Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Trip Out Back

There are times when I am daydreaming, and I find myself trying to imagine what life must have been like "in the olden days."  I've been to places like Williamsburg, Virginia, and Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts where reenactors give a glimpse into some of the hardships of cooking, cleaning, and preparing food in those days.  Mostly though, I think about bathroom facilities.  Or, the lack of.

Really it was just several decades ago when very few families had indoor bathroom facilities.  Most homes had an external outhouse, separate from the main living area, and usually way back at the end of the yard.  One would have to refrain from eating too much okra, for fear of its middle-of-the-night repercussions.

Vintage outhouses are available on Ebay.
I looked into this whole business of doing one's "business" out back, and I learned that outhouses originated nearly 500 years ago in Europe, mostly at inns and country taverns.  Since most people were illiterate in those days, outhouses for the traveling folks were separated by male and female symbols - a sun for the males (the symbol for masculinity) and a crescent moon for the ladies (a symbol of femininity).  Because men are sometimes animals tend to simply go outdoors for their business, the outhouses over time became one-symboled, the crescent moon.

Why am I thinking about outhouses?  The answer is simple.  Because I froze my tush off over the holidays in our improvised sleeping arrangements, due to lots of company.  And because I am grateful. Grateful that I don't have to trek out through the yard, during a snowstorm, in the middle of the night, to a very cold seat.  And because this old lady can only hold it so long.

An outhouse in Elk Falls, Kansas - the Outhouse Capital of the World.
The husband/lover/best friend and I gladly gave our bedroom to daughter Lindsay, hubby Todd, and grandbaby Ellie over the Christmas holidays.  We happily retreated to our very comfortable 5th wheel out in back of our property.  Because temperatures were in the low 20's, we only extended the bedroom slide, and with the bedroom door shut and a small space heater running, we snuggled in and were able to sleep toasty and warm.

The problem occurred then when those nighttime bathroom needs happened.  Using the restroom right around the corner that was unheated and had a VERY cold seat is what got me thinking about this whole business of outhouses.

The experience has reminded me to embrace gratitude.  It has made me once again appreciate the days we live in, and the modern conveniences we have.

If you are interested in taking a fun look at a collection of outhouses, find the beautifully photographed book Nature Calls:  The History, Lore and Charm of Outhouses, by Dottie Booth. And, if you are one of those who keeps a small library near your toilet, this book is definitely one you should add.

It will remind you to stay grateful for what you have, and give you a few chuckles, too.

Stay warm, friends.


  1. Cute post...reminded me of some toilet seat museum SOMEWHERE! Sorry I can't remember where I read about it. My mind wanders a lot these days... :-)

  2. Too funny! Our toilet in our RV is in its own little room with a door. If we use the furnace for heat, there is a duct in there and it is nice and warm. However, if we only use electric heat and leave the door closed, I have the same problem of the seat being cold in the middle of the night. So, we have solved that problem by leaving the door propped open a few inches using a large door stopper. This allows the bathroom to get warmer and the seat is nice and warm. Not sure if your setup would work the same way, but thought I'd share our solution.

  3. I can remember out house at my grand parents' and my uncles farm way back when I was a little kid. And of course we had one at our camp.

  4. I remember the outhouse situation in my grandmother's home when I was young. Cannot imagine having to go outside at night in the cold nowadays! Yuck!