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Revisiting A Special Sense Of Place

carroll smith

Carroll Smith

Shared memories from our past are the links of an invisible chain that create a sense of place and a permanent bond among those who experienced a common geography.

I belong to a Facebook group made up of folks from my hometown. In the summer of 2018, someone asked who remembered the pecan grove — a serene, magical area where the trees on either side of the two-lane highway formed a tunnel-like canopy through which everyone drove on their way to the lake.

Although there are conflicting accounts about why the trees were eventually cut back, their majesty and mystery live on in our mind’s eye. The post drew comments from people of all ages who reminisced about that beautiful drive.

Cotton fields stretched out across the landscape on either side of the pecan grove. They began on the left as you passed the old John Deere store and reappeared as you made the sharp curve to the right upon exiting the orchard. Since science says smell — as well as sight — triggers memories, the strong scent of defoliants prevalent in the fall “back in the day” always made me think of that particular stretch of road.

But just like the beautiful canopy that disappeared with pruning, the pungent aroma went away as new odorless harvest aids came on the market and farmers reduced rates on their second shot of odoriferous phosphates. With that loss of sight and smell, my memories of the iconic stretch of highway do not pop up as frequently as they used to. And so we keep them alive via social media with those who can still make the
connection.

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Sharing a sense of places past is nostalgic, but creating new memories is exciting, too. The fields are still there, and today — with the help of visionaries and new technology — show off a crop of high-yielding, high-quality cotton to passersby headed to the lake.

The distinctive “harvest time smell” has been replaced by the sound of large, efficient pickers gathering the crop for its journey to the gin.

And one day those who now make the trek listening to the powerful machines running across the fields will remind one another of how the cotton looked like a snowy field even on a warm, autumn day.