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What Is It About the Smell of Dirt?

What Is It About the Smell of Dirt?

It gives you hope for the future and takes you back all at once.

The other morning Chris, my husband, came in and said "I know you have lots to do today, but I really need you to work some ground."

I had dishes and writing and laundry to do, but I grabbed my sunglasses and was half way out the door quoting Scarlett O'Hara before he finished his sentence: "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow."

What is it about the smell of fresh tilled soil that just makes me happy?  I have been in the midst of production agriculture my entire life and even 44 years later my love and excitement only grows stronger every day.

My office view: This is my favorite view, much better than the view of looking over a pile of dirty dishes or laundry!

I grew up on a grain and livestock farm. My Dad was a full-time farmer, but the three of us kids weren't required to help.  We could ride with Dad anytime we wanted to, sweep grain into the dump pit, check cattle, walk pasture – but required to help out? Never.

Related: Kids in Tractors: To Ride or Not to Ride?

As we got older we were asked to rouge bean fields once in a while, pick up rocks, help get the cows in when they got out, detassel corn, and once we got our license, we would sometimes do chauffeur duty when moving equipment from field to field.

I do recall one of my first experiences running a tractor, it wasn't pretty.  I had begged and begged and begged Dad to let me help. He finally gave in and told me I could run the grain cart one fall.

It lasted less than an hour. Fine, it lasted less than one round. (Truly irony at its best. If there were a "farming Olympics" with a grain cart operating event today, I would no doubt be a gold medalist. But I digress.)

It was a John Deere 4440 power shift.  I climbed in the tractor, Dad into the combine and off we went in the corn field around the house. He filled the hopper on the combine, I got lined up and he started dumping. The more he got ahead of me the more I shoved the power shift into a higher gear, until I was maxed!

Related: Top 5 Things Farm Kids Learn at the Fair

Dad and I were barely creeping, him giving me some approved farmer hand signals to speed up and me throwing my arms around in non-farmer-approved hand signals trying to tell him I was going as fast as I knew how.

We were obviously speaking two different languages, so I took the next obvious step and started yelling "I CAN'T MAKE IT GO ANY FASTER!" I knew he couldn't hear me but he obviously wasn't getting my hand signals either, so on the off-chance he could read my lips, I threw that in.

I don't have to tell you that it didn't end well, as the combine slowed to a creep just to keep up with me. Dad gave the international "everyone knows" sign of throwing his hands up in the air, pulled the combine auger in and started combining at normal speed.

I putt-putted my way to the end rows, parked the tractor, hung my head in shame and to this day will never forget that the rabbit-turtle lever is the throttle. Want to make it go faster? Give it a little more "rabbit"!

The moral is that sometimes, even when you're born into it, you're not a natural. But it's in your blood.  And things like the smell of fresh-tilled earth, the sound of a tractor in the distance or the feel of a baby calf sucking on your fingers makes it real and powerful.

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