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December 14, 2018 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Nothing inspired

In this season of sweet nothings and holy inspirations, honest things like outhouses have a place.

You can’t just put them anywhere. Outhouses, not sweetness and kindnesses – feel free to scatter those at will.

The family farm’s original outhouse was out the gate, past the barn and down the hill at least a billion miles away in the pasture. Being totally out of sight of the house meant no help would be coming if the giant three-story tall bull noticed you out all alone.

two girls. 1921 Photoplay mag./Diem (USPD., artist life/

With outhouses taught the importance of strategies and how to make allies at an early age. “Look you make a run for it first. I’ll throw some rocks at the bull to give you some cover.” (USPD/

Daily one of my aunts was seen, grim-faced with determination, dragging her two girls crying and screaming all the way to the Panther House.

The ancient outhouse had a feedbag that served as a door with the biggest, blackest, most scary black panther on it that you can imagine.

There were other dangers, too.

You had to watch that gap between the dusty feedbag door and the ground to see if there were legs/feet belonging to someone outside who was waiting to throw rocks on the roof to scare the spiders in the corner into jumping – on you.

At least, a cloth door flings opens much faster than a crooked or swollen solid wood door that’s jammed to stay shut if you need a rapid escape from annoyed wasps or Yellowjackets.

Everyone was amused at our real reality show, but one fall day I noticed dad had that “thinkin’ of something” look.

So I followed him past the well towards the barbed wire fence at the back of the yard – knowing something was getting put into motion. He paced purposefully back and forth, looking across the fence between the pasture and the farmhouse. At nothing, but something.

Then he said, “I think we can put it here.”

“It” was a new outhouse.

Oh, heavenly thought! One with only the smell of new wood, no spiders, and only a short dash from the pack porch.

Small grumpy girl. postcard, Powerhouse museum collection. Australia, USPD., artist life/

“Why? I ain’t afraid of nothin’. Every hear of Ferdinand?”(USPD/

For whatever reason, I was the kid that helped dad with projects like this.

Possibly because I knew to stand perpendicular to the swing of the hammer just in case the hammer head flew off so you wouldn’t get hit in the head. Farm tools were repaired not tossed for new. To tighten the fit of an aged and shrunken wooden hammer handle, a nail or two was driven in from the top to spread the wood back into a tight fit. But heavy use could loosen it and let the hammer head slop, wobble or fly off.

It took us less than a day from digging the deep hole to the final screw of the upscale city style toilet seat and rainproof toilet paper holder (Those who know, know why. Even if they hear you wailing for a new roll, some people think it’s funny to not respond.)

My aunt was thrilled. Best birthday gift she ever got, she said.

Dad smiled and said “It was nothing.”

Some nothings are really something.

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.

Previous post about the Panther House here.

Deprived? Depends.

We had plenty of nothing.

Happy Gift of Nothing Day, December 15th!




Leave a Comment
  1. sustainabilitea / Dec 14 2018 7:07 am

    That new outhouse was a very real something, but a three story bull sounds like…you know…a lotta bull! 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kate Crimmins / Dec 14 2018 7:20 am

    That brings back memories. We had an outhouse when I was little. I can remember getting an indoor bathroom (there was a lot of cheering) but I was very young. The outside one continued to be used when we were outside and for large picnics and such. Spiders, yep. Wasps, yep. Hammer heads flying, oh yeah! Back then everything was fixed. My dad put wedges of wood in there. It held up…for a while. You made me miss my dad!

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2018 5:27 pm

      Outhouses are a character building experience HAHA. You really appreciate indoor plumbing and running water.
      It’s funny the things you wish you’d grabbed as households were sold off – wish I’d grabbed that well worn hammer (I think that thing was more nails and extra wedged wood than actual original handle. Pleased you understood the flight of the hammer heads. Not everyone is so lucky )
      Yeah, Christmas and July 4th – if merging holidays, I’d put Father’s Day with both of those.
      Thanks for flowing along

      Liked by 1 person

  3. shoreacres / Dec 14 2018 7:23 am

    One person’s screaming horror is another’s beloved luxury. I remember when we got “running water” up at the Kerrville cabin — compliments of a submersible water pump for the spring, a really long run of water hose, and a barrel up in a tree that allowed for a gravity feed. No, it didn’t run hot and cold: we still had to heat water on the stove. But it eliminated heading down to the spring with a bucket every time the dishes needed washing.

    Of course, your outhouse was an equal step up from our “facilities” in that place!

    Liked by 1 person

    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Dec 14 2018 5:49 pm

      Water hose and barrel – now that’s a practical workable invention.
      Our springs were used for cattle water sources. Dad and uncles would carefully clean around them – cautiously digging – you didn’t want to accidentally alter something that would clog/stop the water from flowing. (And we kids were told to stay out of that area when “building” forts and villages (which involved a lot of raking and sweeping of dirt …wonder none of us got snake bit…) We had a bucket and well at the house in this post. I always loved to haul the bucket up and down the rope and squeaking pulley – carrying it to the house and up stairs involved a little sloshing and you hoped enough was left so you didn’t;’t immediately have to make return trip….red water and there where time when you could hear the bucket hit the ground at the bottom.
      Dad was pretty considerate with the modern updates…nobody liked the splinters at the old one.
      We were at the farm on weekends, holidays, and at least half the summer. The experience was probably the biggest gift of nothing – more appreciated now than then by the older cousins who complained. Dad always said, “if you don’t learn in school so you can get a good job and work hard, you’ll end up living like this full time.” Lesson stuck.
      Thanks for wandering along

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The Hook / Dec 15 2018 5:52 am

    You were a great kid.
    And an even better adult.


  5. Jane Dougherty / Dec 15 2018 7:13 am

    Given the time of year, I was expecting a stable story. Near enough 🙂


  6. aFrankAngle / Dec 15 2018 12:50 pm

    In the season of gifts, a story of a new outhouse is very appropriate. 🙂 … and thanks for Sinatra.

    Off topic – Been wanting to ask. Did you convert to Gutenberg?


  7. Curt Mekemson / Dec 15 2018 2:26 pm

    Reminds me of our outhouse in Africa, Phil, when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer. The spiders were there, I am sure. But the real culprits were the cockroaches. We would stomp on the floor to chase them down and then try to finish our job before they climbed back up. Otherwise our buts would become runways. –Curt


  8. Beth / Dec 16 2018 7:29 am

    I was at the family cemetery in East Texas where the old outhouse still stands. I’d taken a friend, and told her I wanted a photo of this old Texas outhouse, and went tromping over. Before I could throw the door back, she hollered, making me stop. I got an outhouse tutorial that went something like, “ok… before you do that, you need to know some things… you’re a city girl, and you think this is like opening a port-a-potty door. First, we’re going to fling open the door, and jump back in case there are snakes.” “Wait, what? That’s a thing.” “Yes, Beth… snakes sometimes curl up in outhouses.” I looked horrified, “but… ” “Just stand back, and we’ll get your photo.” ZOIKS!!!!!


  9. Xena and Lucy / Dec 16 2018 10:44 am

    A bull chased me and my two dogs through a field once, about 15 years ago. We made it through the fence just in time. I think I would have found somewhere else to do my business.


  10. LordBeariOfBow / Dec 18 2018 3:04 am

    When I saw the title of your post I thought it was going to be a review of my stuff.
    They were the good ol’ days the outside dunny, I recall when we first came to Australia, we had one, much to my mothers disgust. She wanted to take the ship right back to England.

    Thanks for Frank, the if presley was the king then Siinatra was the Emperor. I saw Frank live, twice, when he was in his prime late 1950’s, second time about 10-15 feet from where he was on stage, greatest, show I ever saw, he sang his heart out for just on 50 minutes non stop,


  11. cat9984 / Dec 29 2018 10:54 am

    My grandfather painted the outhouse at his cottage green to blend in with the foliage. Then fall arrived.


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