Tennessee Mountain Stories

The Power of Smell

In the 1950’s and 1960’s movie producers experimented with incorporating scents into the theater experience.  Their project didn’t work too well but they had a great idea.  Our sense of smell is a powerful trigger to our memories.  I suppose that’s one of the key drivers of the multi-billion dollar scented candle industry.  Everyone loves for their home to smell like Grandma’s apple pie or fresh baked cookies.

Well there are scents that will forever remind me of my childhood home.  The unmistakable odors of cattle or sun-dried hay would hardly make popular candles but it will always take me back to hard work and happy days. 

This olfactory stimulus is one of the reasons I still regularly dry my laundry in the fresh outdoor air.  These days in our drought-stricken valley, we’re surrounded by wildfires (nearly 7,000 acres are burning across Tennessee) and the smoke is working its way into everything including my laundry.  Again, wood smoke wouldn’t sell very well but I grew up on sheets dried beneath the smoke from the wood stove and that’s what I’m reminded of while folding laundry today.

If you ever lived on or visited the mountain twenty years ago you too will identify with this memory.  It used to be that everybody heated their homes with wood.  This renewable energy source could be harvested from every hill and holler.  Hard winters often toppled the trees for you and chopping up stove-sized pieces would keep you warm for two days – the one when you chop as well as the one when you rest by the fire.  And since you’re gonna’ need a fire from November till April, every load of laundry gets a dose of the smoke.

You won’t ever find towels stiffened by cold winter winds and infused with wood smokein a luxury motel where they think you’ll be so impressed with their linens you may buy a set for your house.  But if you’ve ever had the pleasure of wintering on the mountain, I imagine you can appreciate them.