I once told an acquaintance that one of my favorite aromas was the smell of a warm horse. He gave me a really funny look just before he moved to a seat on the other side of the room. Since he grew up in a large city, maybe his equine-sniffing opportunities had been limited. Or maybe I’m just weird.
Still, warm horse is up there on my top ten list of favorite smells. That’s standing-in-the-sun warm, not sweating-up-a-lather warm. It is possible to have too much of a good thing.
Leather is on my list, too, whether the scent comes from an expensive coat or a well-worn saddle. Also Old Spice aftershave, menthol (in small doses), tomato plants, rich black dirt, and growing sage.
Then there is homemade bread baking or just out of the oven. When my mother would come pick us up at the end of the school day, my sisters and I could tell when she had been baking. That wonderful aroma clung to her clothes and greeted our noses the minute we opened the car door.
And let’s not forget turpentine or linseed oil—not paint thinner, but the real stuff. Every now and then, when conditions are exactly right here in the Black Hills, the air smells wonderfully of turpentine. Another delightful aroma is freshly sawed wood, cedar in particular. Just-mowed alfalfa is luscious, and just-mowed grass is nice, too. (Yes, I was a teenager in the sixties, and no, not that kind of grass.)
Which reminds me of some smells I don’t like. Cigarette smoke and its even more disgusting cousin, cigar smoke. Burning incense or sage, floral scented candles or potpourri, musky perfumes. Sour milk. The furry green things formerly known as food that I occasionally find in my refrigerator.
But let’s not go too far in that direction. Instead, just imagine this: It’s a warm June day. Through a field of new-mown alfalfa ambles a saddled horse. On its back sits a cowboy who slapped on some Old Spice aftershave just before he saddled up. There’s a freshly cut cedar post tied behind the saddle. In one calloused hand the cowboy holds a loaf of homemade bread just out of the oven.
It’s an olfactory fantasy come true.