Archived Story

Baseball, outhouses and nature

Published 9:12am Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Column: Tales from Exit 22

My neighbor Crandall once accidentally dropped his jacket into a hole in our outhouse. He borrowed a hoe.

“You’re not going to get your jacket out and wear it, are you?” I asked, disgusted at the thought.

“Of course not,” replied Crandall, “I’m hungry and there is a baloney sandwich in the pocket.”

Things like that happened when your bathroom wasn’t allowed in the house. You got used to such things. Making a walk to the biffy was good exercise.

A proper outhouse needed to be sliver-free and have a door that would swing in. The lack of slivers made for comfortable sitting and the correctly arranged door gave the user full control over the entrance and exit. Honeysuckles were planted around the privy for their pleasant fragrance.

Today, we have radios, magazines and books in our indoor bathrooms. Some bathrooms have TVs. We take smartphones, laptops and tablets in with us.

All those things are swell.

But in those bygone days, we had live entertainment. Spiders and wasps called the outhouse home. Flies were frequent visitors. This allowed a backhouse tourist to commune with nature. Several chickens fell into a hole. One memorable day, a skunk crawled into one of the holes in the outhouse. Good times.

On another day, neighborhood boys were over and we were playing baseball in the pasture. For us kids, pasture baseball was like an exceptional recess. We had a few dried cowpies for bases and a herd of cattle for adoring fans. We had an old baseball that had been battered oblong and a couple of bats with nails in the heavily taped handles. When we hit a ball, the bats presented us with what we called “bumblebees” in our hands. It stung even if the ball had become mushy with use. We had no uniforms or spikes. We had little Dougie. Dougie was at that awkward age — too small to play baseball and too small to be left alone. He was just big enough to be a pain to his older brothers and to the rest of us playing baseball. He always needed something. And if he didn’t need something, he wanted something. He was both needy and wanty.

We were playing baseball — a game that requires great concentration. It was a tight game, giving each pitch great importance. Dougie didn’t grasp the importance.

“I have to go to the bathroom,” he whined.

What about our needs?

We told him that he knew where the outhouse was. We watched as he sniffled about the unfairness of it all as he cleared the pasture on his way past the barn. He needed to go by the house to find the privy. We paid no attention to his wanderings, as we had baseball to play. The game went into extra innings, but was called due to thirst. The score was 19 to 19 with the bases loaded and two outs, but there was red nectar to drink. On a hot day, the only thing that came close to the joy of playing baseball was drinking red nectar.

We heard the voice as we neared the house. It was a muffled “help” that sounded as if it were coming from a long distance. As we listened, we could tell that the cry was coming from the outhouse. We forgot about the red nectar. We walked towards the little shanty. We could tell by then that the voice was Dougie’s. We had forgotten all about him and we were not pleased to hear that his cries appeared to be coming from below ground level. We opened the door to find that our fears were justified. Little Dougie had fallen into a hole.

“Get me out!” he cried, loud enough that the spiders fled for safety.

I didn’t want to. I wasn’t that crazy about Dougie in his normal state. Dougie in his present condition was too much.

“You get him out. It’s your outhouse,” one of Dougie’s brothers said.

“He’s not my brother,” I countered.

We knew we were going to get yelled at. We were kids. We were used to being yelled at for no reason. But we knew that leaving Dougie in the hole would be wrong.

We thought about making an anonymous call to his mother describing Dougie’s problem.

We decided to draw straws to see who would pull Dougie from his predicament. Whoever drew the short straw would draw Dougie from his disgusting dungeon.

I know that we are supposed to help others.

But Dougie owes me big time.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.