Outhouse

As outhouses went, Mrs. Ritchie’s prized new one was a cut above.

So far, all of the recollections I have written down have been about life in the Deep River area. This one involves a short period in my childhood that I spent in Fallon, Nevada. This is one of those stories that we all have that is more fun in retrospect than it was at the time it was occurring.

I was about 10 or 11 years old. Our mother had tired of the job of motherhood once again and farmed my older sister, Mary, and I out to folks in Fallon. Mary, who was three years older, went to work as a housekeeper for a family whose name I don’t recall. I went to work for an octogenarian named Mrs. Ritchie. She had a rabbit farm and my job was to clean out the cages and feed her 500, or so, rabbits. She wasn’t what you’d call the grandmotherly type and there was no real bond of friendship between us. But, the deal was room and board and I liked to eat and sleep.

I had worked there for over a month when Mrs. Ritchie decided she needed to have her outhouse replaced. She hired out the job and took a lot of pride in the new outhouse. I don’t know what wood was used but, in thinking back on it, it seemed to me it was something like cedar. I have to admit; it looked neat and was a cut above most such buildings.

All went well for a couple of weeks but, like many boys that age, my aim wasn’t always spot on. You’d think from that distance a kid could hit a hole that size. Well, I missed and created a stain in the wood beside the hole. Knowing how much she prized that outhouse, I looked around for a way to cover up my mistake. I spied a coffee can of white powder sitting in the corner. The light bulb went on and I decided I could sprinkle some of that powder onto the stain and it would whiten it up enough where she wouldn’t notice.

What I didn’t figure into the equation was the fact the white powder was lime, a strong base compound. The next time Mrs. Ritchie used the outhouse I guess it worked its painful magic on her sensitive backside dissolving a good portion of hide. To her mind, I had sabotaged her and her beloved outhouse and there was no opportunity to change that point of view. She bagged up my clothes and threw them and me out of the house. My sister worked it out for me to stay where she was working for a time until I could get back up to my grandmother’s farm in Deep River.

While it was a little traumatic at the time, I get a satisfied chuckle when I think back on the whole deal.

Some years ago, Deep River resident and part-time Chinook Observer correspondent, Richard (Nick) Nikkila, began to write down his memories of growing up in Deep River during the 1950s and early 60s. Eventually, it became a booklet entitled, “A Collection of Recollections.” Nikkila donated the booklet to the Naselle Appelo Archives Center to print and sell in hopes of raising funds to support the center. Since then, it has been well received and copies can still be purchased from the center. This is another in a series of these recollections being reprinted in the Observer.

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