How many of you remember the backyard outhouse of yesteryear? One of the strongest (and I am using that word for a reason!) memories I have of my great-grandparents farm is the outhouse. There is nothing quite like the smell of an outhouse in the middle of summer. But, worse than the smell was the caution given to always look before you sit down because snakes and spiders like to hang around the outhouse. Well, can’t say I am surprised. But snakes? I can’t think of anything that will keep me from going to the bathroom more than the threat of snakes!
I have tried to explain the experience of outhouses to my granddaughters, but the whole subject just “grosses them out”. It may you too, but I think that we wax poetic about the “good ole days” with out remembering some of the aspects that nudged us into improving our lives quite like indoor plumbing. I know there was no way I was ever going to go out to that little house behind the house in the middle of the night, and neither was great grandma. She kept a chamber pot under the bed for just such emergencies.
In romanticizing life in yesteryear, people have begun collecting strange things. I know a woman who is ga-ga over chamber pots, and has quite a collection of them. She even has an oak chamber-pot chair, otherwise known as the “Thunder Throne”. Now, to me that is just gross, and I think they just plain smell bad. It is probably just my imagination, but I think they hold a distinct odor that refinishing can’t seem to dispel.
Tradition has it in that bygone era, whenever a lady went visiting, and needed to use the facilities, because they didn’t want to ask where the outhouse was, they would say they were going to look at your hollyhocks. I’m not sure which came first, but people began growing hollyhocks around their out-house so that people could distinguish easily which out-house was “the” out-house.
I have begun to think how charming an old rustic out-house would look in our backyard. I would love to have one to use as a potting shed, and to further the ambiance and the illusion, I would plant hollyhocks around it. In fact, I could see where having one would be almost like a blank canvas to be filled. I could paint it a wonderfully wild color to mimic a lot of Austinites attempts to “keep it weird” not to mention colorful in their backyards. But, I think I would rather keep it natural, and rustic. I think a part of it is to kind of thumb my nose at our neighborhood association, and do something our neighbors would never do. I may have to adhere to the associations by-laws on acceptable landscaping, but the backyard is mine to be an extension of my personality.
Just as I began to think of this, I saw one for sell in Princeton, Illinois this summer on vacation,. It was a beauty, complete with the half-moon on the door, and the seat had been replaced with a nice bench, that would be great for potting plants. The price was right too--it was $130.00! A small price for pure Americana! But alas, I couldn’t think of a way to get it home--although the vision of it trailing behind our Toyota, made me smile. So, if any of you out there in blog-o-sphere know of anyone around the Austin area in need of “dumping” (pardon the pun) an out-house. Let me know, I would love to take it off their hands!