2011-10-05 / Editorial

Don Lively

FIVE SENSES, SOUTHERN STYLE

Science asserts that humans have five senses. Sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.

As a Southern boy growing up on a dirt farm in the Blessed South there were sensory experiences that I suspect might not have occurred in other parts of the country.

Here are a few examples.

Taste.

Every kid of the South has probably chewed on a few pine needles and tasted the tang. In my teen years I thought the pine sap scent might cover the smell of tobacco on my breath but I doubt the folks were ever really fooled.

We would take a honeysuckle blossom, pinch the little green nub off the bottom and suck out the tiny drop of nectar. Every time Mama would see me doing that she would warn me not to suck down a spider lurking in the flower. She worried about such things.

We had wild passion flowers, otherwise known as maypops, growing all over the farm. When the little green pods were still firm on the vines they were perfect for using as hand grenades when we were playing war fighting the Germans, but when they softened up in late summer we would pop them open and sample the seeds. Quite sweet.

Touch.

Country kids spend a great portion of their formative years barefoot. So most of us know the feel of wet red clay squishing up between our toes, or of hot tar sticking to the bottom of our leather tough feet when we walked down the paved roads on a steamy summer day.

I still remember how it felt to scratch a pig behind his coarse, mud-caked ears wondering if he was going to end up on our table as bacon and pork chops.

And how it felt to walk through a corn field after a rain shower with the leaves rubbing against me cooling me off with the left over drops of water.

There’s no other feeling in the world like letting yourself fall into a wagon full of freshly picked cotton, the closest thing on Earth to sitting on a cloud.

Smell.

I realize that I have obsessed about magnolias in this space on occasion but with good reason. I’ve said before, they might just be God’s finest creation. Nothing can compare to their heart pleasing fragrance that reward Southerners just for being Southerners.

Any rural kid who has roamed the Dixie swamps has come across the deep natural pits of mud and, if you were like me and my buddies, you couldn’t resist the urge to jump in feet first to see how far you’d sink. Stirring up whatever was down below brought forth an ancient, pungent smell that was not exactly pleasant but that always made me think of dinosaurs and primordial, subterranean abysses.

The smell of Mama’s chicken frying and collard greens simmering will always recall Sunday afternoons.

Sight.

Everybody on Earth should get to witness a hundred acre field of freshly thrashed peanuts, huge bunches of the bounty pointing skyward, drying in the sun until they can be picked. Millions of non-farm folks have no idea where peanuts come from and I’ve always enjoy the reactions of my Yankee friends when they find out they don’t grow on trees.

The sun sets everywhere, but the sight of it disappearing over a field of cotton after every boll has busted wide open, each one reflecting a bit of the last golden rays of the day, well, if you’ve seen it you won’t forget it.

Sound.

Down here it’s all about the water. I love the sound of running water whether it be the powerful, moseying sound of the nearby Savannah river or the constant gurgling of one of the dozens of springs and branches that crisscross the countryside.

There is no greater music than that of a thunderstorm gathering on the dark, western horizon as it gains strength and travels overhead making a slow and steady journey toward the coast, booming and slashing the whole way.

It’s not unusual to wake up in the morning to the sound of a screeching blue jay and fall asleep at night to the mournful melody of a whippoorwill.

Occasionally all the Southern senses come together.

Today I sat on the north porch sipping on a glass of sweet tea, listened to the breeze whistling through the pine tops, watching two squirrels play chase around the woods, scratching one of my worthless dogs (who should have been chasing the squirrels) behind the ears and smelling the last blossom of the year on my very own magnolia.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

Don Lively is a freelance writer and author of Howlin’ At The Dixie Moon. He lives in Shell Bluff. Email Don at Livelycolo@aol.com and visit his website, www.DonLively.com.

Return to top