Moffat County resident Kenneth Osborn remembers a night when a group of ranchers building an outhouse at a cow camp forgot to bring hinges. Part practical and part prank, the ranchers cut out the soles of a pair of work boots to use for hinges - and then left the boots where they found them next to the outhouse for the owner to discover the missing soles. This drawing shows how the boot soles were once used as hinges on an outhouse.

Duane Osborn/courtesy

Moffat County resident Kenneth Osborn remembers a night when a group of ranchers building an outhouse at a cow camp forgot to bring hinges. Part practical and part prank, the ranchers cut out the soles of a pair of work boots to use for hinges - and then left the boots where they found them next to the outhouse for the owner to discover the missing soles. This drawing shows how the boot soles were once used as hinges on an outhouse.

Tales from the outhouse

Local folks remember pranks, critters and cold nights involved in a trip to outdoor privies

— Ask older residents about their memories of "outhouses," and the first thing they recall is tipping the buildings over on Halloween. The memories come from their younger days, when tipping the privies was a common prank.

Some people remember getting a little too far forward when tipping one of the outhouses over, and you can guess the rest.

There are also stories about moving outhouses sideways instead of backward. Imagine the fate of the poor unsuspecting person who made a visit to the outhouse in the dark and made a misstep.

Outhouses were usually located a short distance from the main house. At this author's childhood home, a person had to cross a narrow plank over an irrigation ditch to get to the privy. Crossing it was a little tricky, especially in the dark, when a person had to carry a flashlight and, in winter, sometimes a blanket (to keep cold legs warm while in the outhouse).

Visiting the outhouse after dark was a little scary, but having to visit it on a dark, cold and sometimes snowy night was just awful.

Marjorie Forbes, of Morapos, said she remembers how her mama walked with her to the outhouse at night.

"Mama shivered and shivered," she said.

Forbes added that she learned to go to the outhouse before it got cold and dark.

How good it felt to crawl back into a nice warm bed when returning from the outhouse, though. Heaven forbid having a stomachache, which required several visits to the privy. Then it was hard to get warm again.

And there are other common outhouse memories, too, such as being chased back and forth to the privy by a mean rooster.

Snakes liked outhouses, too. Imagine sitting in one and noticing a big snake crawling along in front of the door (all visible through a crack). Even worse are reports of snakes found curled up inside the buildings.

Forbes remembered when her sister moved to a ranch in the Meeker area that had lots of rattlesnakes.

One day, her sister's 3-year-old daughter went to the outhouse. Pretty soon, Forbes' sister heard the little girl scream and scream. Visions of rattlesnakes in her head, she ran to the outhouse and jerked the door open.

"In one corner sat her daughter," Forbes said. "In the other corner was a tiny baby cottontail rabbit."

Kenneth Osborn told an amusing story about an incident involving an outhouse at cow camp on the national forest.

It was back when the Morapos area ranchers had cattle permits to graze cattle on the national forest. The men often stayed in the cow camp cabin while riding, so they had to build an outhouse.

So, one day several ranchers took supplies to do the building where they would stay overnight. Osborn recalled that they had all the building materials they needed - except hinges.

Way up in the mountains, there was no way to get hinges, so the next best thing was to cut them from something. Two of the men were in charge of finding a substitute material That's when they noticed the pair of overshoes standing next to the door.

The sturdy pair of overshoes belonged to Osborn's brother, a rather serious-minded man. He kept the boots there, where they would be handy when he had to go outside at night. That way he didn't have to walk barefoot on the cold ground. He let the other men use the boots, too.

The two men studied the boots and decided they were just what was needed to make hinges. So they cut out the soles and used them to hang the outhouse door. They didn't say anything to the others and put the overshoes back in their usual place beside the door.

That night, Osborn's brother got up to use the new outhouse. What a surprise when he stuck his feet inside the boots and felt the floor. Osborn reported that giggles were heard coming from should-be sleepers.

Next Week: More outhouse stories

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