Smell of money could be a lot worse

By Grant McGee: local columnist

“It stinks here.”

I overheard these words from a young woman visiting Clovis. I was standing in one of our stores when I heard this declaration. I was curious as to what Clovis smells like to a visitor.

“Excuse me for overhearing you,” I said with a smile. “But what does Clovis smell like?”

Her exact quote won’t go in a family newspaper. Let’s just say she said the whole town smells like a big pile of fresh cow manure.

“Where are you from?” I inquired.

“Ruidoso,” she said.

I suppose to someone who is used to inhaling pine-scented alpine air, Clovis would be a bit “different.”

I’ve gotten used to the fragrances and aromas of Clovis, I have no complaints. I ride my bicycle every day and I like to know the wind direction. Some smells can be helpful in figuring this out. You may not realize this but feedlots smell different than dairies. If I can smell the feedlot in Bovina the wind is from the northeast. If I catch a whiff of a dairy, I know the wind is coming from the southwest.

We could do a lot worse when it comes to smells. For instance, you may remember when some folks wanted to put a gigantic hog city with a planned population of more than a quarter-million pigs off of U. S. 70 between Clovis and Portales.

Word of the hog farm spread like a range fire in an eastern New Mexico spring wind. The Clovis City Commission passed a resolution opposing it. One commissioner said something to the effect, “Some people call that the smell of money. Well, if they like that smell so much they can go live next to it.”

“The smell of money.” I remember the first time I heard that phrase. I was in the town of Front Royal, Va., on a hot, humid summer day. I stepped out of my vehicle and was smacked by stink of rotten eggs. Inside a store I inquired about the odor.

“That’s the smell of money,” the manager said. “When you smell that, people are working and shopping.”

This particular smell of money was from a rayon manufacturing plant. A few years ago the federal government had to spend $63 million dollars to clean up the site after the company declared bankruptcy. They had also been cited for dumping whatever made “the smell of money” into the scenic Shenandoah River.

Of course we could always be home to a paper mill. Now that’s an aroma you don’t soon forget; something like a strong mixture of wet wood chips, beer, vinegar and sulfur.

I’m familiar with paper mills from when I was a kid. To get to my dad’s old home place we had to pass through the town of Covington, Va., with its paper mill. “Roll up the windows!” I would yell from the back seat, holding my nose as we got nearer and nearer.

I think we’re better off than some other cities in our area. Just think, we could have a refinery in the center of town, or be surrounded by feedlots, or be sitting in the middle of the oilfields.

Don’t get me wrong, I love fresh air. But there never seem to be any good-paying jobs in those places where the air is absolutely fresh and clean.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: