I have lived all my life with modern conveniences, so writing parts of a story set in the 1920's has been an interesting experience for me. Thankfully I grew up in an era where I was able to experience an out-house (at the farm when I was a child) and a chamber pot (at the lake at our trailer, also when I was a child).
Four years ago we travelled to Dawson City Yukon to visit my brother and his family. My brother is an out-doors kind of guy, loves nature, loves roughing it in the wild, and believe it or not still has an outdoor biffy. Apparently there is nothing as grand as sitting in the biffy with the door open and watching the Northern Lights... who knew! I thought it so humorous that I wrote this poem for his favorite little "outdoor room".
I have modified the title from the original so as not to offend anyone.... Sorry Wayne...
TO AN OUTHOUSE
Now there are those who’d say, I guess,
That my subject matter stinks.
I’m not bothered by that in the least,
So I’ll tell you what I thinks.
Never a better invention was made,
Nor a better service to man;
Than the ordinary biffy, outhouse, or what,
Is more commonly known as the “can”.
Now time was back then, a peculiar thing;
It stretched mighty long indeed.
A fella’d have time to stroll to the bush
Whenever he’d feel the need.
The ladies it seemed, rejected the notion,
That traipsing the bush was a hoot.
They designed a shed, placed over a hole,
Then built the dam thing to boot!
Soon everyone had the contraption,
Set up in a private spot.
Where one could go to while away
Without being cursed, or caught.
As time went on they became fancy,
And grew from one hole to two.
You’d laugh if I told you that nowadays,
They have heat and electricity too!
There’s not but a few left around now,
And most in extreme disrepair;
If you find one still upright and waiting,
Plant your cheeks down, and say you were there!
And now the last part of Winter Wheat Chapter 3
Karl drew the horses up to the front of the house and stopped the wagon in front of the door. Emilie had no time to take in her surroundings because he jumped down from the wagon and reached over the seat and lifted his sleeping son high over his shoulder.
“You might as well come in so I can show you were this one sleeps,” he addressed Emilie who still sat on the wagon’s bench. “I’ll come back for Anne-Marie in a moment.”
Emilie lowered herself awkwardly to the ground and followed Karl into the dark house. He did not stop to light a lamp but continued through what looked like a living room into the kitchen and to a steep stairway leading to the bedroom upstairs. Taking two stars at a time he went up the staircase and entered the large room that ran the full width of the house. A long threadbare curtain hung down the middle of the room separating the room into two individual spaces.
Emilie followed him carefully up the dark staircase and when she entered the room he had disappeared into, Raymond was already lying across a small bed, and Karl was lighting a lamp at the bedside.
“If you will get him undressed and into bed, I will get Anne-Marie,” he said to her before, turning and hurrying down to the sleeping child still out in the cold night air.
Emilie gently removed the young boy’s boots and the cocoon of heavy wool clothes that encased his small body. The child mumbled something, but did not waken. A pair of boy’s pajamas lay under the pillow on the bed, but Emilie decided not to wake the child to change his clothes. She gently lifted his sleeping form and settled him into the bed, then covered him carefully with the thick feather comforter and gently brushed the hair on his forehead with her fingertips.
“Guten Nacht, Raymond,” she whispered softly to the sleeping child. She turned to find Karl standing just behind her with his small daughter cradled securely in his arms. A deep perplexing frown suddenly appeared across his forehead.
“Anne-Marie sleeps in that other bed - there,” he pointed to the other small bed that was tucked tightly up against Raymond’s, forming an L shape in the center of the small space.
Without answering him, Emilie lifted the sleeping child from his arms, and walked toward Anne-Marie’s bed. She performed the same tasks on the sister as she had on the brother and within minutes the little girl was tucked safely and securely in her own bed.
Karl picked the lamp up from the table and waited by the curtain for Emilie to join him.
“Your room is through here,” he moved the curtain aside and entered the other side of the room. He placed the lamp on the bedside table. “I’ll get your things,” he said, before quickly disappearing down the staircase once again.
Emilie surveyed her side of the room and sighed deeply; her new bedroom lacked much in the way of decor, but the essentials were all there. The bedstead was wrought iron and at one time must have been quite handsome, but someone at some time had covered it with white paint, which now was peeling in many places. A washstand containing a pitcher and bowl stood by the wall at the foot of the bed, a cracked mirror hung crookedly on the wall above it. The small night table standing beside the bed was bare, except for the lamp that Karl had just placed there. The window on the far side of the room was frozen over with ice, and there was evidence of frost and ice in the cracks and crevices of the walls and ceiling. A thick black pipe arose from the floor and continued through to the ceiling above and out through the roof. Emilie presumed this was her only source of heat. By morning there would be little warmth offered from the big stovepipe.
She lowered herself to the edge of the bed and contemplated her surroundings. The only good thing about the space was that she was close to the children. If they were to awaken in the night she would be sure to hear them, but she worried about them sleeping in such a cold and drafty room, for their side of the curtain lacked the stovepipe and the minimal comfort it provided. She wondered where Karl slept, then realized that perhaps the bed she now sat on was actually his bed. Maybe he had moved somewhere else in the house in order for her to have a comfortable bed to sleep in.
Emilie heard Karl’s footsteps returning back up the stairs and before she could rise from the bed he was back in the room. He carried her trunk on his back and across his shoulders and as she watched he carefully lowered it to the floor a short distance from where she sat.
He straightened and turned to look at her. “You must be tired. I will get the rest of your things and then I think you should turn in for the night.” He noticed the droop of her shoulders and the faint tint of purple beneath her eyes. She would probably be out cold like his children, the moment her head hit the pillow he thought, as he watched her tiredly struggle to her feet.
“If you would just tell me where die Einrichtungen is?”
Karl frowned and scratched the wool cap on his head.
“Die Einrichtungen… waschen…” Emily pantomimed a person washing their hands, face and arms.
“The washroom!” Enlightenment cleared his brow from the frown that Emilie was beginning to think was his most common facial expression.
“Yes, the toilet, and waschen area!”
He chuckled softly, “The toilet is under your bed - there,” he pointed to the white enameled chamber pot that peeked out from under the bed, “unless of course you want to go outside to the outhouse, which I wouldn’t advise at this time of night. As far as the bathing area, I have a tub for bathing but we only use it once a week and then we all share the water for our baths. You’ll have to make do with the bowl there,” he nodded his head to the direction of the nightstand to the ceramic pitcher and bowl she had spotted earlier. “I don’t think there will be any hot water tonight as the fire has been out all day, so maybe you’d better put that off for the morning too.”
Emilie’s blue eyes widened reminding him of two large pools of spring fed water. A man could almost drown in those eyes, he thought to himself as he watched the color fade from her face at his words.
“You mean you don’t have an indoor room?”
“This isn’t the city, Miss Frieheit,” he answered her shortly. He was embarrassed that she would think his home inadequate. He had worked very hard for the conveniences he did have. “I have an indoor pump at the sink, but it will be frozen now. If you want, I can heat some snow and unfreeze the pump for you, but it will only be frozen again by morning. It will take an hour or so for the stove to heat the water hot enough for you be able to wash in, but if you have to have hot water tonight, I’ll be more than happy to get it for you!” His voice held a definite tone of impatience and an overabundance of sarcasm.
“That won’t be necessary, I can wait until morning. If you don’t mind, I will retire then,” she said quietly then added with emphasis, “As soon as you bring the rest of my things.
Karl turned away and hurried to get the rest of her belongings. The sooner she was out of his sight and mind, the sooner he would be able to relax for the night. For some reason he felt all keyed-up and he wanted more than anything to get this long, aggravating day over with. He was tired and needed a darn good rest, especially if he was supposed to behave as a gracious host, to his new housekeeper come morning!