Uncle Oscar and Aunt Mary owned a small general store in a tiny Arkansas town back in the 1940s. On roasting-hot summer days, my cousin Margaret and I loved to walk from her house to the store—a block or two down a dusty road—to get nickel ice cream cones.
On one such day, when Margaret was 7 and I was 6, we were heading back home after polishing off our cones. As we ambled along, I happened to see a length of old black rubber hose. Margaret and I spent a few minutes talking to each other through the hose, which was great fun.
Suddenly, inspiration struck. We walked over to the side of Uncle Oscar’s store, where he had an outhouse for customers to use. After I slipped one end of the hose under a rotten board at the rear of the outhouse, Margaret and I retreated with the other end and hid behind the corner of the store.
Soon one of the men who generally held down the bench on the store’s front porch came to use the facility. He was a heavy man wearing a battered John Deere cap and dressed in well-worn overalls and dusty work shoes.
As he approached the outhouse door, he turned his head and expertly spat out a long amber stream of tobacco juice. Then he opened the door and went in. Waiting until just the right moment—and using the deepest voice I could muster—I spoke into the end of the hose, saying, “Ohhh! Help me! H-e-e-l-l-l-p me!”
After some thumping around, the door flew open and the man came stumbling out. He almost fell as he tried to pull his overalls over his knees, and his John Deere hat went flying. The trapdoor of his long johns hung open, too.
Margaret and I quickly slipped away and hid behind a big brick support column in a crawl space under the First Baptist Church. The dark, cool space was one of our favorite sanctuaries.
From the darkness, we watched as the man finished scrambling into his overalls, retrieved his cap from some bushes, straightened himself up and slowly walked back to the outhouse. He opened the door and peeked inside, then stepped back in for about 10 seconds. This time he took the precaution of holding the door wide open.
Finally he stepped outside again and walked around to the back of the outhouse. There he spotted our secret weapon and followed it around the corner of the store to the other end of the hose. After scanning the area for a while, he resignedly put his hands on his hips, then turned and headed back toward the front of the store.
We waited, careful not to emerge too soon, our hearts beating wildly the entire time. Then the Smith twins, Darrin and Darrel, passed by, heading for the store. With them providing cover, we snuck back to Margaret’s house, gleeful about the success of our inspired prank.
We never heard anyone say anything about the incident and had no
inclination to bring the subject up, either. And as far as we know,
Uncle Oscar’s outhouse seat never spoke again!
J. Allen Whitt • Albuquerque, New Mexico