Along Soldier Creek near Fort Robinson State Park grow thickets of honeysuckle in the summer. The smell grounds you in the moment and solidifies the memory.
Often as a child I would accompany my dad to work. This gave me so many experiences in the pastures in the sandhills of Western Nebraska. As an adult, I still love going to work with him whenever the opportunity arises.
Crossing the grasslands on foot to find a lush patch of trees near a stream or lake or riding in the truck on dirt roads and sneezing from the yellow clover in the ditches are places in which I find comfort.
The smell of the honeysuckle and the beautiful yellow blooms were not the only thing present that day. I had crawled over fallen tree trunks to get closer to the water where the yellow blooms were the thickest when my dad came to see what I was doing.
I had been so engrossed with capturing the perfect angle of the the most perfect blooms I didn’t even know what Dad was pointing to at first. He said, “Look,” and as I did in the direction he indicated, it took a moment, but the bull snake came into sharp focus camouflaged on the fallen tree trunk.
Now, I am not afraid of snakes, nor most other things, but I don’t like being startled. I think a lot of people would have reacted the way I did upon realizing a three foot snake had been watching your every move from a short distance away. I ran. I ran straight up the bank and out of the trees.
It’s not just the smell of honeysuckle that permiates my memories with Dad. The photo of the cottonwood leaf is another I can smell and evokes even stronger memories. It takes me right back home. The leaves collect on the ground in the fall and have an earthy smell. Those still in the trees make a distinct sound when joined by the rustling of aspen leaves.
The smell and sound remind me of gathering firewood; learning to use a chainsaw. A skill which has become handy due to the strong Nebraska winds and the adventures of home ownership.
Dad has taught me so many skills which have become the foundation for my success as an adult. Sometimes the lessons were a little gruff, but even that taught me to pay attention and get it right the first time.
So, with that, I would like to wish the dads here a happy Father’s Day. I hope you create memories today.