An Aromatic Adventure

by Robert Edward Lee Dalton

Curator's Comment: This story's true and a great one!
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   B efore the plague of progress reached epidemic proportions, no hillbilly homestead was complete without that quaint little shanty which stood partially hidden in a rhododendron bower at the finish line of a narrow, well-worn, earthen speedway. Within its confines, many great events have unfolded throughout history, events that writers have managed to avoid. But the world must be told about the one in the following story. It is a tale of unmatchable heroism, in spite of its literary aroma.
   O ne thing I ain't never been able t' figger out is th' shameful shortage of literature 'bout any sort of exploits involvin' the outhouse. I know, through my own childhood experiences, that this naughty little nook has been th' scene of many adventures an' fantasies.
   F 'rinstance; b'fore all th' grocery stores bloomed with colorful tiers of tenderly-textured "twilight" paper, no john woulda been fully furnished without last year's edition of th' family catalog. Many times I'd thumb through th' soiled pages till I found a face I didn't like. An imaginary trial ensued, after which I would condemn th' luckless lout to a "fate worse'n death" an' cast him into th' "bottomful pit". Outhouses came in all sizes, shapes an' colors, an' a whole passle of different designs. Some were single seaters, for solo jobs; some had two seats, for joint efforts, an' some, like Aunt Nellie's boardin' house convenience, had three holes (fer emergencies, such as Thanksgivin', Christmas, an' ever' other Friday, when she served pinto beans with hot peppers an' onions).
   S ome suffered from slab seats which bristled with more splinters than a pile of sawmill seconds, while others sported hand-planed portals. Th' latter were quite comfy except for the winter months when th' parlor patron had t' overcome th' cold by settlin' in with a sorta bouncin' motion. Even this discomfort was alleviated by a few of th' families in th' holler. Theirs had fur-lined seats with real fancy lids that covered th' bomb bays an' allowed th' user t' pretend he was settin' in an easy chair with no other purpose but complete relaxation.
   I 'm certain that many of us know a lot of people who spent hours relaxin' on these restful perches. But how many know anybody who had the intestinal fortitude t' venture inside one? Well, I knew one, an' he proved t' me that heroism's a thing not limited t' battlefields or catastrophes.
   I f you've ever had th' guts t' lock a lingerin' gaze inside th' formidable yawn of an outhouse hole, you can conceive th' gargantuan proportions a man's courage would have t' reach to allow him t' venture into th' faint light of those repugnant depths. Now ol' Buddy was not a brave boy, an' that lends th' venture even more of a valorous ring.
   I n our time, these little squattin' shanties were used fer a whole buncha things that didn't have a lot t' do with their intrinsic purpose of design. More often than not, ours would have one or more of its oaken sides covered by the boat-bottom shapes of gran'pappy's skin-boards on which he dried th' fruits of a river bottom trap line. And, since the outhouse was th' closest buildin' t' th' river, it wuz the ideal spot t' store th' fishin' gear, which could be cleaned and rigged from a very comfortable sittin' position. It also contained a collection of worn-out carpentry tools, a stack of unread magazines, a pile of retired bed clothes, (which came in very handy on those nippy winter mornins') an' a pile of corn cobs, which I hesitate t' comment on. It's a fact that many people piled all this junk into that beleaguered little buildin' in a feeble attempt t' camouflage its actual purpose. Usually, this was practiced by families beset by occasional visits from some fancy city- slicker who'd left th' hills years b'fore but had t' return ever' once-in-uh-while t' remind himself of what he'd been missin'. That way, he could get up enough guts t' face another few months in th' city. If th' snob stayed too long though, th' camouflage attempt would inevitably be defeated, 'cause even city boys gotta go sometime. However, access t' th' little perch wuz made laborious enough by the piles of debris that he went as seldom as possible. Heaven help him if he had a pressin' emergency.
   A n outhouse unfortunate enough t' stand th' proper distance from th' back porch had one purpose which, if overlooked by city folk, was well used by the hillbilly. Its solid, flat surface presented a perfect spot t' hang a target on. If th' front wall didn't catch a slug, th' back wall was ready an' waitin', an' very few of 'em ever succeeded in plowin' through th' whole thing. It was customary, of course, t' make certain th' backstop wuz unoccupied at the onset of th' fusillade. But once done, th' shooters could engage themselves in th' one sport th' hillbilly enjoys most--killin' outhouses.
   B ack in th' hills they's two things a feller can excel at an' gain prestige from. One is pitchin' horseshoes, an' th' other is shootin'. Th' chance t' take an active part in either event wuz a country boy's dream, an' we would always be handy whenever one er the other wuz in progress. If somebody wuz takin' potshots at th' toilet, Buddy an' I would volunteer t' be runners.
   A runner wuz a feller who'd trot down t' the outhouse after each group of shots, take down th' target, trot it back up t' th' porch, an' wait patiently while th' marksmen cussed an' discussed their accuracy. Now that might sound like a lotta work, but th' reward wuz a chance t' take a turn with one of the artillery pieces b'fore the ammunition wuz expended, an' we considered that experience well worth th' legwork.
   O n th' day of the aromatic adventure we had shuttled th' targets back'n forth twenty er thirty times, sat on th' kickin' ends of a couple of blunderbusses, an' d'cided t' survey th' damage that wuz done with th' spittin' ends. Th' field pieces of th' day had been a 30-30, a twelve-gauge, an' a 22-caliber rifle. Needless t' say, th' target side of the outhouse looked like the recipient of a well-coordinated strafin' run by a close-order flight of supersonic termites.
   A s we stood there amazedly gazin' at th' damage a few little pieces of gun-flung lead could do, we both contracted a hankerin' t' see what th' spent missile looked like after dishin' out such devastation. This idea wuz booted in th' rear by a brilliant money-makin' scheme that grabbed us both by th' gizzards at th' same time. We realized that one of them spent slugs could be worth anywhere from a dime t' fifty cents t' th' neighborhood kids, who usually valued such trophies very highly.
   N ow, in those glorious days, a dime would buy two bottles of pop, an' fifty cents wuz a fortune. So, when we began t' visualize th' treasure that lay before us th' hunt wuz really on! We gouged, we probed, we pried slabs apart till it wuz a miracle that ol' outhouse wall didn't collapse before the onslaught. After about thirty minutes of fruitless demolition work, we decided t' give up on the outside wall an' move to th' secondary backstop on the inside. This wuz a splash of genius. No sooner had we scrambled into th' fragrant throne room than we spotted four partially protrudin' nuggets imbedded in that wonderful back wall. We were in th' money!
   S hakin' like a drunk with a case of th' DT's, I unfolded my jackknife an' began a surgical operation that would have plummeted any soap-opera doctor t' shame. With th' cautious touch of a three-toed mink at an apple-laden steel trap, I gently coaxed th' first profit-promisin' pellet from its precarious perch an' caught it on its first bounce from th' sittin' slab. Ordinarily, this feat might not seem overly difficult, but if you try it with one knee on either side of an aromatic bomb bay openin' you'll realize the amount of skill involved.
   I n my mercenary mind I was now fifty cents richer, an' I began to whittle tiny oaken flinders from around a second slug. By this time, Buddy, who was cautiously crouched over number two hole with a clothespin grip on his irritated nose, was becoming impatient at not having received of the rewards yet, an' began t' complain quite vigorously. However, I had pinpointed two more of the precious pearls and reassured him that the next one was his. He calmed a bit, unpinched his nose, pressed his face to a handy knothole, sucked a gulp of unperfumed air, an' returned to total concentration on our profitable endeavor.
   P lop! A second treasure nugget tumbled into my open palm. That made a whole dollar's worth!
   B uddy held me to my promise; the next one wuz his. With th' look of a weasel who wuz gettin' ready t' gnaw through th' hen house door, he grabbed th' jackknife and began t' probe with such recklessness that he coulda made short work of a petrified tree stump. He chopped that wood away like a teethin' beaver, an' in no time flat had unoaked another priceless pellet. B'fore I could open my mouth t' warn 'im about that last thrust, th' little slug swished through the air, and zap!... down th' honey hole.
   N ow, it wuz bad enough fer a hillbilly kid t' let fifty cents slip through his fingers that easily, but t' compound th' disaster, th' second slug, bein' very near th' first, wuz dislodged by th' bumpin' an' fell just an instant later. Buddy swiped at it, caught it, performed th' most bedazzlin' jugglin' act I've ever witnessed, and zap!... down th' honey hole.
   M y delicate eardrums were then pounded by th' most gruesome medley of anger-begotten sounds conceivable. If th' Devil had heard it he would have signed up fer two more semesters of cuss-college an' spent his recesses hidin' in th' bushes. T' say that Buddy wuz horribly upset would be a verbal "fizzle". In an innocent attempt t' calm him down, I suggested sympathetically that perhaps he could locate an' fish 'em out. I suppose I could have offered him one of mine, but I didn't want t' be that sympathetic.
   T hat section of the wall which was below seat level, being very shoddily constructed, was blessed with a number of wide cracks which illuminated th' grisly scene below quite nicely. As we peered down at th' forbidding mass, we could see many objects definitely foreign to the under-seat sea. There was the gapin' mouth of a drownin' whiskey bottle desperately suckin' fer air, th' yawn uv a sinkin' tomato can that'd once served as a "portable potty", numerous very unlucky fashion models with very dirty faces, an' a large orange juice can which refused t' relinquish its position on th' surface of that murky mass. Just a foot er two away from the obstinate o.j. can, and lying a few scant inches apart, were the ill-fated slugs.
   W e searched frantically for somethin' t' grapple with, but to no avail. There wuz nothin' in th' shanty with proper qualifications fer th' job. An' t' make matters worse, th' slugs were bein' slowly swallowed by a stinky sea of s... whatever.
   I t wuz too much! A desperate Buddy reasoned that if a big ol' orange juice can could remain on the surface, so could he. B'sides, drastic measures must be used in drastic situations, an' this was, most certainly, a drastic situation.
   H e stuck his head down th' hole in an effort t' survey the area more closely, withdrew it t' gulp a fresh breath of air, then took another look t' make sure he knew the exact location of his two tiny treasures. I wuz tempted t' snicker at th' sight of someone with th' wrong end on th' hole, but I couldn't bring myself to inject levity into what was a very serious situation. So I pursed my lips an' suffered while he climbed up on th' seat, took another deep breath, pinched his nose shut with one hand, an' with quiverin' chin, began th' dreaded descent.
   I n all my years to this day, I've heard of many great deeds. I've seen re-enactments of epic battlefield heroics. I've heard of countless acts of valor in hospitals, on the highways, at scenes of great disasters anyplace where outstanding courage wuz called for an' given. But I have never witnessed or heard of anything to compare with the awe-inspiring spectacle of my friend, Buddy, bravin' the ominous yawn of that hideously malodorous toilet hole.
   N eedless t' say, his reasonin' wuz somewhat amiss, an' when his courageous foot set down on that orange-juice can it found no stalwart ally amid th' ghastly grime. Young as I wuz at th' time, I knew what t' do in just about any sort of crisis. I could handle snakebite, dogfight, green apple bellyache, near-drownin's, cuts, sprains, broken bones, an' poison ivy. But what does one do when a bosom buddy is bein' slowly sucked down into an unspeakable mass of horrible smellin' s... whatever?
   W ell, I did the only thing any buttermilk-drinkin', corn-huskin' country boy could do... I screamed fer Granny! Then I screamed fer Granny again! Finally, after an eon of terror, a wild-eyed Granny came chargin' down th' hill. "What's wrong? What's wrong?!"
"Buddy's drownin'!"
She bolted fer th' river.
"No, no, he ain't down there!"
"Whur's 'e at?!"
"He's in th' toilet hole!"
   I n th' middle of a direction-reversin' spin, she stopped like a nut-cuttin' squirrel who'd heard a gunshot, an' turned an awful color, kinda like a sick chameleon. I know she figgered I wuz lyin', but I guess I was such a ghastly, ghostly white that she thought better of it. Anyway, she got there as Buddy's torso was oozin' in an' thrust her arms down that honey-hole in a wild grab fer 'is wrists.
   T hat's when I first realized just how tremendously strong a hillbilly granny could be. She hauled him outta that muck like a team of frightened Clydesdales, an' b'fore you could say "'possum's paws" he wuz danglin' at the end of two outstretched arms lookin' like th' deliquescent image from an indigestion-inspired nightmare, an smellin' exactly th' same.
   T hank th' good Lord fer th' presence of that life- savin' river. It wuz th' one an' only time I ever saw anybody carry sixty pounds of country boy sixty-five feet down a steep river bank at arm's length an' full speed.
   S he musta baptized him (full immersion) in that water thirty er forty times, which I'm sure wuz th' reason th' fish didn't bite fer three days. But just b'tween you an' me, I would much rather have done without th' fishin' than to have put up with that horrible stench any time.
   T' top it all off, th' only thing I got from th' whole mess wuz a hot seat an' ten cents fer them other two slugs... an' I had t' give one bottle of my soda-pop t' Buddy.
The Stinking End!


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