The gentle falling of snowflakes takes me back to the days when cold weather would bring a tough decision at the old family homestead.
Being cold in the winter was a common experience, since the only heat came from a fire in the main room. Grandma would always be the one up early to get the fire going before anyone else was out from under their warm down covers.
Sometimes in the middle of the night, the call of nature would come upon me. Unlike our house in town, where the bathroom was only about 15-feet down the hall, I was faced with a decision to make a 20-yard dash to the outhouse or simply utilize the chamber pot.
Most would use the chamber pot. But for some reason as a kid, even when the temperature dipped into the teens, I would push myself to put on my old black leather work boots and my brown quilted coat with the hood and make the trek up to the old white pine outhouse.
It wasn’t a very fancy building, much like those depicted in so many arts and crafts designs. The lumber from which it was made was hewn by hand and weathered by years of use. A simple wood latch kept critters from wandering in there with you. It wasn’t always successful, however.
I remember one time my little cousin, Wilbur, was making use of the facilities. Wilbur wasn’t very tall for his age. With his small frame I wonder how he managed not to fall in, I had trouble myself when I was young. After a few minutes in there, he ran out pulling up his britches, claiming there was a creature attacking him from underneath like the monster from the black lagoon. After investigation, we discovered that it was a two-legged dominicker from the hen house which apparently had decided to peck more than the ground.
In the summer, without air-conditioning, evenings were spent sitting on the front porch to catch a breeze to ease the heat which built in the house throughout the day. A trip to the old privy would find many types of crawly and flying critters, although they seldom bothered me except for an occasional sting. I seem to remember that happening one time. I then spent the rest of the day with a Bruton Snuff poultice attached to whatever part of my body the critter stung.
While I can reminisce fondly about trips to that quaint little building, as someone who was raised in the city, I must say that with the exception of the great solitude of the outhouse amidst God’s great outdoors, I did much prefer modern porcelain versions.
However, when the plums come in, I often wish I could take a trip back to the outhouse. About 20-feet beyond it was a red plum tree that often required my attention. I just loved making a trip out there to eat my fill.
Of course, my mother and grandma would warn me to stay out of the plums. “If you eat too many, you will get sick,” they would say, and they were right.
If I spent an hour up that plum tree, I would spend most of the next day about 20 feet away.
Thankfully, I never got a visit from the dominicker from beneath.
From Randall Franks’s “A Mountain Pearl: Appalachian Reminiscing and Recipes.”