Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Summer of Love and Stink


A recent drive by the Waunna Mill reminded me of the summer of 1969. Paper mills have a stink about them. I always wonder what sort of toxic stuff they are putting into the air. Maybe it’s OK, but it doesn’t smell safe.

During the summer of 1969 I was involved in another type of stink. While many of my friends at the time were at Woodstock, or at least claiming to have been at Woodstock, I was working on a farm in Northern New Jersey. The summer of 1969 was a hot and muggy summer that seemed to never dry out. It would rain and it would be hot all the way from June through September.

The farm I worked on was a 40 acre farm with about four acres planted in cabbage. In the wet hot summer, cabbage heads will often split open allowing rain to get into the head and then when the temperature rise the cabbages cook in the field.

I spent 10 hours a day weeding cabbage in that heat and stink. The smell permeated my being. It was a smell that couldn’t be bathed out because the stinking molecules got lodged on my nose. In reality I doubt people could smell it on me after a good shower, but I could smell it for weeks because the stink molecules became lodged in the nose and sinuses. Even that winter when I was free of the smell of rotting cabbage and molecule would find its way to an olfactory sensor and I’d smell it all over again. It took years to shake that smell.

Now when ever I catch a whiff of a paper mill I am taken right back to that awful summer of heat and stink and the smell that wouldn't die.

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do I sense a tinge of regret that you didn't throw down your hoe fire up your jeep and hit the trail to Max Yassgar's with the old 8 track player blasting 'Ain't Gonna Work on Maggie's Farm No More ?
I bet you have your own special way of celebrating St. Patrick's Day that does not involve the traditional menu eh?

6:56 AM  
Anonymous walter richards said...

Growing up in Longview, the mill smell doesn't bother me much ... except when there's a thermal inversion. But I have a similiar thing with the smell of beer.

My parents used to take my brother and I down to the "beach" by the Weyerhauser mill in Longview, to collect cans and bottles for recycling. Except to get most of the cans/bottles, we had to dig in 55-gallon drums that were used as garbage recepticles. This was before we had to really worry about needles. Anyway, the drums naturally retained the smell of beer that was spilt from all those cans/bottles from people's Friday night parties. So to this day, the smell of beer reminds me of having to have my head down in those drums, digging through trash for cans/bottles.

7:14 AM  
Blogger Hahn at Home said...

Working in a restaurant as a short order cook, the grease would seep into every pour. I'd scrub and scrub, and I'd still smell the grease...ew.

7:47 AM  
Anonymous pam said...

Hey - just reading this evoked the smell so much that I wanna hurl.

Thanks as always.

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Walter: I hope your folks had the good sense to recycle them south of the border. Across the river in Oregon those empties were worth a nickel a pop. I mean empty beer ca... er, uh... well you know what I mean.

9:02 AM  
Anonymous Moosehead said...

The only stink that comes to mind from '69...I don't think I should talk about...

10:32 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Actually I was 14 then and I didn't get my Jeep until I was 19. Though my mother would cut up and burn all my photographs if she heard me say it, but St Patricks means nothing to me.

Walt, Sorry man. That's too early in life for that sort of stuff, and it ruined you as a career beer drinker.

Lori,I once dated someone in that position and she always tasted like a french fry. It was kind of gross.

Pam, it is always my goal to sicken you because you are easy that way.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

I'm guessing you don't eat cabbage.

I worked in a laundry detergent factory - probably that same summer. I smelt great!

11:04 AM  
Blogger Mike S said...

Guy, the paper mills that reek are usually "craft' mills. We have one here and luckily the odor goes toward an unpopulated area. The other mill nearer to my home has no smell at all.
Working at a chicken hatchery and burning off the tips of the beaks was the evil odor that remains with me. Chicken crap is a close second, and the 2 together is a special smell in and of itself. YUCK!!

12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was a kid one of my best buddies folks' had a mink operation out on Clatsop Plains....Now if you've ever walked into a skinning room during pelting, man, you know what "stink" is. It is so overpowering it will physically stop you in your tracks just like a brick wall. Of course, the fellas inside working are used to it- but, to the uninitiated coming in from the fresh air it's like getting hit between the eyes with a baseball bat made out of the ass glands of 10,000 skunks.

10:47 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Anon, I think you win this one. They are stinky little bastards.

4:46 PM  

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