December 5th, 2005

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

By Drew Zimmer (zimrx17), St. Louis Missouri

The other day I was outside playing with my dogs and a strange smell filled my nose. It was the smell of dirt, yes dirt, the exact same dirt smell that was in my Great-Grandfather's garage where his Ford Workmaster Tractor still sits. You may ask what dirt smells like, I wish I could explain it to you, but I can't, it's my smell and more importantly my memory. It is funny how smells will sneak up on me, sometimes prompted by something, others from out of nowhere. The smells all have a very special place in my life, which will take me back to either a place or time that I have not been to in a long time. My father claims that his first memory is of a smell, the smell of a new car when he was 3 years old, a smell which is still in his memory today.

So I will explain the garage and the memory. My great-grandfather and great-grandmother lived on a farm in North Missouri. Anyone who has grown up on a farm knows that there are certain smells distinct to farms. Some are pleasant, the grass, flowers, the fresh wind, others are not pleasant at first but you get used to them. This garage was an aluminum garage with a dirt floor. The garage had a very specific smell, something of a mixture of the dirt floor, oil, and old wood. This garage is where I helped skin my first deer, where I used to throw rocks at one of the older sheds windows, and where my brother would steal my great-grandfathers pack of Redman or Beechnut, which ever he could swipe from his pocket (I am pretty sure that he knew). The smell at my house hit me hard with many memories, all from a smell.

A similar smell is that of Bennett Springs Trout Park in Southwest Missouri. It is where I learned to fish for trout, always with my grandfather and brother. Back then the crowds were very small, and I used a spin rod (a Zebco 202 that I bought at my grandparent's hardware store with my own money). This is not a smell of dirt, but of moss or something like that. Again I cannot explain the smell only that I know it, and whenever I go back I look forward to smelling it. Even now at 30 when I go there I am transported back to being 8 years old more interested in the feeding pools and the Nature Museum than fishing.

A new smell that was lost in my memory banks is that of fly-tying materials. There is a certain smell of hackle, or thread, or feathers, or maybe all three that remind me of my grandfather tying flies and me watching. I would stand behind him on a stool and watch; sometimes I would even get to try to tie one or two. I started tying a few years ago, and got the thrill of getting to tie flies with him at Bennett a couple of years ago. His "kit" is in an old sewing kit, white with a suitcase type handle on the front. So now when I sit down at the table to tie a couple of flies the smell takes me back, and I'm sure when he is gone the smell will keep his memory fresh in my mind.

I am sure each of you has felt the power of the "smell", what memories are brought up when you have that moment. Maybe the smell of burning wood reminds you of an old stove or fireplace that used to warm your house. The smell of a baking cake reminds you of your grandmother's cakes that she would make when you would visit for the weekend, or a perfume that your wife or an old girlfriend wore when you were young. Enjoy the smells; think about them and about lost memories that may come back when a certain scent comes floating by.

About Drew:

I am a pharmacist in St. Louis Missouri who really started fly fishing a few years back. I had a hiatus from other outdoors activities in high school and college when I was playing football and baseball. I have a wonderful wife of 9 years, Rebecca, and 2 beautiful daughters, Annabel 5 and Audrey 6 months. I am obsessed with the St. Louis Cardinals and the Oklahoma Sooners. ~ Drew

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