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Thursday, December 23, 2010


I was driving home this afternoon, after having picked up my car from the mechanic’s shop, and after stopping to have a pedicure (I’m a diabetic and diabetics have to take good care of their feet. That is not only a burden, but a pleasant task. Women have kept it a closely guarded secret, that pedicures just feel good!)

As I waited at a red light, with my window down, something hit my nostrils that brought back ancient memories. Somewhere, there was a greasy spoon café frying hamburgers. Not just any hamburgers mind you, but hamburgers like they used to make back in the day. Hamburgers that had that certain aroma that caused you to just picture it, all wrapped up in thin tissue paper, grease making little dots on the paper, and tasting every bit as good as it smelled. One pictured, mentally, Tiner’s Drive In, in Omaha, Nebraska, or White Castle Burgers, or Steve’s Grill, in Benson, a suburb of Omaha . . . some definitive smell that you just don’t find anymore. I have no idea which restaurant was cooking these marvelous smelling hamburgers . . . but I have taken on as my next assignment to find out. I don’t care if they are 30% fat . . . I shall wolf one down as soon as I find it.

As I sat there salivating, picturing the hamburger in my mind, I recalled other smells that bring back solid memories:

(a) Burning leaves in the fall. A nice, fragrant aroma. You don’t find that much anymore as the “Smell Police” come around and tell you you (a) have to have a burn permit, (b) you can’t burn, (c) you’re destroying the atmosphere with the stench of those burning leaves. (They don’t know what’s good for them!)

(b) Burning corn cobs. That always told me it was football season back in Nebraska. I don’t suppose kids growing up in Omaha even know what burning corn cobs smell like anymore. Omaha has so many suburbs that they darned near back up to Fremont; Lincoln, even. The “rural” area around Omaha has become suburbia. If you go far enough out into the farm country of Nebraska, I reckon you can still savor the aroma of burning corn cobs.

(c) Farm smells. Yep, farm smells. Much of a farm smell is good, rich, cow manure. It is an earthy smell, one you get used to. City folk don’t much like it, but farm folks, and those that are kin to farm folks recognize the smell as a welcome one. Unless, of course, it’s a pig farm. Ain’t much of a worse smell than pig manure.

(d) Tractor tires. Yes, tractor tires. Back in the late 1940’s and early 50’s there was a distinct aroma to tractor tires. I can smell them still. I believe, due to the WWII demands, rubber was in short supply and they came up with some type of hybrid tire for tractors that worked kinda like rubber tires, but still smelled unique. It was not an unpleasant smell. Haven’t smelled a tractor tire for about 60+ years. Probably would not find me sniffing around tractor tires today anyway as I am very sophisticated and genteel . . . not at all like the wild, adventuresome youth I once was.

(e) Privies. Yes, the old outhouse. I leave it to one’s imagination what they must have smelled like. I have to admit, I do not miss the smell of an outhouse. Or its product. I well remember them, however, having gone many times to grandma’s farm before they had indoor plumbing. (We called it grandma’s farm . . . it was actually grandpa and grandma’s farm; but we were a lot more fond of grandma than grandpa).

f. Kerosene lamps. Another memory from grandma’s farm. Before they had electricity we would gather around the living room and drink coffee, or beer, seldom wine, and talk . . . the room being lit by several kerosene lamps.

g. Leather couches. Many’s the time I fell asleep on grandma’s leather couch. A warm, rich aroma of fine leather . . . and I remember the almost bitter resentment I felt when mom or dad would wake me up and carry me upstairs to a cold bedroom . . . that got warmer after being placed under a heap of blankets and quilts.

h. Wood and coal burning stoves. Many a time we’d have breakfast, then lunch, then dinner. All prepared on an old fashioned coal stove . . . occasionally with wood added, for effect.

i. Fresh baked apple pies . . .other pies, most any pie you can name, including mincemeat, pumpkin, cherry, rhubarb, - no aroma can match baking that has been done in a farm house. Particularly if prepared by a loving, doting grandma.

j. Minnesota air. There always seemed to be a freshness to Minnesota air . . . air that seemed to say . . . “there’s a beautiful lake nearby.” Minnesota is known as the state with 10,000 lakes. Don’t you believe it. It was just a clever advertising slogan. Minnesota probably has 100,000 lakes. That’s why the air has a fresh aroma to it . . . with just a hint of fish smell to it . . . a small that says . . . “Northern Pike, Walleye, Small Mouth Bass, Crappie,” . . . many a happy memory in Minnesota.

k. Permanent wave solution: Mom had a beauty shop in our home in Omaha. I can still smell permanent wave solution . . . and I don’t recall the aroma with pleasant memories. Not painful, just not a pleasant recollection.

l. Freshly ironed shirts . . . still notice that today. Evelyn will wash, dry, and iron shirts and spray them with starch and they have that delicious, fresh aroma that I love . . .and that disappears all too fast.

m. Tabu perfume. A certain blonde used to send me mail when I was in Army boot camp; I always knew I had mail from the Tabu that she sprinkled liberally on her letters. To this day Tabu brings back very, very pleasant memories.


You have, I’m sure, aromas of your own that bring back a memory or two. Sometimes it is good to stop the world for a couple of minutes, forget about business, and recall those things that bring back warm and happy memories. (Not to suggest that either outhouses or pig farms generate happy memories; they don’t).

Just some whimsy from an elder on this planet.

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