The Nose Knows.

It started like this. My grandfather’s world smelled great. From the smoky, oily cab of his big old pick-up trucks to the musty work shop attached to the back of his garage. A potbelly stove burning in the back corner, pushing the cold back out the big double car garage door pulled half way down on the bed of pick-up truck part way propped up by floor ramps. Some cousin or brother crawling under it on a creeper dragging the shop light hooked to the spring-loaded retracting coil in the ceiling right smack in the middle of the garage. His tool boxes smelled good, the bench vice smelled good. The wood room next to the shop full of its pine and cedar and various other orphan chunks smelled better than good. The freshly opened Pepsi smelled good, his deep freezers smelled good. All those smells wrapped around his memory. Hundreds of bone cold nights standing around a garage while something was fixed. In the summer the warm light from the setting sun cracking through the windows on the west side, the sun always set directly at the end of his street, right over the stop sign that marked the meeting of the main pioneer from his little off shoot. On those summer nights his front yard would get mowed by some anxious grandson and the smell of cut grass and gasoline would drift and hold in the middle of the garage.

His patio smelled like split rock and hot cement, his backyard smelled like roses and pool chlorine. His roof smelled like cedar and walnut trees and moss. His drive way smelled like car soap and hot asphalt right when it gets wet from a garden hose stretched over to wash the pick-up. His life smelled like life, distinction and significances. His front yard smelled like fun and running full out being chased by the neighbor kid. That world exists in my mind now, none of it remains. My brother’s world is starting to smell like that for his kids. The smells of history, the tastes of adventure and growing. The last time I was there his garage was beginning to age just right. Just the right combination of oil change and tire rubber.

Smell is a trick really, it can come out of nowhere and blind side you. I cherish those moments and I always try to stop and really rerun the memory, never fight it. Those memories are so sweet, even the embarrassing ones. Like the night I was trying to pull my brake pads off the 86 Ford Ranger that my cousin still drives to work everyday. I had given up trying to get the C-Clamp to fit on the cylinder to compress it to release it from the front wheel hub. Papa was watching when Josh took over trying with the C-clamp, and he let us struggle just long enough before finally saying, “Why don’t you reach in there and turn the steering wheel to the right to give him enough room with that clamp.” Both Josh and I may have spent an entire minute staring at the man before I quietly reached through the window of the cab and turned the wheel. Which gave Josh a good foot to work in. The smell of grease or used motor oil still makes me think of that strange perfect aqua-marine green paint that covered the inside of his garage. It got painted white when I was an adult, but in my head its still green, especially when I smell hard work.


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