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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why Shawnee, Oklahoma Smells Like Dog Food ...

I want to talk to you about a factory in town.

But this is my blog, so of COURSE it's not as easy as that.

It's also a story about a small company that pretends it's a huge one. It's also a story about a monolith, a giant white monster that stares down upon us all. It's also a story about small town ideals of a cheesy, John Mellencamp-ian variety.

It's also about why the town of Shawnee, Oklahoma smells like dog food.

Bear with me, everyone.

There's a company called Shawnee's Best. They make baking powder, flour, and other various cooking ingredients. They were founded in 1907 and are inexplicably still in business. Good for them.

If you asked them I imagine they would say that they were a major American brand, one of our nation's premiere blah blah blah. But before I moved to Oklahoma I had never heard of Shawnee's Best, nor had anybody else in my family.

But apparently, ALLEGEDLY, they are, or at least are under the impression that they are, one of the greatest and most beloved companies in the history of everything everywhere.

Whatever, right?

The Shawnee Milling Company makes the ingredients. And, in what can only be seem as a stereotypical billboard for small town midwestern American down home life, the Shawnee Mill is a block-long, five or six story monolith of a factory right smack dab in the middle of the whole damn town of Shawnee, Oklahoma.

It's huge, this monster. It's a white monstrosity that is literally in the exact center of the town. Its also by far the tallest building in the city ... and when the tallest building in your hometown is a building designated for the production of yeast and cornstarch, then you KNOW you live in a small town! You can pretty much see the thing from anywhere in the whole town. Hell, it's probably one of the town's main employers of domestic abuse, meth addicted Bon Jovi fans.

And this factory pretty much runs the entire town.

Five days a week this giant, Disney castle of a factory bleats out an offensively loud whistle at 8am, the start of the workday. It literally can be heard throughout the entire city, it's that loud.

The work whistle screams again at noon for lunch, then again at 1pm as an abrasive back to work call. The final whistle come at 5pm, the end of their redneck, blue collar, flour producing day. It runs the town. It's the literal heart of Shawnee.

I hate this factory.

I hate it with every fiber of my brown little being.

I hate how you can see it everywhere you go. It's not the Fantasyland Matternorn of the goddamn Statue of Liberty, for Wood's sake! It's a redneck factory in a redneck village of a small town in the middle of redneck nowhere.

I hate how loud their whistle is, how I can set my clock to it's intrusive announcements as to the state of their own private workday, how I know what time it is by the whistle of the local factory. It's so hokey, so cheese, so perfectly goddamn delightful that it makes me want to barf.

The worst part is the smell.

Shawnee's Best makes Shawnee, Oklahoma smell the worst.

This town smells like dog food.

This town smells like raw food ingredients.

This town smells like the inside of a box of Hamburger Helper.

This town smells like shit.

And just like in the episode of The Simpson where Milhouse has his first girlfriend who just moved to Springfield from Phoenix, this whole town has a smell that pretty much everyone here is already used to.

I hate it.

And maybe it's Leonardo DiCaprio's fault, but I see the Shawnee Mill not as a scary sort of monolith like I first saw it but as the all knowing eyes of God, just like the old billboard in The Great Gatsby. The mill stands tall in the center of town and looks down at us all in disapproval and disgust.

Here's a picture of it I took from my daughter's bus stop.

See it's disgust at us all.

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