That red dirt, green woods, wet summer smell. As if Wolfe’s soft, stone smile of an angel had come back to offer up a friendly nod and say “Good morning. Got a story here for you.”
Again that red dirt smell. And I’m no longer trudging, shoulders slumped, down my city street to work.
That smell and I am suddenly bright eyed and curious young and strong, just kicking up sunshine. Laughing. Walking the farm with my Dad. Who would have turned ninety today.
We were walking on the day after the forest fire. He was telling me what happened. How the woods in the far corner of my Grandfather’s farm had just started to burn.
The men all went off to fight the fire. My Dad joining his half brothers. My Uncles, they had all grown up on the farm. Dad grew up just outside that big Yankee City in Illinois. What did he know about fighting a fire? Firemen fought fires. Dad went downtown to an office every day.
But of course Dad was going. He had to go do his part. That’s who he was. Whether the fire would turn out to be a raging inferno toppling trees. Or maybe more like a matchstick that singed a little grass, Dad would go. He was really, really good at simply doing what was right.
So he went and came back.
Dad always came back.
This time drenched in the grey ashes and hard, hot work of putting out the flames. Dad was laughing with the rest of the men. That laughter that comes after the fear is gone.
They all stripped off their blackened shirts and jumped in the swimming pool. You could almost see the steam rise from the water, they all carried so much heat.
There was yelling and stories and laughter. So much laughter. Now that the fire was gone.
So when that red dirt smell came this morning, back in Chicago. I knew where it came from. That was Dad. The guy who went off that day to fight the fire. To go do his part. To do the right thing. And to then come home.
And to make all of us who came after him so quietly proud.