Don’t mind me; I’m just smelling your front lawn

By John Toth

The Bulletin


If you see a car slow to a crawl while you're mowing your lawn, don’t worry. It’s probably me inhaling your fresh-cut grass scent.


I have been blessed with a sinus that is not allergic to anything. I can smell cut grass all day, and nothing will happen. And, it’s one of my favorite scents, along with pine, gardenia and waxed ligustrum.


I get this longing for the scent of fresh-cut grass from my mother, who also was not allergic to anything (not even cigarettes, unfortunately). And, since she raised me in a big, smelly city on the 24th floor of an apartment complex, we didn’t get a chance to smell fresh-cut grass all that often.


Once I moved out of the city and started working for the Daily Tribune in Bay City, she traveled from the big city to see how her son was doing in this strange state called Texas.


I picked her up at the airport, and on the way back to Bay City, mowers were cutting grass along Hwy. 59.


“Slow down, John,” she said, as she rolled down the window. She took deep breaths as we passed by the mowers at as slow of a speed as I dared to go on the highway.


“I love that smell,” she said.


The next morning I woke up and could not find her anywhere in my apartment. I opened the door. She was sitting outside, enjoying the scent of fresh-cut grass. The mowers provided plenty of it.

“This is a wonderful place,” she said.


“Why don’t you quit your job in the city and move out here with me?” I asked.


She never did. She kept going back to the city, to her job and friends. I was on my first job.


She knew that I would be moving around from job to job for a while. Sadly, time ran out before we could inundate her with as much fresh-cut grass scent as she wanted.


Living in the big city in the 1970s, I got used to the dirty air. That’s just the way it was. Leaded gasoline, along with other pollutants, did not provide much of a chance to experience the scent of nature.


At the end of the Spring semester, I caught a bus from the city to the country, where I worked in a summer camp for a couple of months. I could never have afforded going there as a camper, but being on the staff put a little money in my pocket while providing three squares and a roof over my head.


And, it got me out of the dirty city. It took a nine-hour bus ride to get there. During that time, all I smelled was engine oil and bathroom disinfectant.


When I exited the bus, the scent of pine hit my nostrils. It was almost intoxicating. I took some deep breaths. I could not get enough of it. On the way to the camp, I rolled down the car window to continue my indulgence.


One of the tasks I had at camp was to mow the fields, my favorite assignment. After a few days, the grass, pine and the other inviting fragrances became the norm.


I asked mom to hop on the bus and come over for a long weekend. There was a nice hotel nearby.


“If you like the smell of fresh-cut grass, you’ll love this,” I said.


But she never did. When I finished college, I left the big city. I wish she would have joined me.


It was just what she needed - what everyone in the city needed at times.


So, if you see me loitering in front of your house while you’re mowing, or crawling on the highway as I pass the mowers, you know why. Don’t get mad. I’m just smelling the grass - for both of us.