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My Grandmother’s Last Trip to the Outhouse


Mercile Duggan

There is a story that will forever remain in my memory. I do not actually recall the event in mind, I simply recall the telling and retelling of it by my mother who recalls it vividly.

To fully appreciate this story you must know that my grandmother was not a fat lady, she was an obese lady. She had not been that way all her life, but when my grandfather died she moved in with my Uncle Grady and Aunt Velvie, because that is exactly what her nine children felt she should do. These children were all grown at the time and they thought they would do her a kindness by “taking care of her” for the rest of her life.

Actually, it was a disservice to her as she began spending her days rocking and quilting. And eating, of course. As a result of her inactivity most of what she ate turned to fat. Now back to the unforgettable story.

It all happened at my Aunt Hetty’s house where she, my mother, my grandmother, and I were spending the day. I was just a toddler at the time. So, what happened? Very few people would believe what happened. , even fewer can imagine it.

To appreciate this story you must also have some concept of what an outside toilet is. The best way to get this concept is by personal experience. While I do not have volumes of experience in this area, I do have enough to appreciate the story, as I have actually used an outside toilet. So.......I’ll try to paint an adequate picture for you.

The first step in building an outhouse is digging a hole. My guess is that the hole is probably about four feet deep and two by two feet wide. Next a little house is constructed over the hole. The little house is about five or six feet square. It has one door and no windows. It is not unusual for a quarter moon to be cut from the upper half of the door. Don’t ask me the significance of the quarter moon. I really don’t know.

Now for the inside of the outhouse. Believe me, they all look alike. As you open the door, you will see a bench built the exact width of the outhouse. In the very center of the bench is a round hole. This small round hole is positioned directly over the larger hole in the ground. Of course, the only way you can see the hole in the ground is by looking through the hole in the bench. And, believe me, it is no pretty sight.. Neither is it aromatically pleasant. Oh, one more thing. There is almost always a Sears catalog in the

outhouse...........not because one filled out his order blanks there, but because the outhouse era can also be called the pre-toilet tissue era!

Now, you may ask again, “WHAT HAPPENED?” Well the simplest way to tell you is this. My grandmother fell through the bench into the hole underneath the outhouse. Before she knew what was happening, she was up to her armpits in “you know what”!!!!

In all fairness to my grandmother, I must say the outhouse was far from new. The whole family knew it had seen its better days. If he had ever been to Louisiana, it probably could have boasted a sign, “George Washington went here”.

But back to my grandmother’s dilemma. She might have been lacking a svelte figure, but she was not lacking in vocal cords. The sound she let out was probably heard in the neighboring parish. Needless to say, my mother and aunt were there in a flash. As you probably have already guessed, they weren’t prepared for what they saw. Because of this they just made matters worse.

Now, right off the bat, I can think of two things that would make this situation worse. One of them is laughter. And laugh, they did. They laughed until they were hurting. They laughed until they were sick. And the harder that laughed the madder and louder my grandmother became.

And, now for the other thing that could make this situation worse..........not being able to get out of the awful hole. All of the men were at work, and there was no way the sisters could lift her out. However, they were not having this conversation, they were still laughing.

Meanwhile, on the street in front of the house, a young, slightly-built soldier in full uniform was walking by. Of course, he heard the commotion. It was loud enough to wake the dead. Unlike most of us today who don’t want to get involved, he was there almost immediately. He was such a gentleman. He didn’t even smile, much less laugh. He simple reached down. grabbed my grandmother under each arm and pulled her out.

Now she was doubly embarrassed. Not only is she in a mess, no pun intended, but she’s in a mess in front of a total stranger, and a man at that!

This double embarrassment simply compounded the anger, and my grandmother very emphatically stated, “I’ll never enter another outhouse again as long as I live. I’ll just use the slop jar.” For you city people who might not know, slop jar is the country term for chamber pot. “And,” she stated, “if there’s no slop jar, I’ll just go outside, raise my dress, bend over, and ‘go’ !”

And as far as we know, that’s exactly what she did.

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