Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Tales of the Outhouse - Drawers Down


Growing up in the rural south, many thought us ‘backwards’ or less sophisticated than others or so I’ve been told. Maybe we were, but the honest truth is that we didn’t realize it at the time. And you seldom miss what you never had. Until I started the first grade, I didn’t realize that an indoor toilet was a prerequisite to a modern life, much less a luxury of which we were being deprived . A select few of my relatives had an indoor toilet, but many, many had the same as we did ------ an outhouse. And never thought twice about it.

A good indication of my age is almost certainly my ability to recall early morning trips to the outhouse, my little bare feet leaving a dark, rambling path through the dew coated grass in the warm summer air. At first light, a quick call to the ‘necessary’ was the single most important mission on the agenda, a job to be handled without delay, as we ambled single file out the back screen door and across the yard. It was called a ‘necessary’ because --- well -- it was necessary. If you pour gallons of liquids into a small pitcher until it is full, you can’t pour any more into it unless it is emptied! Simple logic. Small bladders, full of late night drinks of water, require prompt and frequent draining. And with five young girls in our family, that outhouse was in almost constant use, from early morning rush hour all the way through the more sedate strolls late at night.

Our outhouse was typical, I would say, being built of wide wooden planks, aged and weathered gray in the southern sun. There was a hard dirt floor, packed solid by the passage of feet over a period of who knows how many years. The door was constructed of a tin covered wooden frame, heavy and bulky to open and close. The tin roof, which I have mentioned before, was the place me and my oldest sister chose to spend time “broadening our horizons”, so to speak, with dingy literature and tales of near-lust. It was also an excellent escape from the trials of little sisters. The outhouse was constructed on the side of a big open shed, the back side, of course, to hide it from view of the house. On the other side of the building was a field of weeds, usually as high as our heads, home to numerous critters we didn’t want to identify. On the back was a dog pen, complete with dog, and the accompanying flies and odors they seem to generate without fail. We had the essential toilet seat, stationed over a vast black pit dug deep into the ground. We even had the well known toilet paper, hung by the cylinder at the center of the roll being threaded over a ten penny nail driven solidly into the front inside wall. All together, as I read back over this, not a picture of bucolic bliss. It gets worse…..

The changing of the season brought with it various drawbacks to pastoral country living, each as annoying and troublesome as the other. In the summer, there was the heat and humidity; for no air could stir inside the building, tin door shut tight and there were no windows to ease open, ergo no way of allowing a fresh breeze to enter. The atmosphere was stagnant and stale, abundant with foul odors, indescribably rank and fetid, wafting around you as you attempted to hurry along the call of nature. Of course, there were the obligatory snakes and lizards and creepy crawlies lurking about, ready to pounce on an unsuspecting occupant. The lighting in the building was always dim, the air filled with floating particles of dust and haze. Flies buzzed about your head and all types of bees, riled from the cozy nests they constructed under the eaves or in the corner of the door opening, showed a tendency to dive-bomb you as you sat enthroned, a captive audience so to speak. It was terribly hard to run with your pants down.

When winter reared it’s frigid head in the South, the trip to the privy became entirely more expeditious and required a vastly shorter amount of time than those enjoyed in the lazy days of summer. The mandatory visits were carried out in haste, with little energy spent dawdling along the way, as you hurried from the warmth of a gas fire to take care of business only to arrive running in the back door scant few minutes later with your teeth chattering and shivering from head to foot. Although the odors accompanying the outhouse died down somewhat in the colder months, the blackness of that small enclosed space was absolute with the skies often being overcast and gloomy and little light permeating the cracks in the walls. And those same wooden walls, which blocked the flow of air in the heat of the summer months, were, in the winter, an entirely different story. Icy cold blasts of air, tossed about by the wicked “Goddess of all things Winter“, were flung at bared body parts, sensitive, private parts that seldom saw the light of ANY day, much less were ever exposed to the frosty chill of mid-winter. There can be no worse feeling in the world than a gust of glacially cold wind wrenching the door wide open, allowing the full force to hit you in the face as you say there trapped and unable to move.

I have to be honest here, outhouse usage was not without it’s hazards and dangers though, especially not to my family. We were accident prone, it seemed, no matter our locality or attitude. That tin door, designed to protect your privacy at embarrassing moments, would catch the heel of an unsuspecting little girl on her way out, gouging out a chunk of flesh and leaving a bloody hole in it’s wake. That same door, when caught by the wind on a breezy day, mashed the fingers repeatedly of those same little girls, turning our fingernails numerous shades of blue and purple. The heat of the summer gave rise to all sorts of nasty and disgusting wildlife, floating and writhing in the pit of doom, causing Daddy to attempt to control them by pouring gasoline or kerosene into the hole. And little girls, being adventurous by nature, WOULD experiment with matches……….and cause a flash fire when the arrival of Mama and punishment was eminent ( 3rd sister received 1st & 2nd Degree burns to her upper arms and face for this stunt). There was nothing like target practice at 3 A. M., hovering over an empty Crisco Shortening can in enclosed back porch when, in the dark of the night, nature called at an inopportune time. Little girls, by body type and shape, are handicapped at peeing off a porch ledge. And in the winter, the risk of a broken leg or sprain was always imminent when, in the rush to cover the distance required to heed bodily demands, one sprinted down the back steps, cinder blocks stacked and wobbly and likely coated with ice. We survived, but just barely.

Looking back, I don’t think we were hampered much by the lack of an indoor toilet. We had hot and cold running water in the kitchen, Daddy ensured this by putting in a pump and hot water heater. Baths were accomplished by virtue of a Number 10 washtub placed on the floor in front of the kitchen sink, full of warm water from the taps and complete with all the necessary items to ensure a good and thorough cleaning from head to foot. It wasn’t a problem unless you were low kid on the totem pole, because the fist kid got the clean water and the last, well, it was murky, cooling and less than pristine when it came your turn. We were clean, bathed to within an inch of our very lives, well taken care of and had no knowledge of the amenities and conveniences we were missing. Like I said before, what you never had, you don’t miss. Although I do rather miss the solitude and feeling of daring of those lazy hours spent reading on the roof of the old outhouse. Ah well, we all grow up…

Postscript:
After I finished this story, I asked my sister Vicki to help me come up with an appropriate title while on MSN Messenger. Here is our conversation:
cowcrazy78: I'm done
cowcrazy78: I think
cowcrazy78: I need a name.........
junebuggvw: for the outhouse
cowcrazy78: yeah
junebuggvw: the sweet stink of it
cowcrazy78: lol
junebuggvw: ye old pottie
junebuggvw: flies in the outhouse
junebuggvw: drawers on the ground
cowcrazy78: oh lord
junebuggvw: a bug went where!!
junebuggvw: outdoor duns
junebuggvw: buns
cowcrazy78: what about Are You Privy?
junebuggvw: thatll do
cowcrazy78: The Call of Nature
junebuggvw: hell yeah
cowcrazy78: Naked Buns?
junebuggvw: frozen buns
cowcrazy78: a title, come on sis
junebuggvw: the smell of the past
cowcrazy78: lol
cowcrazy78: oh GOD
cowcrazy78: I love it....
junebuggvw: ty
cowcrazy78: Tales from the Outhouse?
junebuggvw: behind the outhouse door
cowcrazy78: If Toilet Paper Could Talk
junebuggvw: beyond the outhouse door
junebuggvw: shitting in the dark
cowcrazy78: lol
cowcrazy78: daym
cowcrazy78: um
junebuggvw: those were the days
junebuggvw: peeping bugs
junebuggvw: perils of the pottie
cowcrazy78: Life of the Not So Rich and Famous
junebuggvw: perils of the privey
junebuggvw: privey perils
junebuggvw: outdoor what!!!
cowcrazy78: Atmosphere is Everything.....
junebuggvw: drawers down
junebuggvw: bottoms up
junebuggvw: bottoms up
cowcrazy78: It can't smell any better than this
cowcrazy78: dodging the doodie
junebuggvw: whats that smell
cowcrazy78: enuff
junebuggvw: floating turds
junebuggvw: turd turf
junebuggvw: outdoor pissing
junebuggvw: doing it in the rough
junebuggvw: oldtime privey
junebuggvw: hunting for the privey
junebuggvw: private pissing
cowcrazy78: Tales of the Outhouse - Drawers Down
junebuggvw: hell yes
cowcrazy78: ok

2 comments:

Junebugg said...

Now people will think we're a couple of crazies!! I don't miss the outhouse, I kinda like modern plumbing. Great story by the way. You've got a great story telling voice.

Anonymous said...

..you and your Sis are killing me... what a riot... the BOTH of you... keep at it, girls...

all the best,

Eric