For its first 83 years, the farmhouse had no plumbing, making the outhouse a fact of living in this place. When I was a child, its location was north of the house behind the woodshed facing east. The folks who lived here referred to its use as “going north.” My mother watched over my going north with great care so that I didn’t fall through the hole.
When I was still a very little girl, my dad moved the outhouse. It was essentially in the same location but turned to face west and perhaps moved a little farther north.
When I was older – 10 or so – and we stayed here at the farm during harvest, I could manage my own “going north” except in the middle of the night. I would awaken my mother to accompany me through the eerie, shadows.
When remodeling of the house began in 1998, the outhouse was again in use. Then the day came that I pushed on the door and it wouldn’t open. I heard the telltale rattle of snakes and screamed for Mike. I held the dog while he extracted two rattlesnakes. Neither Hallie nor I entered that place again. Before long we had indoor plumbing anyway.
So, now we had an aging dilapidated outhouse on the property. I know – some folks do cute, clever things with their outmoded outhouses, such as painting them bright colors and using them for potting sheds or something, but it wasn’t going to happen here. And then we drove in one spring to find the outhouse had toppled over and was sitting on its roof. At first we laughed, but it was an eyesore, and in 2012, as we hosted a party to celebrate our “century farm” status, I wanted it gone. It didn’t happen that year, though we managed to pull it over so that it was on its side instead of its top.
Yesterday (Monday, June 9) was the day. Mike had called in advance for the necessary burn permit. The outhouse sat in the midst of tall green grass which Mike predicted wouldn’t burn. I was skeptical. Discussion ensued. Mike said we had to do it before conditions became any drier – and on that point we agreed and proceeded.
Armed with matches, diesel, and some wastepaper, we approached the tumbled-down outhouse. The fire started readily and the old dry wood burned in a hurry.
Did the fire spread? Was it a “Mickey Warnock” experience? Well, almost. We failed to take into account the dry pine straw underlayment and yes, the fire attempted to spread, creeping along under the grass. However, we had hoses connected to both the house and the cistern, and there’s a firebreak between the yard and the field. We were able to control it.
And that’s all. And that’s that. And the next time you come, perhaps it will just be tall green grass where the outhouse once stood. Gone – and no visible evidence that it was ever there -- the last vestige of an era long over anyway. KW