lost one of my red Keds in the muck.

What I remember most is not the deep mud or how cold the day was, but the smell of the trampled alfalfa as I searched in the mud for the red shoe. I never found it.

Weeks later, my grandfather came to the house and set half of a little red tennis shoe on the kitchen table. It had been cut in half by the swather. I can still smell the alfalfa in my head.

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