The Shack Out Back

There is no memory of ever being in one that was painted. The look was always old wood worn gray by rain, sun and cold. Built for function and not comfort, I remember none that were fancy or adorned in any fashioned. Simple and functional they were placed a good distance from any house for good reason.

Writing about outhouses to some will make me appear older than my years, but such was life in the rural south when I was growing up. My tenth birthday came and went before I remember living in a house with an indoor toilet. The “shack out back” was all we had. Clear in memory is my parents talking about saving up to have a bathroom installed in the house, but the money always ended up having to go for something else.

Potty training was done with me learning to literally sit on “pot” to prepare me to sit on an “adapter” (board with an oval hole in it) that was placed over the bigger hole in the outhouse so a little guy like me would not fall in (a real fear when I was little). Age has a way of making vision backwards cause things to appear either worse or better than they were. For using an outhouse both positive and negative thoughts appear in conflicted memory, but above all I am glad that at least we had that little “shack out back”.

When frost is on the outhouse,
And frozen dew is on the seat;
It’s then that nature’s duty calls
And you move with hurried feet!

You make a quick deposit
Then to the house and fireside
You hurry without fail…
With frozen stuff hanging from your nose
And frostbite on your tail!
Scorned and ridiculed, most lowly old shack,
Your name brings a smile to all without fail,
But, without you, some folks surely would lack,
You, with your catalog, your lime, your pail…

A stark silhouette, ‘gainst meadow or glade,
Flies buzz’in, occasional hornet or two…
Such character, rough planks, from which you were made,
That AMBIENCE, makes minutes seem hours — PHEEWWW!!
A nasty old perch straddles dark, hellish pit,
The least winsome place on God’s good, green earth!
Minds fear a fall into four feet of s_ _ _,
Lungs burst, holding breath for all they’re worth!

This tribute must close, though hardly begun,
We’ve painted a scene both gross and sublime,
Hark! Do I hear some more steps on the run??
To not pay you laud would be such a crime!

The little “shack out back” had many nicknames like the La La, the Garden House, the Privy, the Crapper, the Outdoor Convenience, the Necessesry, the Outback and more. But whatever you call it, that “little house” served me well the first ten years of my life.  I am grateful for its service (and I’m even more grateful when we moved to a house with a bathroom at the start of my second decade on Earth!)

This morning imagining not having an indoor bathroom and having to use a “shack out back” is a very quick way to find simple and humble gratitude on a March 1st winter morning.

Only a stomach that rarely feels hungry scorns common things.

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