Saturday, November 26, 2005

Edumacating The Fambly

As usual, Thanksgiving was a blast. My sister and her husband cooked an incredible meal and had the whole family over to their Central Maine home. We laughed a lot, ate a lot and generally had a great time. The holiday was complete with a mini-snowstorm which made the drive up a little hairy, but since I like snow (until March and April) it was all good in my book.

As usual, the dinner conversation was hilarious.

The hottest topic was the tale of my relative Leroy, who you met in a post about Chinese Toilets. He came all the way back from China for the holiday. The day before Thanksgiving, around 2 in the afternoon, he decided it would be fun for him to go into our hunting camp and try a little deer hunting. He bought a license, drove into the camp, chatted a bit, walked into the woods and shot an 8 point buck. Yes, exactly. He spent more time driving in on the camp road than he spent in the woods. No, even better, he spent more time in line at the store buying his hunting license than he spent in the woods. His method for luring 8 point bucks? Unwrapping a cigar, which is what he was doing when he looked up and saw the thing looking over at him.

Leroy's father summed it up at the table when he said "He's got a horse shoe up his ass."

Then the topic turned to the camp, which has a fresh new look because the forester who cuts wood in there has cleared out a lot of the trees around the camp. Leroy's father, who we'll call Bruce, explained that the loss of the trees is fine, except that it makes the outhouse very exposed. It used to be nestled in amongst the trees, now it stands all by its lonesome.

This of course led to a general conversation about outhouses.

There was the time that the hunting camp outhouse became the residence of choice for a huge porcupine. (I couldn't possibly do justice to that story).

My Sainted Mother was raised on a rural farm and didn't have indoor plumbing until she went to college. She told us that their family's outhouse was probably 60 yards from the house and that they all dreaded the walk out to it, especially in the cold of Maine winters. One day, her father came home with some lumber he'd picked up somewhere, and he proceded to build an outhouse closer to the house, right behind the garage they'd just built. The whole family was very excited. On her inaugural voyage to the new outhouse, however, she discovered that the new loo was crawling with ants. Apparently Grampa had gotten such a deal on the lumber he didn't mind the ants. The kids went back to using the old one.

As our family is all about higher education and asking the big questions, it naturally occurred to someone to ask "Why do they cut a moon in the door of an outhouse?" After some musing, Bruce said to me "You're a nerd, why don't you go look that up."

Ok, he might not have actually said that, but it was close enough.

Here's the answer, paraphrased from The Vanishing American Outhouse by Ronald S. Barlow:
Back in the the day in Europe, innkeepers had a men's outhouse and a women's outhouse. Because most people were illiterate, they had a symbol to designate which was which. The men's room had a masculine symbol, the sun, and women got a feminine symbol, the quarter moon. That tradition continued into America. When space dictated that there could be only one outhouse or when one of the outhouses fell apart, the innkeepers (and/or family) would keep the door that had the feminine symbol (the quarter moon) because the outhouse should be well-maintained for women to use, because men could just go under a tree. (and, if you're Leroy, probably shoot an 8 point buck while you're under that tree).

I should note that in the course of my research I discovered this tour of outhouses across America and around the world. Yes, apparently you really can find anything on the internet.

12 comments:

Ariella said...

A horseshoe up his ass?
That sounds uncomfortable.
But funny, awfully damn funny.

Pacific College Mom said...

Wow, that story about getting your buck brings back memories! You probably would have liked my dad, he was a character,too.
When I was a kid, we lived in a very rural area, and collecting dinner sometimes involved a lot of work, trudging through the wilderness to find the food. Well, my dad didn't like to work that hard. So he used to "poach" dinner (sorry for the pun) at the local fish hatchery or at the game preserve, etc. I didn't know this until I was older, of course. I jes remember the police coming to our house one Thanksgiving to join us for our feast of venison. Seems that one of the reindeer was missing from the Christmas display downtown...
People used to say that dad was a lucky shot, too. If they only knew!

PCM

Anonymous said...

Being from Maine, where outhouses are quite common, but have always been co-ed, I now know why they have a quarter moon. I like the idea of the sun sign which would allow for greater visibility from the throne (as well as better ventilation). In this day and age of gender equity, I would like to propose a new standard: that all outhouses in Maine be modified with the sun: one sign and unisex. The village idiot's brother-in-law will be asking a legislative member of the Camp Nuf lobby to sponsor a bill to require all outhouses in Maine to be appropriately modified. And this can be justified on the basis of our recently passed referendum qestion #1 that Maine will not discriminate.

3rdtimesacharm( 3T ) said...

I never knew that, about the quarter moon and sun on outhouses.
If I may? Outhouses suck horribly. They stink and are disgusting. I will hold it as long as possible, before stepping foot into one. (Or find a private bush to water.) ;-)

Glad you had a great Thanksgiving Village Idiot! :-)

3T

M-I-B-W-L-I-C said...

Just to clarify, the 'villiage idiot brother in law' posting above is not the brother of Mrs. Idiot -- a frequent poster on this beloved site. Rather, we should say "welcome" to one of the Idiot Sisters' husbands.

Having met many of the Sainted Mother's children and their spouses, I can assure all you concerned readers that this is can only improve an already fine blog.

Hence forth I shall refer to myself as : MIBWLIC -- Mrs. Idiot's Brother Who Lives in California. Please don't confuse me with with MIOBWLIO -- Mrs. Idiot's OTHER Brother Who Lives in OHIO. (And we hope to hear from him and eventually MIP - Mrs. Idiot's Parents)

OK?

There will bea quiz later.


MIBWLIC

Ariella said...

Good gawd, can we just moved to a number system?
"Now serving 314,
will brother-in-law 314 please move to front of the queue and comment amusingly, thank you."

M-I-B-W-L-I-C said...

Well, we could ID Mrs. Idiot's kin by their Area Code.

I'd be #805 and #310 having numbers in both.

MIBWLIC

The Village Idiot said...

wow, a fambly reunion.
How fitting that we're all meeting at a post about outhouses.

who brought the beer?

i forgot all those letters said...

ummm..... i thought it was supposed to be paddy whisky? damnit.

the 513 brother-in-law, or, in that other system, MIOBILWLIO, if i have that right.

p.s. i enjoyed lurking, but i guess if i had to show up, then meeting at the outhouse was the way to do it.

Wiccachicky said...

That's interesting - I didn't know that about the symbols but it makes sense. *storing it away for when I make it on Jeapordy*

Weary Hag said...

I suppose since I already have a real name and am not related, I would be considered (in your circle) TWHWIINWR or "The Weary Hag Who Is In No Way Related."

Hey thanks for the skinny on the outhouse symbols. I had no idea. Then again, I had no idea they were on there in the first place. Being a native of NYC, we didn't get much chance to use outhouses, although, having lived with a few people who seemingly had digestive disorders,(i.e. toilet stench), we darned well should have.

Once again, I'm having a blast visiting your blog.

lime said...

i never knew about the half moon. very interesting. i am weird enough to wonder about stuff like that and enjoy knowing the answer.