Grandma Miner’s House
My grandmother Miner’s home was a huge old farmhouse with four bedrooms upstairs, an attic, a full basement, a large kitchen, dining room, sitting room, and a T. V, room. The attic held cast off clothing and the school work of her eight children. A concrete porch ran the whole front of the house and a wooden porch the entire length of the back. Kids like to play on the front porch, but the back porch often impaled bare feet on dark slivers of wood. I avoided it like the plague.
If I chose to walk on the back porch, I could shorten the walk to the outhouse, but I had to face the torture of dagger-like splinters. Only in the direst of digestive emergencies or to avoid being drowned in a deluge of rain would I voluntarily traverse the dangers of that shrapnel laden minefield.
Although the unpainted wood of the outhouse had weathered on the exterior of the privy, it was special, having two holes. When Granddad built it he made the seat wide, cutting one larger hole for adults and a smaller one for kids. He didn’t want to lose a child into the putrid pit below.
Grandma didn’t buy nor believe in the luxury of toilet paper for the outhouse. Oh, no, old outdated catalogues filled the purpose. The whole way to the toilet, I would pray that there were still some dull pages left. No one wanted the shiny ones. Those pages made sharp, hard edges when crinkled for use and if they weren’t crinkled, the smooth slick, surface was little more than useless. The dull surfaced pages would soften when they were balled up and smoothed out and became tolerable, if not comfortable.
In the winter, I would put off the trip to the john until my eyes and my bladder bulged or I was about to lose control on the puckering string. I could cross the back porch. My winter boots kept my feet safe from the splinters, but no I had to face the danger of descending a full dozen of snow and ice-covered, concrete stairs. Quite a few cousins chipped a tooth, cut a lip, or earned a goose egg on their scalp in a headlong rush down those stairs. There was only a raised block lip to the steps, but no railing to hang onto or steady anyone in their trip through no man’s land.
Bravery got me to the toilet. I had to remove the lid for the hole. Frigid winter winds blasted through the wind tunnel that I had just created. It took real courage for me to unfasten my pants, push them down into a crumpled heap around my ankles, then tentatively place my unwilling bare flesh as a partial stopper for the wailing gusts of the storm.
The board seat was frigid. I was glad that it was wood and not metal or I would have been frozen to the seat, stuck until the spring thaw. The wind always found a way to squeeze through the hole between the cold seat and my warm flesh. It discovered a way to slip its icy fingers beneath my coat and caress my chest and back. Goosebumps appeared on top of goose bumps and I would start to shiver. I knew I needed to finish before my teeth began to chatter and send out distress signals in Morse code.
I leafed through the diminished catalogue pages, searching for the cherished dull paper. I was at a point of panic, thinking of the torture of the shiny page. Frantically, desperately, I flipped the leaves of advertisement, passing over the tantalizing panty and brassiere. Pictures, that on a normal day would cause boys to linger, were cast aside in the search for just one dull sheet of paper.
Aha, I was saved; one lone, dull page. It was in the catalogue’s index directing the inquisitive mind to where men’s shoes, suits, and ties could be found. A hasty tearing, the quick crush, and the smoothing of the paper was the prelude to the actual swipe of the derriere.
The return of the pants to the point they could be cinched around my waist was welcome warmth. I was hoping that the return trip to the warmth of Grandma’s house would be uneventful as I jogged up the Everest of the back porch steps.