Picture of the day - November 8, 2005

A Sutherland, Tennessee Outhouse

A faded old outhouse.

There are some things that bring back memories of my childhood every time I see one of them, and I saw one of them yesterday afternoon - a faded old outhouse. We were out just driving around, looking for some pretty fall scenery in the Damascus, VA area when we decided to head across the state line to beautiful Sutherland, TN and Backbone Rock - and there it was, just standing there in somebody's yard.

Although it's now just a "country" lawn decoration, at one time this was no doubt a working outhouse. Back in the days before the proliferation of indoor plumbing, the family bathroom was outdoors. It was usually nothing fancy - just a large hole in the ground with a small wooden building sitting above it. And of course there would be at least one crudely-crafted wooden toilet seat, sometimes two - one of them a mini version for the kids.

Let me tell you, going to the bathroom in those days was no picnic. In the summer time you had to deal with lots of flies and one very unpleasant smell. Winter time was even worse - there are few things in life that are less enjoyable than leaving a warm house at three o'clock in the morning, walking a hundred yards through a foot of snow and then having to sit on a frigid wooden toilet seat while the wind and snow was blowing through the cracks of an old outhouse!

Luckily, I didn't have to endure using an outhouse for very long because I was still rather young when my dad converted a spare bedroom into a bathroom. But I do remember using an outhouse for a time in my youth, and I'll never forget it. Kids growing up today have no idea what it was like back then, and that's a good thing.

Many things have changed for the better during my 45 years on earth, and I'm thankful that my granddaughter Olivia doesn't have to go outdoors to use an outhouse. But there are lots of things that have changed for the worse as well, and as a result Olivia and the other kids of her generation are unable to enjoy much of the innocence that should go along with being a kid - and that makes me very sad. Sometimes I think they would be better off using an outhouse if doing so meant they could also spend their childhood years just being kids.

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