As I sat pondering everything from the universe to field dressing a deer, a sudden flurry of beating bird wings filled the small enclosure in which I sat, and I found myself face to beak with an indignant hovering wren. Both of us were so startled that we jumped... the wren into the brim of my outback hat, and I into the air with my blue jeans around my ankles. Thankfully my favorite hat didn't fly down the hole. I threw open the door of the outhouse and the captive wren soared off as I stood there praying that the tardy gravel contractor wasn't driving up my shack road at that moment. The startled bird had built its nest in the biff, entering thru air vents in the roof. Even though I completely cleaned the nest out later, various birds would return week after week and season after season to rebuild their nests in the same crevice. Nowadays when I approach the biff, I open the door as a gentleman would for a lady, and allow any birds there present to escape with dignity so we don't scare each other to incontinence.
I vividly remember the year I took a giant step up in the world by trading in my squatting rights in the woods for our hunting land with this outhouse on it. Its glass windows had bullet holes in them, which gave me cause to wonder. Women have a decidedly greater challenge with... um... taking care of their business in the woods. In fact, this point of business is how I got my hunting nickname, Catwoman, but that's another story for another day. Finally having an outhouse was a thrill. Really, I'm serious! Okay okay, so I'm a woman of cheap thrills. The tiny structure needed a face lift and an excavation, but I was ready to do whatever it took to make it usable and to never have to moon the woods again.
If you really want to gain the reverent, stunned and disgusted respect of your peers, whether hunter or not, just tell them you spent the weekend re-digging your outhouse. A raconteur at heart, I had more fun mentally recording peoples reactions that year as I vividly recounted the sweaty process of sitting in the hole, digging four feet down, chopping roots and hauling away buckets of dirt. The experience was further enhanced with a forest tent caterpillar invasion and hundreds of creepy crawlies spinning webs and cocoons all around me as I dug what had begun to seem like a tunnel to China. In truth, this sturdy little privy with its galvanized siding had not been used in well over 15 years, so the excavation task was as innocuous as spading my vegetable garden. However, I omitted this minor detail in order to emote as much pity as I could from my various and utterly revolted audiences.
After putting in a new toilet seat, replacing the broken glass and painting the door, it was ready for its ...um... inaugural utilization. After years getting my hapless backside stabbed with twigs and munched by mosquitoes in the quite unladylike process of seeking relief in the woods, I was truly excited to try out my new luxury. I stood for the longest time admiring my handiwork. I had arrived and I was proud. What I hadn't bargained for, was the view.
"The view", you say? Oh yes. Looking out the grout smeared Plexiglas windows of our woodland water closet, one can see all of camp, dozens of mature trees, the crooked shack, the fork of two walking paths and part of the road. Even in inclement weather, I am drawn to tarry and enjoy the view. Its like television only better because its real and it changes every day. If a person can compartmentalize the odious nature of the surroundings, the aesthetics of being there are otherwise quite grand. On late Fall nights, one can see shimmering moonlight back dropping mature oak trees in contrast to the startling ambient odors that singe your nose hairs. In winter, you can see fresh fallen snow through a lacy pattern of frost on the windows as your keester freezes to the toilet seat ring. In Spring and Summer, the stunning colorful beauty of the woods is eclipsed only by the presence of fifty varieties of shade seeking insects that gather on the inner walls of the biff as you attempt to take care of business before they all wake up and attack.
Now an experienced outhouse owner, I have learned several important things. First, we never leave the door open at night, because every wild critter in the woods has an insatiable desire to finely shred every last roll of toilet paper and spread it all over. Secondly, we never EVER succumb to the morbidly curious and uniquely human urge to use a flashlight and look down the hole. Third, we never EVER seriously think about the possibility that some creature might be living down there, even though we are quite certain we hear noises, particularly in the black of night. We especially block such thinking from our minds when we are taking care of business. Last, if you value your life, you never use up the toilet paper without replacing it immediately unless you relish the idea of having dozens wood ticks planted in your sleeping bag as revenge.
As we begin to build our cabin in this woods, I have decided to keep our galvanized steel sided privy as the accommodations of choice. I'm not sold on sharing breathing space with a compost toilet quite yet and besides... I like the view. I will always like the view.
© April 2001