Olfactory overload

This story stinks.

It’s a quick story about how I spent parts of my summer vacations, and how I learned the value of hard work.

It’s a story filled with scents which bring back childhood memories for me and make most other people want to throw up.

It was dark, dusty and — if you weren’t prepared — it could cause olfactory overload.

For the uninitiated, in other words, this story will be gross.

My Pawpaw started a poultry farm in 1969, and it grew to five houses when I was a young boy.

I spent a lot of summer days in the chicken houses.

My main job was to pick up dead chickens.

The smell is a mixture of poop, feed and the like.

It smells terrible to everybody else, but to us it smelled like money.

The smell of money drifted on the air, and usually found my nose before I arrived on the job.

For those of you who didn’t have the pleasure to grow up on a chicken farm, well, I’m sorry.

When I opened the door to the first house of the day, my senses faced a bombardment from darkness, heat, dust, flying feathers, crap and a blanket of odor.

The facts of the job were these: I entered the door. I walked beside the wall with a five-gallon bucket in my left hand, a walking stick in my right one and my eyes honed on the ground in front of me.

This was repeated up and down the aisles formed by the feed and water lines.

I stopped when I spied a lifeless feathered form, hit my knees, picked up the bird, put it in the bucket and walked to the next one.

Sometimes, it seemed like I could smell them before I could see them.

It was like they had their own death scent, a pungent rot, which could sometimes be detected the way a bloodhound sniffs the trail of a hunter’s game.

Sometimes, my nose failed me and birds were left until the next day.

They were hard to miss then.

When the job was done, I was sweaty, dirty and I stank to high Heaven.

It was always a joyous occasion to be hit with a blast of fresh air when I opened the door again.

Then came the part of the job to which my nose almost didn’t adapt.

We used a freezer to dispose of dead birds.

It was emptied regularly, but when I had to open the freezer on a hot day the blast of air off of its contents sometimes tested my gag reflex.

It was not a glamorous job by any means.

It was a necessary job, and it helped me prepare for the future.

We joked about how time in the chicken houses boosted our immune systems, but I think there were other benefits to the job.

It taught me how important it is to get up and get to work before it’s hot enough outside to make Satan sweat.

It taught me not to cut corners.

It taught me what it means to work hard.

It taught me honest work feels good, no matter how much it pays or how you smell at the end of the day.

I told y’all this story stinks, but it smells like money to me.

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