Our South Louisiana Prairie campus, surrounded mainly by fields, pastures, and open spaces on the outskirts of town, is lovely in spring.
Walking across the grounds this morning on an errand, the seasonal sensory details were powerful: greening grass and budding trees; yellow pollen emanating from wild flowers and leafing branches; a cropduster droning in the distance; and a commingled set of fragances, odors and aromas.
Not all of the “aromas” were pleasant. For instance, would one characterize the smell of livestock manure as an “aroma?” or a “fragrance?” Probably not. Livestock manure is one of those commodities for which we reserve connotative nouns like “smell” or “stench.”
But this morning I enjoyed the livestock smell. I actually found comfort in blended fragrances. From my earliest recollection of childhood, growing up in a rural area where dairy farming was a primary concern, the livestock “smell,” as long as it’s not too ripe, raises homey associations. I actually slowed the pace of my walk so I could prolong the experience.
But to show the difference a generation or two makes, on the way back across campus after completing the errand, I walked behind a small group of students (18 or 19 year olds). One of them gasped disdainfully, “Ooohnh! What stinks like that?” Her peer replied, “I don’t know, but that’s disgusting.”I started to butt in and tell them, “Hey, y’all never smelled cow manure?”
But I smiled and kept my thoughts to myself. They wouldn’t get it anyway. Like George Bernard Shaw once observed, “Ah ,the pity youth is wasted on the young.”