The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.

The Wisdom Of Barnyard Bruke: "TEACH'M ABOUT OUTHOUSES!"

Greetings to everyone in western Illinois. I'm a hope'n ever one adjusted accordingly to the cooler weather.

Fall shore is a wonderful season of the year. I just loves to see them combines a roll'n through the fields.

Corn harvest began over one week ago in some areas around these parts with yields be'n reported from 180 bushels per acre to 219 bushels per acre.

Those fields be'n harvested were planted in early April. It will be enterest'n to see how the fields yield that were planted three and four weeks later last spring.

Some bean fields have been harvested, but I haven't heard any production reports yet.

My grandson asked me about outhouses the other day.

Outhouses of days of yore might be called outdoor toilets, biffies, backhouses, privies, comfort stations, necessaries, relief stations, reading room or library, throne room, white house or house of parliament, Sears Book, John, woodpile, backhouse, private place and loo.

Most outhouses on the farm had a floor, four sides and a roof, plus a seat-like bench with two holes.

Inside one might find a picture nailed to the wall cut from a magazine or calendar.

On the seat was often found last year's copy of the Sears or Wards catalog. This was an early version of recycle'n.

Smell was controlled to some extent by tossing lime down the holes.

Summertime visits were not unpleasant events as they were reasonably well ventilated and the user was given a chance to listen to birds and commune with nature, if'n you weren't to busy review'n the catalog after which you recycled the individual pages then chucked them down the hole.

A winter trip to the outhouse was a different experience. It might involve a run through deep snow and discovery of the door be'n blocked by a drift. The seat always felt many times colder than the outside temperature. Visits were brief.

Outhouses were often targets of Halloween pranksters. Many a story is told of tipp'n an outhouse over whilst someone was yet inside it. It'n it were tipped onto its face, the victims fate was pretty much sealed for the rest of the night or until help arrived.

A bad situation would be for the outhouse to be tipped over backward whilst not be'n used, and the hapless victim would come out of his home in a necessary hurry to take care of internal pressures in the middle of the night, not notic'n the change of the skyline due to the darkness of night, and by simply follow'n the well-worn path, would fall direct into the privy pit.

A victim of this kind of hooliganism would schemingly set a trap for the next pranksters move'n the privy three feet back off its foundation.

As the vandals approached the target, they themselves would fall into the pit.

Much folklore has been told by old-timers about outhouses. There is a once-standard gag of "molasses'n" the seats of the privy at a home where a barn dance was go'n on.

The lost art of "molasses'n" consisted of smear'n molasses or anything similarly sticky to the privy seat. Whoever applied themselves would soon be yell'n for help to get unstuck, thus provide'n some uncomfortable humor for the rest of the even'n to the assembled crowd.

Another folklore story involves the "sweeten'n" of a "sour" privy for sprinkle'n kerosene down into the pit.

Grandpa later would go out there and unwittingly rap the glow'n embers of his pipe into the adjacent hole as he melancholy enjoyed the solitude.

The consequential explosion resulted in him end'n up thirty yards out in the pasture.

Standard punchlines for the befuddled old gentleman vary from, "It must have been something I et," or "Sure glad I didn't let that one in the house."

There were endless stories of dollar bills be'n dropped down the pit. The sad loser would then toss a twenty dollar bill in after it because, I'm sure not go'n down there just for a one dollar bill".

Today's "outhouses" are called Port-a-Potties". They are generally blue colored, sweet smell'n, portable plastic shacks that self contain all of the "go'ns on" in there.

They are usually uni-sex with provide'ns for both men and women.

These modern portable shacks even have regular toilet paper, something seldom found in the early days of outhouses.

Cobs and an old catalog were standard items before the days of toilet paper. A generous supply of "white" cobs was preferred.

Whilst today's "modern outhouses", the port-a-potty", are self-contained. Such was not the case of "outhouses" of yesteryear. One feller down on the "Sandy Bottoms" put a topless barrel under his outhouse to keep the sandy soil from cave'n into the pit.

When the barrel quickly filled up, (he had a large family), some local fellers craftily suggested that he would be able to provide a drain hole in the bottom of the barrel simply by aim'n his high powered rifle down one of the holes and fire'n two or three rounds down through the contents and through the bottom of the barrel. Obviously, he was not one of the brighter scholars in the area. Observers sez he only fired once before realize'n his mistake!

His wife wouldn't let him near the house and he needed to go fer the crick for a good clean'n up.

Even the farm dog wouldn't foller him! The gun needed a mighty thorough clean'n as well. His ears rang for two days from the contained noise and his eyes burned through the next day.

I even heard of a boy set'n a "cherry bomb" through the vent hole of an outhouse whilst his soon to be "ex" friend was inside.

I'm a guess'n that was an early version of "flush'n the stool"!

As time wore on and catalogs sometime became thinner, some folk would order extry copies to supply their necessary needs.

The idea of a second story privy makes most folk shudder. A double decker still stands in the Nevada City ghost town in Montana.

A double-stall, three story outhouse was built onto a tenement building in St. Paul, Minnesota. Such sanitary services were common in many cities until indoor plumb'n arrived.

Those privies were architectural wonders. I've got pictures of both a double decker and a triple decker in case you'ns aren't believers.

One old-timer I knows lays claim that today's modern back problems are a result of abandon'n the use of outhouses. Seems he feels the necessity of their use provided percular outdoor exercise.

"Well there ya have it," I told my grandson. "A little bit of history of outhouses in a time before people folk had run'n water and indoor plumb'n".

Each farm and most village homes had one. Few people talked about them, except city visitors who turned up their noses and declared them the worst part of country live'n, especially in winter.

"City slickers" done away with the outhouse way ahead of farm folk.

I left out for the time be'n with my grandchild, any discussion of the "slop bucket and how it interacted with the "outhouse" of days gone by."

I suppose someday regulations will require farmers to have Port-a-Potties along their fields. Corn detasselers and other commercial laborers have them now.

The tree is too reveal'n and many a wife help'n in the field would find them mighty convenient.

I suppose instead of Wards or Sears catalogue, however, she'd use her cell phone for read'n and would need to be mighty careful she didn't drop it in the great beyond.

I'm hope'n everyone has a great harvest and is enjoy'n the cooler fall weather.

Keep on Smile'n

Catch ya Later

Barnyard Bruke