So, last Thursday, I smoked hams and bacons. And as I was standing there, on one of my many trips to check on the fire and whether I needed to add more wood chips or not, it occurred to me that my smoker, more than slightly, resembles an outhouse.
Mostly in dimension. I built it to about 4 foot square, and aside from being not quite as tall as your standard, one hole outhouse, length and width are pretty much bang on. There's no half moon cut into the door, or bench seat inside, but it wouldn't take too much of a stretch in one's imagination, to see your father headed across the lawn, on a path worn down to the dirt, paper tucked under his arm on his way to take care of a little business.
When I was little, we had an outhouse.
No wait, I need to clarify that.
When I was little, we USED an outhouse. I was one of the last kids in grade 2 to get running water in our house, which also brought along with it, a flush toilet. And even after that, I can still remember my dad making his trips outside to that little wooden shed, with the hole worn smooth from countless asses, in favour of the porcelain wizardry he had installed inside the house for us.
Most of our neighbors had outhouses as well. I can remember that somebody had one that had side by side seats in the front row, and a second row with side by side seating, a step up and directly behind the the first. I suspect, they were a very close family. I mean, why else would you subject yourself to communal dumps?
The thing about outhouses is that in the winter, you have to be pretty hard core or have incredible pubococcygeal muscle tone. Because pinching a quick loaf in the middle of the night meant 4 layers of clothing, winter boots, and a flashlight, to make the trip. A lot of people got around this by having slop pail.
Basically, a slop pail was a 5 gallon bucket you could shit in, when you didn't really want to go outside to relieve yourself. Sometimes these 5 gallon pails were disguised as modern plumbing by being able to slip your bucket into an outer bucket, that had a toilet seat fastened to it. I can remember friends of my parents had this slop pail disguise affair and having to use it on occasion while visiting them. It freaked me out, having to use the thing, as it was usually kept it hidden way down in their basement tucked in behind the furnace. Which is creepy as hell for a kid when you're 6 or 7 years old. But......at least it was warm.
The bad thing about using a slop pail is that they filled rather quickly and would have to be emptied on a regular basis. Fortunately, I was too little to do this job in our house before we got indoor plumbing. But not so little, that sometimes even now, when I pack a full pail of water to a cow in a pen or something, and it splashes out against my leg when I step wrongly, I'm glad it isn't a bucket of fermenting shit stew.
Eventually, my dad stopped using our outhouse. I think it's pretty hard to ignore modern conveniences. Especially when you can eliminate cold late night trips and slop pail duty in one fell swoop. Sometimes when we're camping I'll still use the outhouse in the campground out of nostalgia, even though we have a crapper in our trailer. Or maybe, if we still had that outhouse on the farm, I might visit it now and then, but it's long since gone. In fact, it didn't even finish out it's life as an outhouse. After sitting vacant for a number of years, it got a new lease on life,
...............when my dad made a few renovations and it became his outhouse that only slightly resembled a smoker.