Not all of life smelled sweet – The People’s Defender

Not all of life smelled sweet  The People’s Defender

By Rick Houser-

All of you folks who have been reading my articles know how I like to turn back the time and recall good memories. It might have been a time or place that in so many ways fits into most of our lives. I also like to tell of how I had a great family and again this I hope the majority of you can relate to also. I like to feel that I have so far had a great life and love to share it with any and all of you out there. However I have come up on a memory that I know we all have experienced at someplace in our past and it is one I do not like.
There was at every home a little building that was only a few steps from the back door of your home. That building was known as the outhouse. A nicer title was the privy. Try as I might I can’t find a found memory in regards to this building. No none! But there was a time early in my life when indoor plumbing had yet to arrive. No matter the time or place there was always a need for this building.
When I was very little I had to use one of these at our house. It was it seemed a good distance from the house. Dad had built it on runners as from time to time he would have to dig a new pit and the runners came in handy when he would move the privy. It was never fun to have to use these things as in the summer they smelled badly and in the cold winter they were, well just figure that one out. So one cold night the day after dad had moved it I needed to use it. I am maybe five years old. At the time we didn’t have a pole light to see by. I went out the back door and to my shock I could not find the outhouse! I was getting colder by the minute and the need was becoming more urgent. I ran back to the house and yelled for help. My sister Peg came to my rescue and got me to the new location just in a nick of time. (Peg was fast to emergencies and I was glad.)
So just from that one instance I think you all can see just where my dislike for this device began. (Also one of the few times I was not happy with my dad for moving it.) So over the following years I grew to dislike them even more. If in the summer it was hot and the aroma was rank the possibility you might be fighting wasps or bees heightened ones resistance to go there as long as possible. To greet a user were the possibility you would find a two seater a Sears Roebuck catalog and a bucket of corn cobs and a bag of lime with a small scoop in it. I was told the lime was to freshen the air. (It never held a candle to Fabreeze for sure.)
The outhouse was at every house as I said but eventually the day arrived when indoor plumbing appeared on the scene and as the water ran into the house it wasn’t too long before a room was either added onto the house or a room became a bathroom! Yup we all got indoor bathrooms. With this arrival one by one the outhouse ceased being used. Away went the Sears Roebuck and also the corn cobs and we were introduced to toilet paper. Oh what a wonderful day that was!
Since the bathroom was new and still had flaws in it and from time to time they would break down. So many people kept their outhouses in working order as a backup. But as time passed the bathroom became more dependable and eventually the old privy would rot away. I know I can still see them and how they looked and where they were located as to the house. As the years passed the buildings of nasty deteriorated away and only a pile of old boards and tall weeds were left.
Now at our place it paid that Dad had runners on the outhouse as a new neighbor was building a new house and was in need of a privy until he got his bathroom installed. So when he heard we now had a new bathroom he approached my Dad and ask him if he could buy our privy. Dad told him he could have it no charge but the man insisted he pay for it. So he gave Dad 15 dollars and hooked a cable to the outhouse and his rear bumper and drove off with the privy in tow. (Now there was a sight you just don’t see every day!) So we had no worry for disposing of it.
To think we had to use one of these things was a fact and one you couldn’t get around. Still I only see this as time in my life I can honestly say was never nor will ever be a found memory. As this building faded into our past jokes appeared about the old outhouse or privy as that sounds much more polite to say Now that they are a thing from the past I guess they can be funny. The thing is that when I look back on what I have always felt has been a good way to have been raised and all of my memories have been pretty good I hit a bump in the road when the thought of the old outhouse arises. I realize it is only one blip on the map but when I think back on something and I can’t come up with one nice thought it just stinks.
So as I go to the store and buy a pack of Charmin and a can of Fabreeze I realize just how far things have come from those times. I’m sure there are some outhouses still out there but fortunately there isn’t one on my property. And that folks doesn’t stink!
Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and loves to share stories about his youth and other topics. If you would like to read more of his writings he has two books that are available in the market. You can reach him at