|Photo courtesy of Diane McHone Lloyd|
Charlie the Black Snake
Grandpa Burress taught us never ever to kill a black snake or any non-poisonous snake. He said they kept the mice population down and when you killed the non-poisonous snakes the poisonous ones would move in. He would threaten to whip us if we bothered any black or non-poisonous snake on the property.
Charlie lived in the corn crib. He was about 6 feet long and was very familiar to us seeing him on the property. He'd be on the side of a tree or hanging down over the path or on the path just about every day. I always thought he was pretty smart.
But Charlie got too familiar with us for his own good. So much so that when he saw someone going to the outhouse he would actually climb down the wall of the corn crib and race you to the outhouse. Then he would poke his head through a hole at the bottom of the wall and literally scare the crap out of you!! If there were screams coming from the outhouse, it was usually due to Charlie.
It got to be a game one summer to try to race the snake to the outhouse, do your business before he showed up. Sometimes he would be in there before you got there curled up on the bench and we would have to try to chase him off.
Grandma Burress tried to accommodate Grandpa's wishes until one day according to my Aunt, Little Betty Sue, Grandma had enough. Charlie coiled up to strike her and she went and got a hoe and chopped his head off. Grandma's reasoning was she was tired of fighting off a black snake every time she went to the bathroom. Grandpa didn't much like that she killed the snake, but it was grandma, and if grandma wasn't happy, no body was happy! I was glad Grandma did it because if it had been one of us, it would have been a strap to our backside!!
Outhouses were not just in the country but in town too. The towns in Appalachia were built before sewer systems. In 1978 I lived in Bluefield WV in a house built in the 1890s. As a matter of fact the whole block was built before the modern sewer system was put in. Most of the houses were connected to the system in this block except one.
Terrance's house could not be hooked to the system because the old house was built on solid rock. To blast through that rock would have possibly damaged the house. They could get water to him from the block above him but they couldn't pump the sewage up hill to reach the line and there was no way to blast through the rock to get a line to the lower block. So he had an outhouse that they would pump and haul once a month. As a matter of fact Terrance told me the boys that pumped his outhouse, (what we called the "honey wagon") said there were many such houses still in town in the 70's. Because of the makeup of the ground and where these houses were located in town just could not be hooked to a modern system.
But Terrance's outhouse was a popular feature in the wintertime. Every cold spell about January or February everyone's water in those old houses would freeze when the temps dropped below zero for an extended amount of time. It was like clock work every year, sometimes lasting a week or more. The plumbing including the commodes would not work. So Terrance would charge folks 25 cents a day to use his outhouse to cover the pump and haul charge for that month. I can tell you when modern systems don't work, you appreciate the good old fashion systems that do!!
Today, just about every house on that block is gone and I would say they will not build where Terrance's house stood ever again because of the solid rock on that hillside.
The Adventure's of the Atwell Boys
Appalachian Safari: A Virginia Mountain Man's tales about hunting, etc. One of my favorite Atwell family stories is one of their outhouse tales.
Outhouse's are cold places in the wintertime. Unless you were like my friend C.C. who ran electricity for a heater and a light to hers. Eddie and his brother had a habit of actually building a small fire on the floor in theirs in the wintertime out of the catalog pages when they were in the outhouse. They would then stamp the fire out before they left.
One morning, Ed and his brother were awakened by their father asking them, "Which one of you damn boy's burnt down the outhouse?" Seems their father went out to do his morning business and as he came around the wood pile, nothing was left of the outhouse but a smoldering hole. They had their work cut out for them that day building a new one.
In the early 80's, I had a friend that lived in Floyd County, VA in a 1930's home. It had gravity flow water and an outhouse. The land would not "perk" to put a septic system in and it's remote location meant no town sewer service so that also was out of the question.
I took another friend to visit who had never used an outhouse in her life. But this one was quite made up.
The outhouse is to the left of the house in this picture. The car is a 1974 Trans AM 455 automatic. Could not pass a gas station it didn't like but would fly. The one in the foreground is what we called the "Falchero" It was a Falcon that was made into a pick up truck and painted camo style. Great to go hunting and bar hopping in.
That's it for my outhouse stories for now.
I welcome any comments and stories you may have of your own outhouse tales.