It was right before sundown on a cool, late spring afternoon. The skies were still overcast from an earlier shower, and Kornelijus and I were driving the pastures on the UTV, searching for the last few cows that were due to calve. Taking in a deep breath, the exchange student who has been our son for the past nine months commented, “Ah, this smells just like the countryside in my home country. It’s my favorite smell of all time.” He had a very contented look on his face.
At first, I thought maybe he was a bit homesick for his native Lithuania. He quickly assured me he was not homesick, but of all the smells he had inhaled in his 17 years, the combination of newly sprouted plants, dampness and fresh air had activated his senses with good memories. I had to agree that the odors were, indeed, very pleasant.
“Have you ever smelled freshly cut alfalfa?” I asked.
“What is alfalfa?”
I explained to the young man that alfalfa is a hay crop, and the aroma emitted from a freshly mown field is more beautiful than any bouquet of flowers or any combination of chemicals contained in the most expensive perfume that can be purchased. Since I sold the farm where I had grown the crop for many years last summer, I vowed to find a field later in the spring so he could determine if I was being truthful.
“I look forward to smelling it,” he replied. “Do you have other favorite smells?”
I went on to explain that hardly any farmers use a turning plow to till their soil anymore, since no-till farming has taken over, but that freshly turned soil in the springtime remains one of my top three olfactory experiences. There is just something about exposing all those organisms that have been dormant for the entire winter that can’t be duplicated in a factory. I miss that smell.
It was as if Kornelijus was taking mental notes when he asked, “So alfalfa and freshly turned soil are two of your top three fragrances. What’s the third?”
“You’re probably going to think this is really weird,” I began, “but, the smell of cow manure ranks right up there with the other two — especially when cattle prices are high.”
As we continued driving through the fields, I could tell that the young man was contemplating what I had just said. When we stopped to observe one of the cows, he spoke up and said, “What does it smell like when cattle prices are low?”
“Well, then it just stinks. It is manure, you know.”
Crownover writes from Missouri.