It had been raining for days on end. I was going out of my mind in my two-man tent. Everything was wet, my clothes, sleeping bag, blankets, pillows, everything. I needed to get inside for a couple of nights, but to drive into a town and check into a motel would definitely make me a sissy.
Bouncing around on the muddy, dirt roads in the woods was taking a toll on my truck. I had a half tank of gas and a five gallon can. I was probably good to go a long way, but even with the heater going in my truck, everything was cold and wet. I needed to find a cabin with a wood stove. There are places like that, so I set off into the woods to look.
“Oh, and it’s out back,” she said as if I’d know what she meant. I did. The cabin I had found had an outhouse outback, most did. But what I was interested in most was the wood stove. I thanked her and threw my bag of clothes on the bed. A real bed!
Before long I had the stove going and could feel the heat beginning to fill the small cabin. I set a chair (the only chair) next to the stove and propped my feet on the bed. I had about a six pack of beer and I cracked one.
The cabin was on a pond and I was told that it was surrounded by mountains, which I couldn’t see because of the fog. There was a hand pump at the sink for water and a well outside the front door. I could make my morning coffee right on the wood stove, which I planned to burn all night. There was plenty of wood stacked in the corner.
There was an oil lamp in the cabin for light and I had my head lamp. Before I cracked that second beer, I figured I have a better look around my cabin which was probably in the neighborhood of 15×15 feet. There was a small cabinet on the other side of the bed. Being curious and with nothing else to do, I figured I’d have a look inside. Edging up between the bed and the wall to get to the cabinet, I kicked something with my foot. It felt heavy so I bent down for a look. It was a faded off-white ceramic pot with a lid that was beginning to show some cracks. I lifted it up onto the bed to get a better look and see if there was anything inside.
But then I figured out what it was before I opened it, a chamber pot. Now I had never come across one of these before. I moved it off the bed and set it on the small cabinet. Returning to my chair by the wood stove I opened my second beer and proceeded to ponder the chamber pot.
Before indoor plumbing it was common to use a chamber pot, rather than go outside should nature call in the middle of the night. I stared at the pot. Was it clean? Had it every been used? When was the last time and by who? I hadn’t notice the time slipping away, but that second beer was gone. I walked over to my cooler and took out another. Returning to my chair by the stove, I again propped my feet on the bed and continued to ponder the chamber pot. It was still raining outside and getting dark.
There were no directions with this thing and the lady hadn’t mentioned it. What were you supposed to do with the contents once it had been used? Toss it out into the night? That didn’t make sense. I guess you saved it until morning and I suppose you could add to it if it was a particularly busy night. How did you wash it out, or did you? And what if you had company? How much would it hold?
I finished beer number three. Maybe it was all the beer or maybe it was thinking about the chamber pot, but I had to go.
I grabbed my headlamp, said no offense to the chamber pot and stepped out the door. I could hear loons on the pond. It was still raining, but I wasn’t too concerned about getting wet. I had a nice warm fire now.
I walked around the back of the cabin, but didn’t see the outhouse. One of the beauties of being in the woods is peeing in the woods, but I was curious. Where was the outhouse. I realized it wasn’t too smart to have waited until after dark to go looking for it. I had just assumed it was right behind the cabin.
With the headlamp I found a path. It looked to be the only one, so I followed it figuring somewhere along or at the end of the path I’d find the outhouse. Maybe 10-yards down the path I remembered toilet paper. I didn’t have any with me. That wasn’t why I was making this trip, but I made a mental note to put the paper in the outhouse if I ever found the damn thing. I just knew the next time, when I might need the TP I’d forget it.
Water dripped from the trees and the rocks and roots under foot were slippery. It was muddy, dark and beginning to cool off. I had taken off my boots, and like a fool left the cabin in my sandals. After all, the lady had said, just outback.
I figured I had to be 25-yards or more into this trip and scanning the dark woods with my headlamp, I still saw nothing like an outhouse.
Finally, I gave up and relieved myself in the woods. Still, I wanted to know where the outhouse was. What if I had to go in the night. I wasn’t using the chamber pot, I wasn’t sure what the proper chamber pot etiquette was.
This was turning into a hike. I was beginning to feel like I should have packed a lunch, when I saw something in the beam of the headlamp. There it was, red painted plywood off in the trees. I didn’t need to go now, but I had come so far I just had to have a look.
Rain water dripped off the tin outhouse roof onto me as I spun the wooden latch. I just don’t want things dripping on me when I’m walking into a strange outhouse in the middle of the woods in the dark. It was getting creepy. The place seemed wrapped in spider webs. I hate it when you get them on your face. Wiping off the spider webs, I opened the door and let the beam of my headlamp scan inside. Instantly I was hit by an overpowering smell – of lilacs. There was a vase of flowers on the bench inside – real flowers, mostly daisies. The lilac smell came from an air freshener. There were two TP dispensers, one a typical roller on the wall, the other a separate free-standing hand carved wooden box with a spool inside and a spare roll of paper in a small cabinet below. All together there were three new, unused rolls of paper. What luxury!
Next to the flowers was a stack of magazines. By now I was inside the outhouse looking around. There were current issues of Time, People, Audubon, Downeast and Northern Woodlands magazines. On the wall to the right was a framed topographical map of the area. I bent down to have a closer look. I found the pond and sure enough the lady was right, the pond was surrounded by mountains.
On the opposite wall were hanging pictures of birds, blue jays and chickadees and in the corner a broom and a bucket of fresh pine and cedar wood shavings with a scoop. All the way inside now, I closed the door. On the back of the door were framed verses from poems, that must mean something to someone. I suppose if you finish browsing through all the magazines while sitting there, you could always ponder some poetry.
I had to do it. Who can enter a place like this and not. I carefully lifted the lid prepared for the worst. It was actually quite pleasant, as these things go. Inside the toilet seat someone had hand-painted an attractive and colorful scene of loons on the pond, accurate right down to their red eyes.
I closed the lid and sat down. This place was pretty nice. I picked up a magazine and found myself staring at Jennifer Aniston. If she only knew the range of her popularity. I found myself wishing I had brought along a beer and maybe a snack.
It was still raining outside and I didn’t want to leave the wood stove alone for too long. If I burned the cabin down I might be sleeping in the outhouse. As nice as it was, it didn’t have a bed. There was a bottle of fresh-scented hand sanitizer next to the seat. I took some and headed back to the cabin.
After my trip out back to la petite maison, I knew there would be no reason to use the chamber pot. I wished I had a 10-foot pole as I slid it back under the bed and quickly washed my hands. Propped up in my chair next to the wood stove life was good. I had heat, a bed and one of the sweetest little spots in the woods.
The views and opinions in the Enterprise blogs are those of the author and are not neccessarily shared by Falmouth Publishing.