Thursday, September 9, 2010

Last of the Outhouse Stories

My Mother had a way of enhancing all stories, which, as a child, entranced me.  As an adult I learned (and at 80 am still learning) that most of them were giant exaggerations.  None the less, growing up in Moosejaw, Sask., most of them centered around small town life.  I loved the stories, and wanted to hear them over and over.  They were in such contrast to my life as a city girl.   One such yarn centered around Halloween, when, according to her, she would lead the gang of kids, (all boys except her) as they raided outhouse after outhouse, pushing them over, and then running for cover, apparently never getting caught.  The way she described the gyrations was probably overdone, but others have told me that this was a common practice for kids in rural settings at the turn of the century, and later.  
My personal experiences with outhouses are much more limited.  When I first moved to California, in 1956, Lee and I were often the guests of a beloved friend and physician, Jane.  At that time Jane owned a rustic cabin north of Calistoga on the Maacama River.  It had incredible charm, and much poison oak.  It was without electricity or running water, but being a doctor, Jane kept everything in pristine condition, including the outhouse.  For all the years we camped there, the following sign was posted on the inside of the outhouse door, in lovely caligraphy:

O Cloacina, Goddess of this place,
Look on thy suppliants with a smiling face.
Soft, yet cohesive let their offerings flow,
Not rashly swift nor insolently slow.

Like my mother's stories, I loved the composition.  Recently I have learned that Cloacina was the Roman Goddess of Sewers and Drains, and that the main drain in the Forum was named Cloaca Maxima in her honor.  How enchanting.  I think now I need to make a copy an post it in my own digs.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How interesting about the Roman Goddess of Sewers and Drains!

I have a story to add that I just thought of: I used to use the outhouse when I would stay with my friend Chris in Eastern Washington. She often preferred it, especially in the winter when the solar powered water tank was filling more slowly due to less sunglight hitting the solar panels.

Using the outhouse in the summer was easy, as it was only several feet removed from the back porch ... Though it could be populated by mosquitos and a spider or two.

In the winter it could be quite a process: Depending on the temperature and level of snow (which can be quite extreme in Eastern Washington) you would have to gear up - Putting on your heavy wool socks, snow boots, wool jacket and hat ... just to walk a few feet! Then, on the way back, having to shake yourself free of snow before re-entering the house.

It was fun, though, and beautiful; all the muted outdoor colors of winter twilight. Not to mention the shock of being incredibly warm in a cozy log cabin, then incredibly cold and potentially wet ... then toasty warm again!!!