As I’ve mentioned before, this old farmstead was likely established around 1904, long before the days of indoor plumbing. So on the property was an old outhouse (or privy, as my father would have said). Long since abandoned to its original purpose, the back supports had slid down the hill, and what was left of the structure was being held up by a Douglas-fir tree.
Clearly not worth trying to save, we dismantled it when a friend of mine came out to visit. She was celebrating her 50th birthday, and has had a tumultuous last two years. She thought it was highly appropriate to be “tearing down some shit” for the start of her 50th year on earth.
As we took down the precarious structure, we discovered a few unexpected things. One was this rolled up ad and calendar (the calendar info is in about 6 point type) from 1929/1930. The women are all silent film actresses. One can speculate as to what this was doing tucked away on a high shelf in an outhouse. We also found a 1937 Spokane phone book. (Neither of the families who owned this place before us were listed). Can you say depression era toilet paper?
The structure originally had a door in the back (ewww) and was built on rails so that it could be pulled forward and back (presumably for cleaning – or as the “hole” filled up…double ewwww). I’m guessing that cleaning out the privy was the ultimate threat of punishment, growing up on this farm.
Thankfully, the outhouse had likely not been used since the 1950’s, and any waste had long since dissipated (and no doubt accounts for some of the nice growth on that Doug-fir tree). The board under the seats (the one that would have been behind the legs of the sitter, and would have received the most “splatters” (ewww again), was about half eaten away by rodents looking for the minerals left behind by the deposits.
The “rails” have now been repurposed as corner posts for my garden fence. They were in surprisingly good shape. We’ll save the poster, and have it better framed for posterity at some later date. I’ll make some kind of planter out of the original “holes” just for fun.
As we tore down the structure, I couldn’t help but think about the hands that built it, with its original shake shingles and clever rail construction. And all of those private moments, through the worst hard times of the depression, spent in that small room. (Are we ever more vulnerable than when we are in the bathroom?) I wonder if anyone will ever tear down something I have built 100 years from now, and wonder about me.
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2011, where we’re miles away from embracing the ultimate back to the land trend, “humanure“, (though we have read it “just in case”) and are eternally grateful for indoor plumbing.