Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thank You, Mr. Crapper!

Today is Thomas Crapper Day.
There's a lot of controversy concerning whether this man invented the toilet. Some sources say he promoted sanitary plumbing and had several patents on toilet designs, but that he was not the original inventor.
Let me just say this: Whoever created this wonderful, modern convenience, I thank you.
I thank you with all my heart because I've been without the luxury of a toilet on several occasions and it's never a fun or pretty situation.

I grew up with modern plumbing. I'm not so old that I had to use a "squat pot" or a bed pan when I was a child.

But, I did have a personal relationship with the outhouse at the church.

Down the hill and erupting from an ocean of weeds and briers, the old outhouse was not only our "ladies room", but it was also an escape from too much fire and brimstone and sweaty hand shakes. It was dark and damp and often wrapped with wisps of spider webs and tiny turds of unknown origin.
My sister Linda and I almost always used the "buddy system"- accompanying each other to the church toilet so that one could watch guard while the other did her business. Insects and rodents weren't the only culprits. There were lots of bad boys around who wouldn't fear the devil if they decided to peep in the little vent window.
I guess there just wasn't enough money in the church offering at the end of the day, because they couldn't afford toilet paper. Instead, there was a rusty coat hanger hung on a ten-penny nail- and flopped over it was a yellowed mail order catalog.
There were times that Linda and I read it while waiting.

(But we heard it was a modern step up from the previous dried corn cobs.)
To think back on this today- it literally gives me the creeps! We actually wiped with an ink infused catalog and thought it was the most natural thing in the world! All I can say is, God must have really led us to his place of worship, because if I had to use that outhouse at my church today, I'm afraid I might go the way of those bad boys.

The lack of a modern toilet also came into play during our "camping phase". A serious hobby gone crazy that my family went through a few years ago. What obsessed us to sleep on the ground in the woods and cook on a stick and crap in a nest of poison ivy, I'll never know!
At our favorite campsite, another crazy camper had attempted to make a more convenient toilet. Attached to the nearby trees was an old plastic shower curtain. Hidden behind it in semi-privacy was a nearly rotten wooden box with a hole in it.

It was certainly better than a squat or an acrobatic performance to keep the process as sanitary as possible.
I eventually talked my husband into building a new box from treated lumber and he actually topped the hole with a real toilet seat.
Ahhhh...much nicer. Until it began to be used by other campers who were not quite as appreciative or hygienically motivated.
Yet, this experience made us all the more grateful for our toilet at home.

Over ten years ago when we first bought our cabin in Missouri, the old outhouse was the only facility. Situated down the hill at the edge of the woods- and under a huge cottonwood tree- our toilet was well-built, fairly clean, and equipped with not only a real seat and toilet paper, but with a tiny mirror and reading material.
After awhile, I didn't mind it. If we hadn't visited for awhile, we took a handy stick and knocked down the spider webs and kept the toilet tissue in a coffee can, safe from the critters that happen to adore toilet paper nests.

The only time I wouldn't go down there by myself was at night, so my husband would hold my hand- and the flashlight. He become the loyal watch guard who kept lookout for possums and coons and slithery snakes that might take an interest in our activities.
Later we built an indoor bathroom and the outhouse was eventually pushed further down the hill and burned.
Sometimes I miss those cool summer nights with the stars shining and my husband standing guard. Of hearing the night open up with sweet sounds ...and the smell of honeysuckle... and the feeling that time had slowed somehow.
And those memories are moments we'll never get back...

A modern toilet seems like a common and simple thing. But we should give thanks to whomever blessed our lives with its wonder and convenience.
Here's to Thomas Crapper!


Dee said...

I know it sounds odd, but something about using an outhouse at night just brings one closer to a good way!

JackSamMum said...

What a great post to be introduced to your blog with! Outhouses were the norm as my mother grew up in war-ravaged Liverpool, England...thank goodness for plumbing today!

sisterlinda said...

I thank you Thomas Crapper as I make my way down the hallway and NOT out the back door in 20 degree weather! And those catalogs make nice reading material while sitting on my crapper!