Outhouse Odyssey

by Elizabeth Bridgers

coffee table 1.jpg


I’ve always had a penchant for conversation pieces in my house, so when my Aunt Sandra downsized, I was delighted to get my hands on her coffee table.  Truth be told, I really want my mother’s coffee table which is made from the bed of a tobacco truck but my brother, who’s actually worked in tobacco fields called that long ago. Not to worry, I will inherit her petticoat table.

When the family homestead was being torn down to make way for progress, aka concrete, Sandra asked for the outhouse. I know. It’s weird.  And no, she didn’t need an outbuilding. In fact, she only took the outhouse seat and left the building structure. Apparently, in the world of outhouses, my family built a mighty majestic throne room. We’ve always been a little uppity. No little one-seater shack for us. The outhouse was a bench seat with a row of three holes in different shapes and sizes. I can only assume one is for women, one for men, and one for children. (I can only recall seeing bench seating outhouses one time – remember that desperate child standing in crap in the row latrines in Schindler’s List?) Ugh.

Why the family needed more than one “necessary” space is easy to understand.  I have four bathrooms and sometimes that doesn’t seem like enough. But I do struggle to imagine the circumstances under which someone would choose to use one seat if another was occupied. There doesn’t appear to have been any walls or barriers between the seats. Perhaps if a really spicy meal had been served, multiple people would have danced the green-apple-quick-step to the outhouse but other than a rampant intestinal bug, why would you join someone on the toilet?

I’ll never know. But I will say that when the seat was cleaned up and red-oak stained, it was easy to add four legs and throw plate glass over the top. Voila – a coffee table southern style.