A simple whiff of a unique scent is capable of evoking an age-old set of memories.
Just this past week, I happened upon one of these which I think many will know well. One of the coolest things we ever called our own was a pair of silver shooters with a holster to wear around our skinny selves, perfect for all of our cowboy adventures.
My job was to load the roll of red-colored paper with dots of ‘ammunition’ when my big sister said, “hurry up and reload! They’re closing in on us!”
When that cap gun fired just right, there was even a little poof of smoke that rolled right out, carrying a scent like no other.
We were rough, tough, shoot-em-up cowboys.
I was walking with a friend when the scent came rolling my way. I spotted two little boys with wooden match sticks lying on a flat rock, tapping the red end with a small hammer, a grandpa sitting nearby giving them tips. They were having a ball, perhaps the grandfather most of all.
My maternal grandfather kept a long grassy lot across from the house in which my mom had grown up. Grandpa had quonset huts tucked in under the big trees, just beyond the campfire site, along with a regulation horseshoe pit. We spent many summer nights there, playing tag with cousins while the adults played horseshoe, gin rummy or simply gathered around a nice fire.
I remember being invited to spend the night in the quonset, even the name rolling off my tongue sounding a bit exotic. The fun was somewhat spoiled by the angry buzz of mosquitoes after the ghost stories told by cousins stirred my imagination far past hope of sleep.
Scents of summer
These were the sights and scents of summer: wood smoke mixing with bug spray, the slight whiff of mildew inside the rounded quonset, lightning bugs caught in a jar to serve as our only night light, in itself a scent like no other. I recall the darkness descending with such enormity. I was grateful to have a sister bunking right beside me.
I think of my Grandpa now, his sweet and mellow grace always welcoming us, a dozen kids at a time, with such an easy, calm, kindness. I realize now he had spent hours upon hours manicuring the lawns and orchards on that little farm. He kept horses in the small, neatly kept barn, near which he tended a beautiful flower garden, the vegetable plants tucked behind the lovely and colorful blooms.
He raised raspberries with great success, and we felt so lucky to be among his first taste testers of the season. My sister recalls that almost always that first taste of the season’s raspberries was atop homemade ice cream.
I remember my dad and uncles taking long turns at cranking ‘til there was a dasher from which we children were offered a taste of the new batch of rich, wonderful ice cream.
My sister jogged a faint memory, recalling a set of steps that appeared to lead to no where, fashioned for little ones to climb atop the very biggest horse.
Hundreds of times we scaled those steps, pretending to jump on to the back of a race horse, running full tilt all the way to the railroad tracks. The kid who got to the tracks first had jockeyed the champion, winning enough money for a lifetime of riches.
To know our grandpa was to love him, and he showed us a great time, cooking the most incredible breakfast over a fire. All too soon, we would see our mother’s car arrive, our adventure coming to a close.
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