2011-05-12 / Editorial Page

Dear Hearts and Gentle People

With the sudden surge of old buildings and home places undergoing restoration because of their historical significance, my family is, well, sitting on a goldmine.

At one time, however, what we sat on wasn’t worth a whole lot but speaking of w (hole) we had two of them and were considered right lucky to have them.

Yes, the old outhouse (privy, dunny, long drop, biffy, kybo, thunderbox, or johnny, as we called it] is vanishing, many of them long rotted and covered now with flowers and fruit trees. The funny thing is, they now are some of the most sought after relics in the United States.

People pay big money for these old johnnies and will even go to great expense to move them where the public can see them. You find them all over E-Bay and there’s even an Outhouse Historic Preservation Society, which is where our outhouse comes in.

I had always assumed my granddaddy built the johnny because he built the house on the land where it stands and where my mother still lives, but Mama remembers that Big Daddy (that’s what we called him) paid someone else to build it. Either way, it seemed a long, long way up that hill, especially if your eyeballs were floating, if you know what I mean.


Our johnny in 1998. Our johnny in 1998. Still standing, but covered over with brambles, briars, bushes, wire and a little bit of everything the old outhouse has seen a lot of living (and more than a lot of other things, too) over the last 100 years.

You can still see the front door askew on its rusty hinges and, though I can’t see it now, I remember the long board placed across the width of the building and two holes cut in it, one large one and one a little smaller for the kids, I guess.

And boy could we have used some spray potpourri back then. I’d heard of folks going to the johnny with clothespins on their noses but I never did. I was afraid if I used one I couldn’t breathe and I would die in there and fall down the hole…and Lord knows, nobody knew just how far it was down in that hole.

I used to be scared to death to have to go up that hill by myself, especially about sundown, but I prayed all the way and practiced my latrine etiquette when I got there. “Hole open?” My sister and I were taught to always say that so we could avoid counseling for the rest of our lives.

I honestly don’t remember any Sears Roebuck catalogs, so how I finished up, so to speak, is a mystery to me. Come to think of it, bidets would have been nice then, too.

I was told that a couple in Campbell, Missouri actually met in an outhouse and were married just outside it. I suppose they spent their honeymoon in there, too, and that they now live in a two story outhouse and, hopefully, have three or four psychiatrists on retainer.

Now you and I all know that outhouses have been the butt (no pun intended) of many jokes over the years so I’m tickled to death to discover that we just may be onto something here with ours, monetarily I mean.

I know the thing is at least a hundred years old, as is my mama’s house, so it fits the historical requirements, and since outhouses have come into such high demand of late I’m willing to share our family’s cute little wood building with the world….for a price.

I figured I could advertise on E-bay, post a picture of the quaint little building, and pull in some really big bucks. First though, I’d have to pay somebody who really needed cash in a bad way to go head first into that dark night and clean away anything and everything around it that isn’t the outhouse.

I’ve always thought my metal doll bed and changing table were in there but by the time I started asking, the place was so covered over that nobody dared go near it for fear of snakes, bats, spiders, and crocodiles.

I suppose buried treasure might be found in its nooks and crannies, too, and maybe a few of our family’s deep dark secrets. It’s an adventure just thinking about it.

Then I would go on the internet and explain that the johnny is over a hundred years old and, just to make it interesting (and it could be true), I would say that there were some really important and famous behinds that had rested on those two holes over the years.

I would say how nice it would be to have it moved and sitting downtown by the monument so others could reminisce about the good old days. We could even charge admission and ask for contributions over the web. Of course, we’d donate any monies to the city unless otherwise specified on the check.

I’m really excited about it and just wondered what you think, dear hearts.

There’s really only one of two things I can do. Either leave it alone and let nature take its course, or donate it to the town and make lots of money.

That’s it. Two choices. Number 1 or Number 2.

(Pun intended.)

P.S.

My mother just informed me that my granddaddy’s johnny had FOUR holes, not two as I mentioned. Lest anyone think our family was less holier than theirs, please make note.

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