Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O.....is for Outhouse

For people who have no idea what I'm talking about.....an outhouse is something like a porta-potty like people use at events when they have to use a toilet. Except the porta potties are probably a lot cleaner and smell better.  To create an outhouse, you dig a large hole at lease six feet deep, then place the small outhouse on top of it so that the hole in the ground lines up with the hole inside that will be used like a toilet seat. This hole will never be cleaned out; you are relying on nature's disposal methods (bacteria).  Not pleasant but a lot better than going in a bucket and having to carry it out in a field to dump it. Most people have never seen an authentic outhouse let alone use one.

I must have gone through a hundred pictures online and this is the closest one to what our outhouse looked like. We didn't have a crescent moon cutout on the door but we did have a bunch of flowers planted all around it. My grandmother had an assortment of morning glory, hollyhocks and sunflowers. It cheered things up a lot but you had to watch out for bees during certain parts of the summer.

Even though we had inside plumbing, which included inside toilet facilities, at the farm, my mom opted to keep the outhouse that had been necessary years before modern improvements. She had my dad move it behind the tractor sheds so it wasn't visible from the house. I don't think my mother ever stepped foot inside it but the rest of the family did. During the day when we were all outside doing various chores it was a rule that the outhouse was used instead of tracking inside when nature called. This was in the summer, of course.  In the winter we came inside.

I had no idea just how many variations of outhouses there were until I went to Arkansas to visit my husband's relatives back in the 60's. About half of them had outhouses because it was necessary for them.....they lived in the sticks and even though they had running water inside their homes, indoor toilet facilities were not part of that luxury. It was sort of a status symbol, to tell the truth. Some outhouses were built haphazardly with minimum privacy while others had actual toilet seats and rugs on the floor. It generally looked bad for the man of the house if the outhouse was in bad shape.....like a leaky roof, holes in the floor, door barely hanging on.  Usually if the outhouse was in disrepair, so was the main house.

At my childhood home the inside walls of the outhouse were covered in layers and layers of newspapers and old magazines. We drew the line at using catalog pages to wipe, but the pages on the walls were good insulation. I can remember sitting there doing my business and reading various articles on the walls. We also had a three-seater, although I can't imagine doing something so private with two other people sitting only inches away. My dad had nailed covers over the other holes, leaving only the center one.  We also had a large bag of white powdered stuff in the corner with a small shovel sitting in it. I never quite knew what this stuff was, but I knew if some of it was tossed into the hole once in a while it was supposed to help with the odor. When I got older I found out that this was powdered lime.

If you overlook the fact that it's not the best smelling place to be, the creepiest thing about an outhouse is the fact that all kinds of insects dwell there, especially spiders. We also kept a broom in the corner to sweep away spiders and other crawlies. Thinking back on it, if I would have had an idea just how many spiders there probably were only inches from me back then, I don't think I would have ever gone in there.


5 comments:

Coffeypot said...

My neighbor had one in his backyard and I used it many times. It was easier than going in the house to use the bathroom and taking a chance on mom finding some housework for me to do. It wasn't the best smelling thing and I had to get my own pine limb with needles to wipe around the hole to knock off any spiders that might have made a home under there. TP was leaves or an old newspaper. But I didn't have a lid to raise or lower.

Coffee Lady said...

I remember out houses! The most recent one I used was at a friend's gold claim here in northern California. It didn't have a door on it but they later fixed it to look all authentic.

Peruby said...

Had one. I don't recall using it.
I was little enough that my mom let me use a pot on the basement steps. How sweet is that?

I can remember going to school and being deathly afraid of a flushing toilet. I don't think I went to bathroom at school for the first two years.

forsythia said...

Speaking of the moon on the door, I loved a cartoon I saw of astronauts on the moon about to enter an outhouse. It had a picture of the earth on the door, of course. :-)

Josie Two Shoes said...

My parents were both farm kids and were raised with outhouses. Several of my friends when I was growing up lived on farms that still lacked indoor sewer systems. The little cabin we owned at a lake had an outhouse until my Dad remodeled it to include a bathroom. I still smile when I see one sitting outback somewhere... gone are those times, and I'm thinking that's a good thing. Those bedtime trips outside on cold winter nights with flannel nightgowns, mittens, coats, and boots were COLD - but kinda fun :-)