Mason County News
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The Out House of Yesteryear
Wednesday, January 21, 2009 • Posted January 21, 2009

Readers of this column will recall that in past years I have often referred to the four holer out house we had in our barn. The following article chronicles the story of how this all came about:

Having been born in l9ll in a small town in Texas the toilets of my youth were commonly referred to as the “ two holer” or the “ out house”. Until the age of eight I gave them little thought other than they were a necessary evil, and that when you had to go, you went. Prior to that time I was too busy playing and having fun to pay any attention to the places provided for one to relieve one’s self as nature intended. As a matter of fact since we lived adjacent to open pasture land and spent most of our time playing there, we kids really didn’t care whether a place was provided or not.

However, at the age of eight we moved closer into town where the “two holer” was a common sight at the back of most houses. I learned that this “out house” was always located on the property line with it’s back to an alley. I also learned that most all houses had alleys and their primary purpose in those days was to accommodate the scavenger wagons provided by the city to clean out from under the “out houses”.

In addition to the out house in our back yard we also had a barn and cow lot, a pen for hogs, a chicken house, and a garden. When I was nine the city passed an ordinance requiring all “out houses” to be placed over a deep hole, thereby eliminating the requirement for scavengers. Since we had such a large family my father decided to make our out house a part of the barn and instead of a two holer he would make it a four holer.

So we dug the deep hole long enough to accommodate the four holer, put wooden flooring over and closing in one section of the barn, then built a two sectional fixture with two holes and a door on each side (one side was for the women and the other for the men). This new layout with it’s ventilation pipes extending through the barn roof was not quite as hot in the summertime and was much, much warmer in the wintertime.

We kids thought it was great because while we were “poor folk” we were the only ones in town with a four hole out house enclosed in a barn!!

Well, this all happened back in the l920’s and in writing about those olden days I started thinking about those two hole out houses and I decided the reason we did not linger in them in those days was because of the weather and the odor. In hot weather one wanted to get in and out of those suckers as quickly as possible. This was equally true in the winter because of the freezing winds. And so I thought to myself, could those freezing winds together with the winter-time use of the two holer have been the origin of that old expression I had heard all my life: “freezing my/your butt off”?

Then I thought of our four holer in the barn where it was not too hot and not too cold. Sitting there, secure from the winds, we had time to read the catalogs that were there for another purpose. It was then I decided that perhaps, unbeknown to them, Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward had been the forerunner of today’s Bathroom Reader.

It is said that if you do a thing thirteen times you will have formed a habit. I can testify to the truth in that statement, for here some 87 years later I find that the bathroom is still a favorite location for much of my reading.

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FOOTNOTE: ROUND-UP TIME

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And now let’s fast forward from the two-holer days of the 1920’s to the spring of 2008 where it is time for the yearly round-up at my one acre Wall Street spread.

Now there are those who would ask “Just what the devil do you round-up at 1300 Wall Street ?”And to that non-believer I would say.”That’s a pretty long story my friend, so if you will just hang on to your tater for a few minutes I will unload the whole story on you.”

Now this yarn begins in 1972 after we moved into our present home. I soon found out that this one acre spread containing 39 Oak trees (the number has since been reduced to 30) demanded (just like all big ranch spreads that had yearly cattle round-ups) a yearly round-up of Oak leaves.

Being in my early 60’s I tackled this yearly job with vigor and for the next 20 years or so the practice of raking and sacking those leaves was followed by the yearly pilgrimage to the dump ground.

Approaching my 90th year I found that this round-up was too much for an old man with wobbly legs so I bought a horse to ride during the round-up. Well, it wasn’t exactly a horse, it was, in fact, an electric wheel chair (sometimes called a scooter) which I affectionately called my “work horse”and once aboard that horse I was able to do the work I had previously done when I had two good legs. You would be surprised just how many leaves a man on an electric horse can round up with the aid of a rake and an electric blower.

So for the next few years I would rake and blow the leaves from both sides of my yard into my asphalt driveway. Then placing a large heavy board in front of my electric horse I would push those leaves down the driveway and into a pile adjacent to my garage. After all of the leaves had been pushed into this pile I would get off my horse and get onto a low garden instrument with a swivel seat and scooped all of those suckers into garbage bags.

One year I sacked 180 bags and my good friend Herb Cavness picked them up, hauled them out to his country place and dumped them into a gully he is trying to fill up.

Further more any time I had some extra leaves and oak tree trash sacked up I just gave Herb a holler and he would come by and pick them up. But all good things oft times come to an end and Herb told me this year that he was too old to mess with those leaves any longer. (Thanks for all past favors Herb).

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