Essay on the Outhouse
The Complete Works of an Ignorant Hillbilly - 1978

by Robert E. Dalton

Curator's Comment: Robert provided this literary commentary to me. There are a LOT of major adjectives and such in the descriptions but stick with it while reading. The point comes across very clear at the end...

The Extremeties of Language

   Probably the one thing that contributes most to the labeling of the hillbilly as ignorant is his everyday language. He does not find it necessary to use college-level words to convey his messages to those around him. Contrary to popular opinion, this does not mean that he doesn't know how to use them, only that he is opposed to the waste of breath involved.
   To demonstrate this fact, I have included an essay designed to portray its
author as a champion of pedantry.  The subject matter we have chosen is not only well-known, but well-loved by the hillbilly. It is as down-to-earth as one can get--in fact, a little farther down than that--about six or eight feet to be exact.

   I n this day of automated miracles and the inception of space travel, man's existence, rather than being enhanced by the wondrous and ingenious creations of his id, is being deprived of countless blessings that once contributed so much to the joys of living.
   N ot the least of these, by far, is the little brown building that once graced the backyards of both rich and poor. It was the last retreat for the dreamer; the final escape from the blatant realities of the pandemonium around us--that scintillating, paradisiacal enclosure that could project the soul into any point in time from before the ice-age to beyond the future. It was the john, the shanty, the shack, the throne, the shed, the relief office--the outhouse.
   T hough subjected to abjuration, ridicule and derision at the hands of an insensate, modernistic society, the tiny placid palace cannot be denied the distinction of having intimately served the greatest of our forebears. One might even go so far as to propound the possibility that some of the most profound, world-shaping decisions in the history of mankind have been made within the inspiring walls of the inimitable outhouse. Who is there among us who can knowingly assert that Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo did not stem from an exigent urge to deposit himself in the little brown edifice behind a peasant's hut across the way? Then too, one cannot help but wonder how many pages of "Poor Richard's Almanac" evolved amid the quietude of an oaken sanctum- sanctorum.
   T hough these contingencies are highly conjectural and quite forensic, they cannot be completely disproved. Therefore, they must be considered as potential possibilities of the intrinsic values of the seclusive qualities of a now evanescent sanctuary for all mankind. There should be a monument to the outhouse!
   C an any man who has enjoyed serene relief within those hallowed walls pretend ignorance of the reasons for the modern-day "generation-gap"? One has but to glimpse the decor of the insensate bathroom of today to foresee the impending doom that mankind is thrusting upon himself and his future generations.
   T he despondent young man of today opens the door to four glaring walls of barbarous, glazed clay. He is met by a maze of barren porcelain, indurate fixtures, and the frightful, glassy eye of a mirrored wall-cabinet, all of which loom before him with inanimate animosity. Without the friendly confines of those warm wooden walls, how can he be expected to unleash the anguish within him? Consider the factitious coldness of the ebon-crowned throne upon which he must attempt to pacify his inner being. Invariably, he emerges from the callous cavern harboring even more hostility than when he entered. And he cannot be blamed. To dream in such an atmosphere is impossible, to obtain any measure of inner peace, beyond the realm of human capabilities
   N ot so with those of us who were fortunate enough, in our younger years, to have enjoyed the luxurious splendor of completely private soul purging within the wooden confines of the cloistered castle of old.
   W hen a man of our generation opened that weather-worn door he was greeted by an aura of congeniality born of nature and built with love. No glare, no glaze, no gleam, only warmth and sympathy (and an occasional splinter). There was an internal pleasantness in that atmosphere; a feeling completely unattainable at any other place in the world. Here a man could release his anguish, soothe his hostilities, ponder over the ifs, ands, buts, whys and where fores of the world around him. He could invent, create, philosophize, and assuage the mental tensions forced upon him by a pugnacious, unsympathetic and mercenary society.
   T here was no boring repetition in outhouses. Each had its own distinctions, either in workmanship, finish, furnishings or aroma, as opposed to the modern convenience in which, though the arrangement may be varied, the necessary components are all virtually identical. This is one of the great errors in modern design and architecture as well as one of the leading contributing factors to the frightful rise in crimes committed by the mentally deranged.
   O ur own pride and joy, though lacking in elite workmanship, was a magnum-opus of my venerable grandfather who prided himself in the usability of his handiwork rather than fancy appearances. It was an excellent medium for the release of the tensions of the day. The very fact that it was the personal creation of an endeared member of the family lent it an aura of security, and even an amicable personality emanated from within. The materials incorporated into its structure were rough and durable, like a good man should be. When one stepped through the genial egress (an action he performed as much from desire as from exigency) he would find himself surrounded by a conglomeration of fascinating articles. These invariably held at least one item of interest which could apply a soothing balm to the most disturbed of minds seeking escape from the scourge of reality. It was the essence of the principles of release therapy. In a mental picture as vivid as any ever developed in a darkroom, I can still see the colorful jumble that enhanced the captivating interior of the tiny cogitator's castle.
   T o the right of the narrow entrance was a complete collection of fishing equipment ranging from rods and reels to every size, shape and color of lure imaginable. Directly above these hung an array of ingenious traps which proved to be the scourge of every muskrat and mink for five miles up or down river. In the rear of the little edifice stood two tall bushel baskets containing an endless conglomeration of treasures ranging from outdated articles of clothing to ancient magazines. The latter provided amusement and literary driblets for the perusal of the lackadaisical visitor who wished to bide his time informatively. And we must not overlook that standard piece of equipment without which the outhouse would not have been an outhouse--that savior of the toilet-paper-destitute family--the good old catalog. Where would we have been without it? Why do you think the mail-order house was such a thriving success?... It was because they really cleaned up.
   A h, but the blessed little building had many facets not included under the heading of simple relief. In the faded world of my inner-sanctum I can still hear the austere voice of mama calling me with that certain intonation which meant there was work to be done. When that dreaded sound grated my youthful ears a naturally indolent little mind would send me scurrying for cover like a tomcat in a thunderstorm.
   H owever, concealment was an elusive luxury when mama needed an eager beaver, and my search for sanctuary inevitably led me to that last resort--unapproachable, impermeable, inviolable; that haven for the harried--the outhouse. Many's the time those oaken ramparts served me well. In fact, some of the most rewarding and victorious moments of my youth were those times when I could stand upon the seat and peek through a knothole at my younger brother laboriously eliminating those tasks meant for mine.
   B ut if it served well for the escapist and the mentally troubled, it served equally well for the violent personalities. Their favorite sport was killing outhouses. Our privy stood some thirty yards away from the back porch, and broadside to it. The flindered wooden wall on that particular side was frequently adorned with all sorts of rifle and shotgun targets. I recall numerous instances in which the little edifice became a central point of release for the destructive tendencies of five or more hawkeyed country marksmen at a time. These sessions increased the ventilation efficiency of the battered little building markedly, and there was a slight loss of privacy, but who knows how many lives it saved by these heroic sacrifices.
   O f course, if some family epicure had satiated himself shortly before the match began, the long wait could become quite excruciating, particularly in the event of a draw between two shooters. Nevertheless, it was still a small price to pay to preserve the peace of the world. Hitler might have been stopped if he'd had a properly placed outhouse.
   D espite all these wonderful advantages over the modern convenience, it must, in all fairness, be noted that there are those mollycoddles who, remembering those long frigid winter nights, do regard the outhouse with considerable disdain. They are quite pleased at the moribund state of the wonderful institution. They, however, are those present-day frangible freaks who consistently refrain from any sort of physical exertion; who can do one or two push-ups, who suffer from one form or another of hypochondria, and who seldom, if ever, venture outside the protection of their homes.
   T he bulk of us in those days experienced joyful invigoration from making that long trek to the "shanty" and returning to the comfortable warmth of home. It taught us to appreciate more fully the most profound luxuries of that life, and rendered our constitutions quite strong as a direct result of it. I would gladly swap my indoor pamperer for that reputable retreat of old.
   Y es, the day of the outhouse will rank supreme in the memories of millions. But those days are yore now--cast to the turbulent winds of that storm called progress. Man, in his unceasing quest for the idyllic world of dormancy, has taken that wonderful boon, turned it under pasture, and left the backyards barren.
   F or my part, I say this: If progress be that which deprives mankind of the peace of nature and his own celestial inner being, then let us regress! What this world needs is more outhouses!


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