Terry Thomas

The Out House

The Out House


My family and I were living on what Daddy called Mister Peaches place. The driveway that you entered onto off of Young’s lane was shaped like a horseshoe and along the edges of the drive was one big house and the rest of the homes not so big.


Uncle Pete lived in what I called the big house, which really was not that big at all by today’s standards. It had a living room with a potbelly coal stove, a bedroom, a small kitchen and a small screened in back porch.


The remainder of the houses one of which we lived in was made of 2 x 12 planking, sort of square and I would guess it to be about 600 square feet. There was a demising wall that kind of separated it into two rooms. The heating during the winter was a coal oil type of heater. I cannot count all the times I rode with Daddy into town to the Sinclair station so he could fill up that five gallon can with heating oil. Daddy would place the empty can into the trunk of his forty-seven Plymouth and away we would go.


Daddy would generally make it a multi stop sort of thing, coal oil from Sinclair and a small amount of groceries from the Farmers Market or A & P Market. Since my father had no or little to no tolerance for the young at heart I usually had to stay in the car until his return. Can you imagine someone doing something like that in today’s world, I can’t.


One of my best memories of the wrath of Daddy was on one such occasion. While he was in the store I decided to listen to the radio. Since the ignition keys where in the ignition I just turned on the key and started listening to rock and roll. I am a lot smarter today than I was yesterday and I understand the difference between six-volt battery systems versus a twelve-volt system. As my father made his approach I turned down the music and waiting patiently for him to get in and take us home.


Get in he did but when he went to start the old car we did not have enough battery to make it go. Upset, well I guess that is one way to put it, I can tell you this, I learned everything there is to know about key switches, what auxiliary really means and all the three and four letter words a growing boy needs to know should he every enter into a cursing contest.


When I look at where I live today with all the security and warning alarms it amazes me we never burned ourselves to death in that old house. Don’t get me wrong it did have its advantages. First and foremost it backed up against the Cumberland River, I mean up against it. We were about fifteen to twenty feet above the water line and only about thirty paces to a sitting place where a young boy could drown a worm in hopes of a giant fish.


You did not need a parent, just your pole, some worms or grubs and some tackle. Now worms and grubs were easy. Worms we would dig from anywhere on the property, grubs we would find there hole, spit on the grown and roll a broom straw around in it to make a little mud ball. Stick the mud ball in the hole and waa-la, out would come a grub on the end of that piece of straw. Now fishing tackle was something else as that was sacred, especially Daddies tackle. I am not sure a man could love a woman the way Daddy loved that old metal tackle box.


Since getting into Daddy’s tackle box was taboo except when ordered to, young boys really don’t quite understand those things at such a tender age. Daddy got the call that Johnny Nipper had truck trouble and since Daddy could fix anything that ran on gas, he was off and I was left to stay with Uncle Pete and Aunt Clyde. Yeah you read it right, Aunt Clyde. Aunt Clyde was really a great person and few if any could match her green beans and potatoes. Her boiled Okra was a different story at least for me it was.


Since Uncle Pete was like his brother it was best to stay out of his way and fishing was the way to do it. Don’t get me wrong, he warned me of all the things to be careful of, you know like drowning and watching out for snakes. When he had finished his sermon I was free to go.


With a cane pole in one hand and Daddy’s tackle box in the other I made the thirty paces down the River bank to the spot where I always set, just fishing and dreaming of all the great things to come. Yep, Daddy’s’ tackle box, what was I thinking. Daddy knew the inside of that tackle box better than the Pope knew the Bible.


As I set there daydreaming about all the things I would be someday coming up the river was a River Barge and it was pushing several large containers to some unknown place. It was all the way on the other side of the river and as I watched it I dreamed I was the one that was steering that monster to where ever it was headed. I think my dream lasted about four or five minutes when the crushing sound of water brought me back to the real world.


The waves made by that barge were at least five to six foot high and they were pounding the river bank just below my feet. I jumped to my feet and stepped back just in time to watch Daddy’s tackle box float out to sea or in this case River and disappear into the depths of the murky River water. Once again I was to feel the wrath of Daddy. I learned all there is to know about touching things that did not belong to me and received a refresher course in all the three and four letter words that were suppose to be forbidden.


Now Mister Peaches place was loaded with green apple trees, those little granny green apples that make you pucker when you bit into them. The property was also loaded with a few other things, Yellow Jacket Wasp and Chiggers.


Since our house had no indoor plumbing we had to bucket water from the property well and restroom facilities was an outdoor outhouse. Daddy would make us bath in a galvanized tub every night except Wednesday. Wednesday was a treat. We would drive into town where my Aunt Margaret lived. Aunt Margaret was Uncle Paul’s wife. Uncle Paul died when I was just a child and I have no memory of him. Aunt Margaret I remember well. She was truly a fine and carry woman.


Aunt Margaret lived in what was called the projects and it was really nice. Two story with the bathroom upstairs. So once every week my brother and I would get a real bath, man that was something.


During the summer and some of the fall those yellow jackets were in full force. You could find them nesting under the eaves of the houses, they really liked Uncle Pete’s front porch. I would watch him and Aunt Clyde sitting out there in the late afternoon on the swing as if nothing else matters. They would call me up to visit and I would stand at the bottom of steps and socialize, but that was as far as I would go. No matter what the conversation my eyes never left sight of the wasp. Try as he did Uncle Pete could never be convincing enough, you know stuff like if you don’t bother them they want bother you. These comments were comings from a man with multiple welts on his arms and face from trying to knock down their nest on a regular basis.


The wasp also loved the outhouse, they loved the outhouse every bit as much as the chiggers loved the tall grass that grew around everything except where gas and oil had been dumped on the ground.


The outhouse door was only about half fastened as it had seen many years of use. The house shook when you tried to open the door, it squeaked whenever the door was moved and it banged when you tried to close and lock the door.


Now here is a little lesson in bodily functions. If you eat a lot of little green apples you will need the services of an outhouse and you will need those services a lot. So your choices were either fear the wasp or find a bush on the River bank and meet Mister Chigger. At the young age of eight a boy really doesn’t know what to do.


Young and dumb though I may have been, I was a quick learner. I learned the secret to oiling hinges, how to open and close a door quietly, the need to wait until one cannot wait any longer and that the outhouse was not the place one would go to enjoying his comic book.


If there was ever to be a ribbon awarded for those who could do there business the fastest, I would have been the World Champion. 


Terry Thomas


Post Script:


I still have the tackle box from my father after his passing, maybe I should say; I have his second tackle box, the River still has his original.


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