The Outhouse

3 07 2008

Outhouse at the Turpen Ranch in Pine Haven, NM

Outhouse at the Turpen Ranch in Pine Haven, NM

You probably take your indoor plumbing for granted. I know this, because I used to be the same way.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not lamenting my current situation, because we DO have indoor plumbing here. We can still flush our toilet just like we could in Colorado. I think I just appreciate it a little more because the alternative is situated a mere 150 yards from the Straw Bale House.

Liesl tells me that when she was younger, the outhouse was the only bathroom out here. It’s not bad for an outhouse. Not fancy, by any means, but a few simple decorations inside make it comfy. It was one of the first things the kids explored when we got here. I guess they had never seen one before.

Ryan has a phobia of bathrooms in general, and I figured that an outhouse would be especially troublesome for her. It turns out she likes the idea of a toilet that never has to be flushed. Now that I think about it, the flush factor might be the actual problem. When she was first learning to use the toilet, she sat on one of those auto-sensor toilets in a fancy bathroom. It flushed itself while she was still seated, and I think we’re still seeing the effects of that traumatic experience today.

I myself don’t do public toilets in general, and I avoid outdoor toilets like the plague. I can count on one hand the number of times in my adult life that I have had to go so badly that I couldn’t wait until a more reasonable toilet could be found. Call me a sissy, but I want a toilet that’s clean, bug-free, and where I don’t have to view the deposits of the patrons before me.

Porta-potties are the worst. I would take an outhouse over a porta-potty any day of the week. Portable toilets are always filthy, and they’re specially designed in such a way as to ensure that even if you enter backwards with your pants already undone, you’ll still brush up against every sticky surface while inside.

My fear of outhouses has much less to do with cleanliness and everything to do with spiders. In Colorado, spiders and I got along just fine. On the rare occasion that I glimpsed a spider inside the house, I was the kind of guy who would take it outside rather than kill it. I have since become a certified Spider-Stomper because there are just so many and I’ve received more than my fair share of spider bites already. But that’s a different blog entry for a different day.

I am petrified of spiders in outhouses, especially because black widows love to nest in them. I thought that maybe this was just an urban legend, but numerous firsthand experiences related online have convinced me otherwise. In an online article posted by a doctor in the nearby town of Grants, NM, he confirmed that he treats a number of black widow bites every year, with most of them having occurred in outhouses.

Last weekend, Granny Turpen invited us to watch her favorite movie, The Milagro Beanfield War. It was a fun movie, set in New Mexico and filmed here, too. One of the characters, a wise, old man named Amarante, confirmed my outhouse fear when he warned a young Peace Corps volunteer, “Don’t leave your shoes on the floor over there because of the scorpions. And when you use the outhouse, don’t let your testicles swing up under the wood because of the black widows.” It was supposed to be a comedy, but that line fueled nightmares for the next two nights.

So every time I use the flush toilet here in the Straw Bale House, I now appreciate the toilet in a way that I never did before.

I guess I’m learning to appreciate — well, not really the finer things in life, but rather the things that I always took for granted, things like not getting a spider bite when I sit on the toilet.

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9 responses

4 07 2008
Janna

I was in Nicaragua a year ago visiting Sayda’s family, who if you remember live in a VERY poor community. There is very limited electricity, no running water, and then there are the latrines. Outhouses. That have been there for generations and are regularly used by every member of their very large family.

One night, I tried so hard to put out of my mind the fact that I had to go. I had not yet had to use the latrine in the dark and I was downright terrified. The path our there was not so well defined and I’d already been bitten by ants on the tops of my feet. My bladder was very stubborn though and demanded to be taken care of. I took a torch (large flashlight) and made the trek out there, opened the door, and watched a handful of enormous cockroaches skitter away from the light. Into the hole in the bench. Suddenly – my bladder agreed with me that we would wait until morning – and find a nice quiet place to squat.

Be gentle to the plumbing.

Rob says: You totally trumped me with a real-life story. If I had seen cockroaches going DOWN THE HOLE, I think I would have been traumatized for life.

4 07 2008
Emily S

Dave always checks even the regular flush toilets before he uses them because of the movie Arachnophobia. 🙂

Rob says: No freaking way, I do the EXACT SAME THING, and for exactly the same reason. It’s funny, because the spider didn’t even bite the guy while it was under the toilet seat lid. But somehow, having seen with my own eyes a spider under the toilet seat lid, I was sufficiently freaked out to the point that I ALWAYS lift the lid, regardless of the toilet, to check for spiders before I sit down. Tell Dave that he and I might be long-lost brothers after all.

4 07 2008
Mom2

Amen, Son! I’ll always take an outhouse over a port a potty anytime, anywhere!

4 07 2008
Mom2

It is scary to trek down there at night, which is why we started using the thunder mug, but that area doesn’t have cockroaches at least.

4 07 2008
Aunty Penn

Yo, Sissy. I prefer the outhouse. But I lift the lid. HelloOo. Of course, I don’t have to worry about…. I think you might be the funniest person I know, …..besides me. And have you met Katie? I used to be a spider rescuerererer, too. Not now. I live in a basement apartment and I ALWAYS check my shoes. I like ’em flat. Spiders, that is. Well, ok, my shoes, too. How can a guy with a gangsta photo be such a wuss? Sheesh. How come we’ve never actually MET? By the way, if you whack a spider with a Vibram sole, sometimes you just get legs, and then you would feel bad because it’s suffering. I know. But if it’s a black widow, who cares. They deserve it. Good blog.

Rob says: Your comment cracked me up! I can’t believe Liesl never told me that you’re funny. Of course, I figured with the way Gabe keeps everyone laughing he had to get it from someone, and now I know who it is. And now I’m all self-conscious of my “gangsta photo.” I’m a total dork, and yes, even a wuss when it comes to spiders. If that photo makes me look gangsta, then it’s a gross misrepresentation. 😉 I just have to tell you I have immediate respect for the comedic skills of a person who responds to a blog that reads, “Call me a sissy…” with “Yo, sissy!”

4 07 2008
Aunty Penn

I just reread what I wrote and think I should explain WHY I lift the lid–for the spider inspection, of course. Then I put it down. Why am I going on about this? Gotta get out to the fireworks. Great picture of the outhouse, btw.

Rob says: I followed it, I gotcha. I even caught the reference to the lack of dangling parts. 😉 It’s not just spiders under the lid that worry me. It’s the spiders hanging upside-down from the ceiling of the box that the lid sits upon, which could potentially crawl under the lid after it’s already been checked and I have been seated. At least with a regular toilet, I can lift the lid and see the whole depository area all at once.

5 07 2008
Mom2

She totally called you out! and look at her (Penn) using those modern abreviations…

6 07 2008
Kelly

LOL Wow I didn’t think anybody could write such a long blog about an outhouse. But of course Rob, the master, does it again! And very well, I might add. Big surprise, right? Anyway, yeah that’s really creepy. Makes me not want to come out to visit you guys 😛

Rob says: That’s one of my favorite things to do, trying to write something interesting or funny born of a completely pedestrian subject. Don’t let it scare you away from visiting, though. I promise to let you use the regular bathroom.

7 07 2008
Your favorite brother

Great story. Love the blog.

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