The Thunker

by Sarah Holdt

Sarah is off this week, special guest writer is Kenneth Jessen, author of Out the Back, Down the Path: Colorado Outhouses. My introduction to the outhouse was at a yearly, month-long family reunion at my grandparents' home-a house that was elegant and reminiscent of the antebellum style of gracious Civil War mansions. Although it did have modern amenities such as refrigeration (a springhouse where subterranean water circulated to keep things cool) and a bathroom (a spacious room containing nothing but a galvanized tub requiring a bucket brigade to fill it with water heated on a coal-fired stove), the awful truth was that the house lacked indoor plumbing. An outhouse served as toilet facilities-a small, frame building with vents at the top and a single door that could be latched from the inside. The interior was simple-a single bench with a hole that approximated the dimensions of a toilet seat. There was reading material, toilet paper and a bucket of lye. The lye was used as a dry flush to cover a recent deposit and thus ward off the flies that tend to congregate near such structures. The bench in my grandparent's outhouse was embellished with two holes of different sizes designed to fit individuals of different calibers. One was smaller for a child and the other for an adult-a type of flexibility not possible with modern plumbing. My grandparents' outhouse was painted the traditional white so it would be visible at night, essential in this case with its remote location behind a barn and hidden by a trellis. Most outhouses are made of wood for practical reasons-one being ease of mobility. Periodically, they had to be skidded to a new location when the pit became full. As the outhouse was skidded from its old location, there was a brief period of time when it was out of commission. A rapid relocation of the privy was critical. A new pit was dug quickly, the dirt was shoveled into the old pit, and then the structure was speedily transported and placed over the new pit. Grandmother was a pioneer in the "green movement" and after several months had passed, she grew potatoes in the well-fertilized dirt of the old pit. It was a form of recycling. We always enjoyed fresh potatoes at every meal, and the adults kept it a deep, dark secret as to where the agriculture took place. At some point in time, the children got wind of this, and we lost our appetite for these tubers. As I was researching outhouses I ran across several unique outhouses such as one in a remote area near Salida wedged between two large boulders, its door padlocked, presumably to keep out uninvited depositors. I was flush with ex- The most elaborate outhouse in Colorado sits behind the Hamill House in Georgetown. It has two compartments, each with three holes. One side was for servants and the other for family members. This elaborate six-shooter is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. citement when I learned of a two-story outhouse in Crested Butte. Careful inspection revealed that there isn't any danger to a person using the lower level since the drop zones are offset. At the Theresa Mine near Goldfield, an outhouse is perched on planks over an abandoned mineshaft used only by the courageous-or the desperate in urgent situations. Jackson County has held outhouse tours to raise money for the Walden Public Library, and Leadville held outhouse races during its Boom Days. You may let The Thunker know what you think at her e-mail address, donoholdt@gmail.com.

Meeting For Spur 66 Area Residents And Business Owners Regarding Fire Preparedness

Residents and business owners on Spur 66 are encouraged to attend a special meeting on fire preparedness on Monday, September 24 th at the Estes Valley Library in the Hondius Room at 7:00 p.m. At this second meeting there will be input from Erik Nilsson, Larimer County Emergency Manager, and Scott Dorman, Estes Park Fire Chief. It is imperative that all resident and business owners on Spur 66 are in attendance. This is your safety we are trying to address and we need your participation. Please join us and make sure your neighbors are aware and planning to attend. Feel free to write a letter of concern to leave with Erik after the meeting or if you are unable to attend, call Donna at (970) 586- 3864 for pickup or you may drop it off at Idlewilde on the River. Organizers note; this is not a community meeting, it is only intented for those who live or own a business in the Spur 66 area.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Page 9

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