View Full Version : The Scent of a Father--just a story

Ben Knebel
06-30-2003, 9:44 AM
Smells they say are the most evocative memory triggers there are. If anything can plunge you into a nostalgic reverie it will be a smell.
I don't know whether it's because I'm getting older or my father is but it's been happening a lot lately and the memories are all related to him---mostly.

Just the other day I was smelling myself--as I'm wont to do as I wish to avoid knocking people out--and a memory of my father came wafting back.

...I'm about 4 years old and my father has just picked me up from the nursery school---I'd fallen asleep so he's carrying me and I smell what came to be,for me, "that man smell"---a combination of the metallic, oily, sweaty smell that comes from working with metals and machines all day---an honest smell not at all unpleasant.

Why did catching a wiff of myself bring back that memory??---it was the same smell. You see I now work with metals and the making of tools---as did my father. He was a master tool and die maker of the old school.

For years I was a white collar worker , growing up in the computer industry and working for large computer corporations---corporations do leave a smell on you but not one that is all that pleasant....at least not these days.

I make handplanes and other tools but mostly handplanes and so "that man smell" is something I smell pretty well every day now.

It's funny but I know that my dad's memoriestrigger on that smell as well. My parents were visiting and I was just returning from the shop and had to pass very close to my father. He grabbed me by the shoulders and took a deep breath through his nose---eyes closed he just smiled--he looked at me and continued smiling---that was all. We didn't say anything but it was one of those I know that you know that I know moments. I smiled right back at him.

As I work with wood as well that smell brings back it's own set of memories--you know that smell---fresh cut wood combined with sweat--and in my case the smells of the forest---another "man smell".

I was cutting up a maple tree that had taken a lightening strike and boom --the memory transpoter takes me back---to a farm.

My father and I ( I'm about 11) are clearing a 14 acre plot of land that he had bought as an investment. My father wanted to grow veggies on that farm. It had about 1 clear acre--the rest was forest and that first summer we turned that acre over and planted potatoes---we turned it over by hand---my dad had a shovel and so did I and I hated every minute of it---see nostalgia doesn't always have to be pleaant.

The next year he wanted more clear acerage so we started to cut down the forest---we cleared about 2 acres-by hand axe and 2 man saw--I hated that too.

But there are other memories as well----there was a large lake nearby and every once in awhile --after a hard hot sweaty day--we'd drive to the beach for a sunset swim--glorious--the best swims ever. he sun's just setting--a big red ball on the horizon----I'm in the water and look back on the shore---my dad my mum and my brother--happy,relaxed and that lovely summer beach smell. See always smells.

There was a creek that ran along the front of that property and on one of those rare occasions where I was simply allowed to play I met my first love.

I was 11 --she was 10 and a farmer's daughter from the farm across the way...yea yea I know all the jokes. I was catching frogs and heard this tentative hello. Looking up I see a girl--dark hair and the deepest bluest eyes I had ever and have ever seen--instant love.

Pause for a deep intake of breath--let it out slowly and revellin that memory.

You know the saying " Stop and smell the roses".
Must have been a very wise person who said that.

Stop , smell and remember.


Ken Frantz
06-30-2003, 11:27 AM
Real Good Article Ben!!!!!


Glenn Clabo
06-30-2003, 1:03 PM
Nice words. I still flash back to many childhood years when I work in the garden or saw that first piece of pine. Back then my dad "made" me do those things...now I do it for pleasure.

Ben Knebel
07-01-2003, 9:52 AM
Nice words. I still flash back to many childhood years when I work in the garden or saw that first piece of pine. Back then my dad "made" me do those things...now I do it for pleasure.

Me too--me too.
Thanks Ben

Ben Knebel
07-01-2003, 9:53 AM
Real Good Article Ben!!!!!

Thanks Ken

Lars Thomas
07-01-2003, 10:16 AM
Hey Ben, Nice story, thanks for sharing. You're story reminded me of working on a farm growing up (just outside Annapolis). I had the best time working there. The best part was I could drive the farm equipment and the P/U before any of my friends could drive! On the other hand, I remember wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts in the middle of August bailing hay. Now that’s a smell to behold! As hard as it was, I look back on it with nothing but fond memories.

Roger Fitzsimonds
07-01-2003, 12:53 PM
Thanks Ben,
I had not thought about it much but you are right. The memories triggered by smells are amazing. My 2 youngest grand kids are living with me right now, and through them I am remembering stuff I had forgotten about there mom and uncle. It is kind of cool. I get flashbacks from Mennens after shave which is what my Dad use to wear. Thanks again.


Ken Frantz
07-01-2003, 4:01 PM
Ken here again!!!

Have been reading the newer post on this subject and the smells that come to my mind like some of the others are:

The fresh smell of rain after a hot day on the plains of Oklahoma.

The smell of soil being plowed just before planting.

The smell of the wheat shaff in the air.

The smell of cutting and baling of fresh hay.

The smell of fresh milk just from the cow.

Hey-- the barn even had a smell of its own that one can not forget!!!!!

My Dad was on the farm when I was a kid and moved to town when I was about 6 years old (my family were all hard working farmers) and even though it was a short time to spend in the country. I am glad I had the pleasure of spending that time there.

I kinda feel sorry for the city kids that have missed the pleasures of life on the farm.

Sure I was small when I lived on the farm, but I did see the cows being milked (how many kids now day know where milk comes from) and fed and the pleasure of watching a calf drinking from a bottle and later watching my Grandma "teaching" a calf to drink from a bucket by putting your hand in the milk bucket and then bring it up to get the calf to suck on her thumb and then lowering it so it would learn to drink.

I could "talk" for hours about what little time I did spend on the farm.

Bob Janka
07-02-2003, 1:17 PM
... On the other hand, I remember wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts in the middle of August bailing hay. ...

Although I don't remember any specific smells, I do fully understand the need for full clothing in the hot summer. During high school in Illinois, one of my summer jobs was working for Pioneer Hybrid on one of their "detasseling" crews. See below for a description of "detasseling". I had to borrow some of my dad's old dress shirts to protect my arms from the corn leaves. I can't believe how much water I could drink after detassling corn!! I'm sure I've got some fragrant memories somewhere about that, but none come to mind right now.


P.S. Pioneer worked with farmers to plant alternate rows of "male" and "female" corn (1 to 4 ratio). Pairs would ride in baskets hanging off a heavy bar jutting out from the sides of a large tractor. One person removed the "female" tassels on the left side and the other would do the same on the right side. Hot, sticky work, especially during July in the Midwest. But, it paid OK, especially for 16 & 17 year olds.