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.