New Mexico officials are considering a proposal to make “the sweet smell of green chile roasting on an open flame” the official stat aroma, the Associated Press reports.
I’m not sure if I would recognize the smell of a green chile roasting on an open fire any more than I would recognize that of chestnuts roasting on an open fire.
But I like the idea of a state aroma. It’s pretentious, silly, and completely harmless.
This is the stuff of a newspaper columnist’s dreams.
I hope the Iowa General Assembly takes up the cause of a state aroma.
I would like my state government to spend more time on pretentious, silly, and completely harmless things.
They seem to cause such a fuss when they take on timely, important, and serious issues.
What should Iowa’s state aroma be?
Perhaps they could be lazy and pick the Rosa arkansana, or prairie rose, which has been the state flower since 1897.
The lovely pink wildflowers may have a fascinating smell, but I just think of them as pretty weeds that make me sneeze.
The corn dog at the Iowa State Fair could define the smell of the state.
I’ll pass. I like cornbread. I like hot dogs. I don’t like them together and certainly not on a stick.
A company called Arotags makes wooden tags in the shape of Iowa that can be soaked in fragrances such as cool breeze, beach bum, vanilla lavender, and backwoods birch.
That all sounds lovely, but can we really trust an outfit that associates “beach bum” with Iowa?
Maybe our sporting tradition could provide the smell that represents the state.
Girls’ basketball used to be the biggest attraction in the land between two rivers.
Alas, news this year was some smaller communities didn’t have enough girls interested in playing to field a varsity squad
However, Iowa now has both girls’ and boys’ sanctioned wrestling meets.
Perhaps we should nominate that stench of wrestling room mats in honor of our state’s love of physical combat.
Yes, I suppose that would be gross.
The problem is, I believe there’s only one answer that makes sense — that is both true to our heritage and our aroma.
That, of course, is the smell of money.
If you don’t know what the smell of money is, then I suggest you ask a livestock farmer.
That’s what every single one of them told me when I held my nose at the smell of animal poop.
The question really is down to which animal to pick.
Iowa has a healthy cattle industry, but that feels like an Oklahoma or Texas thing.
So which is it to be, chickens or pigs?
I did a big chunk of my growing up on an acreage west of Winterset, caught in a crosswind between an egg farm and a hot farm.
The smell of the egg-laying chickens a mile or so down the road, however, made me run back inside on summer days.
Fowl make the foulest offal.
To this day, I eat as much chicken and eggs as I can to take my revenge on those rotten birds.
The hog farm was tough to get used to on those hot, dry days of the late 1980s droughts.
But one eventually did.
So, with all the powers invested in me as a columnist for the Marion County Express, do hereby nominate pig poop as the official aroma of Iowa.
Now some might take this as me giving the business to the hard-working livestock farmers who make all those future slabs of bacon, pork chops, ribs, and other delights.
Not true, I say.
I respect the farmer, be it a small family farm or a big corporate operation.
It’s hard work. I’d rather spend my days wrestling with the mushy minds of middle schoolers than try to figure out the proper mix of feed to get the best weights for hogs headed to market.
Also, I love pork in almost every form it takes.
I believe “the smell of money” should be our state aroma.
What it lacks in refinement, it most certainly makes up for in honesty.
Also, it tells people we have a good sense of humor about ourselves.
We’re not the type to get out of shape when someone pokes fun at Iowa with a “Farmers Only” jab or mentions how terrible an offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz is for the Iowa Hawkeyes.
See how loose and hip we are?
We occasionally crack wise.
We’re so silly we named our state aroma after pig poop.
Or we could do nothing.
We could go without a state aroma.
The young people will flock to New Mexico because a state aroma and a snarky TikTok account from the chamber of commerce are what today’s youth want.
And jobs. They want jobs, too — preferably at about $75,000 a year with a four-day week, a work-from-option, and an in-house coffee shop that serves a delicious bouillabaisse.
These young people are hard to please.
Maybe the best bet is to leave the aroma thing alone.
Sometimes good government is not governing.
Middle school teacher Daniel P. Finney is a Marion County Express columnist.
Daniel P. Finney wrote for newspapers for 27 years before being laid off in 2020. He teaches middle school English now. He writes columns and podcasts for ParagraphStacker.com, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating $10 a month to help him cover the expenses of this site.
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When I began teaching in Williamsburg, Ia, I would often accompany my friend, the girls track coach on his missions here and there. I wasn’t married yet and neither he. One such mission was a trip to Iowa City to buy track shoes for his team. On the way back, we took the back road, that road that went West from the stadium, out by Melrose, the IWV as we called it. Somewhere we ended up behind a manure hearse. It was winter and the pile of poop was steaming and unfortunately for me, it was wafting toward John’s car. John said, “Do you know what that is? It is the smell of money.” I said something like, “No, John, it is the smell of shit.” He went on to explain how some farm kids could smell that stuff and tell you the feed mix. At that time, I was the kid from the big city and somewhere between amazed and not believing it. Still smells like piggy poop to me.