Privy to Privies

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1995. All rights reserved.

Live long enough and many of the everyday skills and experiences you take for granted become virtually obsolete, like operating a manual transmission or dialing a rotary phone.
   
Outhouses are like that. You don't see many privies any more, even on the most remote farmsteads, and few folks can claim to have sat in one.

Morning Commute by Billy Jacobs
I'm not talking about those industrial "Johnny-on-the-Jobsite" rental toilets or even the Forest Service's government-issue campground restrooms. True outhouses are homebuilt wood-plank structures with personalized features like crescent moons cut into the door or a shelf for the Sears and Roebuck catalog.

Oh sure, a few hardy souls still live without indoor plumbing and flushing basins, but for the most part the aroma of an outhouse on a summer's day or the sensation of squatting over a deep pit of abominable slime has vanished from our common experience. Few comrades-in-rumps remain.
   
This could be why a certain Sandy Hoiles of Lodi, California, started a collection of outhouses. She and her husband have seven primitive potties set up on their lawn. Like old Fords without engines, they're just for looks. No holes lie beneath them.
   
"They are a part of history and they should be preserved," Hoiles told her local newspaper..
   
The Hoiles acquired most of their comfort stations by roaming the backroads of northern California looking for surviving relics of pre-plumbing settlement. They load them onto a truck and tote them back to their lawn in Lodi.
   
Lately, they've also begun to advertise: Old Privies Please!
   
Many folks get a chuckle out of the Hoiles' pursuit; others find it distasteful. Most won't understand why they would bother.
   
I was told by a source I can trust that there's a gas station along a remote stretch of highway in northern Nevada where the only "facility" is an outhouse.

Folks stopping by inevitably have to use the "facility" and are pointed down a dusty path to the outhouse. Men usually opt for a private spot in the sagebrush, but the ladies go on inside and latch the door.
   
Once a customer is inside and has had time to settle herself, the station owner turns on a microphone he has attached to a speaker mounted below and to one side of the two-hole opening. Then he announces in a genuinely worried tone, "Uhh, ma'am? Would you please move to the next hole? We're trying to paint down here!!!"
   
Then there's the Lutheran pastor who was visiting a rural farm family. After dinner the stately Swede excused himself with great politeness and followed the walk from the back door to the outhouse.
   
Moments later there was a loud BANG! and the family jumped from the table and ran outside. They found the walls of the outhouse splayed out like the peel of a banana around the pastor, who stood alone with his pants around his ankles and his pipe in one hand.
   
Startled and amazed, the gentlemanly pastor stuttered, "Ittt... it must have been something I ate." 



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