Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Anyone who has grown up with an outdoor toilet has many tales to tell. Outdoor johns make raconteurs out of everyone. They are conducive to tale-telling, and ours was no different.

The outdoor toilet at the Farm was a lean-to, huddled up against the barn. There was a window, big enough to crawl out of and escape the dishes. All one had to do was shinny out the window, climb down into the stable, thread his way around the various cows in their stanchions and escape to the orchard. It was our favorite way of avoiding chores when my neices and nephews visited me.

I have mentioned before the long path through the weeds bordering a cornfield where that pesky rooster, Saucy, lurked. But providing one could get past that fiery little bantam without bloodshed, the outdoor john was a learning experience.

Mom was in charge of providing paper for the facility. She used newspapers, magazines, catalogues, anything handy. So, if one was inclined to be literary, he could sit on the john for hours, reading everything within reach. These papers also came in handy for swatting various bugs, because both the flying type and the creepy-crawlers were fond of the john. It kept them out of the weather and gave them plump bottoms to bite.

Cobwebs always hung from the corners of the lean-to. One could occasionally glimpse the creators of these silken spreads, spiders waiting for flies. All of us kept a close eye on the spiders while using the toilet. We were wary of one of those creatures, hanging from a single strand from the ceiling, making its way down to devour us.

A trip to the john was a journey into a museum of various insects and crawling bugs. One could study the varieties, separate the biters from the harmless ones, and watch out for wasps and hornets, two species that loved to nest in the safety of the rafters.

In fact, wasps were a part of our daily life at the Farm. Most of us had a stinging, itching, burning welt or two, thanks to the wasps. They clustered at the windows upstairs in the house, and they crawled into one's clothing. Many times, I have pulled on a blouse to shriek with agony and pull it off to find a wasp.

My favorite John story concerned that same rooster, Saucy. It didn't take long for Saucy to learn that attacking people on the path was just not enough. After all, there is just so much damage a rooster can inflict upon a leg. Saucy yearned for greener pastures and greater attacks. So, one day, I sat on the john, nether regions exposed, when suddenly I experienced a piercing pain. I leaped up, shrieking, and screamed for Mom. She came running, as she always did, with her broom.

But the broom didn't help much. Saucy was lurking beneath the seat of the john and was firmly ensconced in the piles of human waste unfit for any broom to encounter. We could hear his ominous growls as he warned us not to approach. What a feat it must have been to his mean chicken brain to have that bare posterior exposed to him! He must have felt like Napoleon, triumphant, victorious! He must have thought he had finally won the battle against the human race that had been his goal in life since chickhood.

From that day onward, one had to watch for Saucy both along the path and inside the john. It's a wonder all of us children didn't die of constipation, for we put off trips to the toilet until it was absolutely necessary, so terrified were we of the evil chicken.

But this tale is not half as good as the one told me by a friend. Helen, dead now from a faulty heart, told me of her mother's experience with an outdoor toilet. It happened they were expecting company one night, and her mother was unaware that her father had moved the outdoor toilet. Toilets should be moved now and then to a new space, since the human waste collects and may grow right out of the holes in the seat. One moves the structure, spreads lye on the collection of waste, fills it in with soil, and life goes on.

Helen's mother, just as their company arrived that night and was settled in the parlor, had to visit the bathroom facilities, so tossing a jacket over her shoulders, she went out to the john. In the dark, she could not see too well, so as she kept walking, she fell in the hole where the toilet had once reigned. Wallowing around to get her footing, she finally pulled herself out of the pit, but she was covered with smelly feces.

Too embarressed to face her guests, she decided to climb a tree to get to an upstairs window, where she could change her clothes and hopefully wipe off the debris without their guests seeing her. She propped a ladder beside the house, started climbing, but the human feces on her shoes caused her to slip and fall. As she lay moaning, her husband finally came looking for her. She was led into the house with a broken rib, a sprained ankle, covered with excrement from head to toe and smelling like a garbage truck left sitting in the sun.

I love outdoor toilet jokes. There is nothing like a tale about "five rooms and path" to get a party going. Like a child that loves scatalogical references, I laugh loudest when there is a little spice to the story. I guess I've never grown up, but to tell the truth, I am mighty glad I have left that outdoor museum behind me. Indoor plumbing is a boon to mankind....sanitary, warm in winter, cool in summer, and barren of marauding roosters!