Thursday, March 21, 2013

A first scent of spring

The first day of spring was yesterday, but I'm betting nobody really wants to talk about the weather right now. Nonetheless, I'd also wager that almost everyone is.
After last year's winter-that-really-wasn't, big chunks of the country are continuing to suffer under the cold, cold ministrations of the winter-that-will-not-quit. We happily boogied out of the snow belt nearly three weeks ago, but we've stayed in touch with reports of continued wintertime weather in our home town that has all but foiled any real attempt at spring sports, early planting and other outdoor activities. Meanwhile, son Colin reported yet another school-closing, town-parilyzing blizzard earlier this week in the Fargo area, followed by a dismal spate of sub-zero days, while a storm with the unlikely, yet interesting name of Ukko disrupted travel and life in general in areas as far south as Kentucky, and promised a foot of new snow in parts of the Northeast.
Enough, already...right?
A year ago on this date, the high temperature in my Illinois hometown was a glorious 83 degrees, which even topped the balmy 75 degree beach day enjoyed in Carolina that day.
Even my current locale along the Carolina coast has endured on-and-off conditions so unseasonably windy and cold that one local weather guy described recent temperatures as "cold for January, let alone March."
But spring has gotta come. Because conditions are becoming dire. The mostly unbalmy conditions around here have conspired to prevent me from trading my dazzling ensemble of khaki pants and plain-colored sweatshirts for the equally fashionable khaki shorts and plain-colored t-shirts I long to wear this time of year.  If this unfortunate trend continues, it means my hometown peeps run the risk of seeing my untanned, fish-belly white legs when I return in May.
And that, my friends, is truly serious, indeed.
Speaking of atmospheric conditions, my spousal unit and I were startled, reviled, dismayed and disgusted by a certain scent wafting through the air on a slightly warmer day last week. We were waiting for grandson Cyrus, who takes a school bus from his primary school to the high school where his dad teaches. The loathsome scent hit us when we lowered our car windows as we sat waiting in the mid-afternoon sun.
She: What is that? It smells like something died.
Me: It smells like a lot of things died.
It smelled worse that a dead mouse in the cupboard or an expired raccoon up in the attic. It was worse than fish gone bad, rotten eggs, a plugged-up sewer or a dead skunk in the middle of the road. And it was deadlier, even,  than a football locker room on the fourth day of double sessions or my socks on a hot day in August.
It was, in fact, an aroma most fowl.
It was turkeys.
Well, turkey manure, to be precise, spread blithely on nearby fields in preparation for the spring planting season.
It turns out that poultry is big business in North Carolina.  12.8 billion dollars worth of business, and the number one agricultural industry in the state. Carolina is the number two ranked state in total turkey production, number three nationally in total poultry output. Those plentiful birds provide over 110,000 jobs statewide, with over 5,700 farm families involved in the care and feeding of the feathery stinkpots.
So, I guess it's no wonder that things get a little smelly from time to time.
It was one of son Patrick's fellow teachers who clued us in on the source of the odiferous conditions. She was a nice lady who was teaching a class in Family and Consumer Science, which, I suspect, is the modern-day monicker for what used to just be called Home Economics.
"Yep, that's turkeys, all right," she said. "We just watched a video on turkey production today."
You could sort of tell she kind of appreciated the added impact the smelly conditions were providing for her lesson plan that day as she headed towards her car.
Then she turned back to us.
"Do you know what they call that smell around here?" she asked. "They call that the smell of money."
Hmmm. I'm pretty sure I've heard that expression before.
But here's a message to all my friends in Kewanee, the Hog Capital of the World:
Feel grateful that there's never been a pig that smelled as bad as those turkeys.

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