Friday Diary on a Saturday: Canines, cotton barns, porches and–have you ever seen one of these?

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Friday was another beautiful if chilly day here in Lower Alabama. Our guests were still with us, as you can see.  They seem quite at home.

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Puppy continued to share those looks. Geez, they don’t call them “puppy dog eyes” for nothing, do they? Time for our walkies, boys (and girl)!

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The new grass, kelly green, that has sprouted in the recent rains, heralds the coming spring. That old barn, once used to store cotton from my grandfather’s vast fields, later to store wood shavings for the family’s poultry houses, is now a sort of large-scale dog house for the family canines. Weather-proof, it shields from rain and wind and provides a cozy bed courtesy of those same shavings.  Puppy just had to explore!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the brick front porch of the old farmhouse, which will be 75 years old in 2014. The house was built in the late 30s following a fire that destroyed the rambling two-story Victorian in which my daddy’s large family had grown up.  The fire (of mysterious origins. Arson was suspected but never proven) also took one of several barns and a shed with vehicles. My dad was in his teens when all this happened. A fear of fire never left him.

Even though the family was downsizing (most of the ten living children now adults and on their own) my grandfather still took the blueprints for the new house and had all the rooms enlarged and extra closets added–the Victorian house possessing a distinct lack of said conveniences.  And while the new farmhouse lacked the elegant wrap-around veranda of its predecessor, it did have three porches, one of them accessible from two of the house’s bedrooms (including my own).

Later, my father built a rather rustic wooden back porch. What it lacked in eye candy appeal,  it made up for in convenience. It was a perfect place for shelling peas and beans from the garden, dressing chickens from the poultry houses, and enjoying homemade ice cream and salted slices of watermelons plucked from the big deep freeze.

When my mother was still alive, our dogs used to enjoy commuting between the two houses, spending some time lounging on the cool bricks of the front porch on hot summer days.  My parents had a small ceiling fan installed years earlier to make it more comfortable for humans and canines alike.

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Rascal (he of the soulful cinnamon brown eyes) still enjoys stretching out on the farmhouse’s brick porch.

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I used to stretch out on this very–pillar?–what do you call the porch portions flanking the steps?–as a girl on summer Saturdays.  Armed with a Popeye fruit-flavored frozen treat and a good book, I would let the sun dry my freshly shampooed waist-length tresses.  My lips turned some peculiar shades of orange or purple as I lost myself in an engaging story . . .

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Elvis–who ain’t nothing but a hound dog. Well, one-quarter bloodhound and who knows what else! 😉

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As I said, it was another beautiful day!

But here’s the thing I am wondering if you’ve ever seen before . . .

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Yep, a genuine outhouse. This is located behind the chicken coop, the one where my grandmother once collected eggs ( I have her basket atop my kitchen cabinets). The coop is now the storage shed for the riding lawnmower.

I have no idea how far back this outhouse dates, but judging by the concrete pad for it and the toilet itself, it’s a more upscale 20th century form of privy.  The chicken coop is adjacent to what is known as the cook’s house or little house, so I am guessing it was built in the 2os or 30s when that house was constructed (a bathroom was added to a side porch at some point).

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For a short time after their marriage, my parents lived in the little house, which is built shotgun style, each room backing onto another. If you shot a gun through the front door, it would go straight through into the back door (or wall, in this case).  Meanwhile, back to the privy!

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The seat bears a plate stating it’s “odorless” and was manufactured in Andalusia, Ala. I didn’t lift the seat to test things out.

And yes, the farmhouse where I grew up had indoor plumbing, although my mom always wished for a second bathroom, what with three girls and periodic guests. 😉

Oh, Mama and her son are ready to move on!

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About fedoralady

I'm an LA native--Lower Alabama, that is. My husband of more than 30 years and I live here on a portion of my family's former farm with two gorgeous calicos and a handsome GSD mix. My background is art education, and over the years I've been a teacher, department store photographer, sales associate and a journalist. My husband, his business partner and I have Pecan Ridge Productions, a video production company, for which I shoot & edit video and stills and manage marketing. I also still write part-time for the local paper. I love movies, music, art, photography and books, and my tastes in all of them are eclectic.

20 responses »

  1. My parents both grew up in farmhouses that had outhouses for “everyday” and a single inside toilet for nighttimes and especially bad weather. I’m not sure exactly why they were supposed to use the inside toilets only in special cases, but in any case my maternal grandparents moved and stopped farming when they retired, and my other grandparents had a bathroom refit in the early 1970s (I still remember it) and from then on the outhouse was no longer in use. But I’m pretty sure it’s still there. I mean, what do you do with it?

  2. What do you do? I suspect that old unit is probably worth something to someone. That’s interesting that they were on supposed to use the indoor toilets for special cases.

    I don’t know if there was a bathroom added to the old Victorian but I am sure they had an outhouse anyway. Even though they were quite spread out in ages (a generation between my dad and his oldest siblings) imagine how awkward that was at times. Now I live in house with two people and three bathrooms.

    Even in the 1950s, our church (which then held services in a two-story wood-frame building with a Masonic/Eastern Star Lodge upstairs) had outhouses across on the other side of the cemetery. My mother recalled taking my older sisters to them when they were small. Must have been a bit spooky on a Sunday night after dark!

    Oddly, when they built the new church in the early 6os, they built bathrooms–but in a separate structure! (bathrooms has since been added inside).

    My maternal grandparents’ house in Tennessee did not have indoor plumbing. I remember having to pump the water in the kitchen. We would take juice glasses with water and our toothbrushes loaded with paste out on the back porch to brush and spit.

    I remember visiting during cold weather and dreading having to bare my bottom to use the outhouse. It had two holes–a small one for kids and a big one for adults. This was in the mid-1960s.

    I find social history fascinating. 😉

  3. I have a feeling that indoor lavatories were considered unhygienic and therefore only to be used in dire emergencies. My grandparents had one loo which must have originally been outdoors but was then attached by means of a wooden lean to. It must have seemed like luxury when it was first built but I remember getting up on cold nights and having to trail downstairs, through the kitchen, and out through the outhouse to the freezing bathroom. Chamber pots were supplied under the beds but I wouldn’t use them!

    Our current house, built in the 1930’s had an upstairs bathroom and downstairs powder room and a bathroom off the laundry labelled on the plans as ‘maids bathroom’. I wonder whether your outhouse loo was designed so the workers didn’t need to come into the house?

    Great dog photo’s btw- that one of Rascal is just gorgeous.

    • You are probably right about that, that the outhouse was for the servants/workers, of whom there were many. My grandfather also owned a company store that used to be across the road from the house–I remember it standing when I was a child. Workers could come in and buy groceries and necessary household items on credit until they got paid. Grandfather co-owned a cotton gin and had a lumber mill on the property (where my dad almost lost an arm and did lose two fingers when he was 15, I believe).

      I suspect when Peaches (the cook) lived in the little house there was no indoor plumbing, just as there wouldn’t have been in the many workers’ houses that dotted the area surrounding my grandfather’s farm. The little house’s bathroom was likely added when it was used as temporary housing for the family while the new “big house” was being built.

      Glad you liked the dog photos. I thought that was just a perfect photo of my sweet Rascal. He really does have soulful eyes, doesn’t he? I hope they all stay snug tonight in the cotton barn. It’s gonna be a cold one.

  4. LOVED this post Angie, so interesting to hear about the history of your family. And fascinating to see the old loo! One thing I find difficult living in Australia is the lack of history. I think that’s why I enjoyed my time living in England while I did my history degree, being able to see these things and absorb yourself in them adds such a personal level to it all.

    • Thanks, Becky, I am glad you enjoyed it. It was so cold and damp and windy today I didn’t make it out for further exploration. 😉 I need Benny to bring home the scanner so I can scan in some of the old family photos and you all could see the house Daddy grew up in, etc. I think you all would enjoy those, too.

      I remember how amazing it was for me to visit England and see all these places and things I had learned about in school and through my own reading. The Rosetta Stone. The chair in which so many British kings had sat for their coronations. Canterbury, where Thomas A Becket was slain . . . all fascinating and exciting for me.

      • would love to see more photos – it looks just like I imagined it would in Alabama – you know when you get a picture in your head after reading countless books. I also looooove the name of your place – Pecan Ridge. sounds amazing

        • It was the gentleman who bought much of the land who chose the name “Pecan Ridge” for his guided quail hunts. We really did like it. Sadly, he died suddenly (and while he was out here working on his garden) but the sign still stands. I will be taking more photos in the future. I need to strike out in the car to get some more of the surrounding countryside. I wish some of the old structures like the barn were still here. *sigh*

  5. Great photos! Living in the rural U.S. has a lot to be said for it, and your descriptions certainly call up memories of visiting farms when I was a child. One farm where my grandmother’s friends lived had a family farmhouse, a barn, a workshop, the family garden and orchard, and through a fence, a huge commercial walnut orchard. There were a couple of outhouses on the walnut orchard side, to be used when the harvest work was being done. I had to laugh when one friend thought that the Sears-Roebuck catalogue was in there to be read! Now, the land is all paved over and built up, in the heart of Silicon Valley.

    • I feel it was a good place to grow up, to have roots (back in the early 2000s my hometown was named “Best Small Town in America” actually). It’s changed around here, too, albeit not as drastically as Silicon Valley. The big barn I remember playing in as a child was toppled by Hurricane Opal a while back. One of the three poultry houses was torn down and the other two are rapidly turning into tumble-down messes. The big garden where we grew so many vegetables is grown over. And the trees in the pecan orchard long ago succumbed to a blight (we still have a few that produce).
      My dad’s old shop–another spot where I liked to play–took a blow during Opal when a tree fell and damaged it. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel sad. But time marches on.

  6. What a beautiful post Angie and I certainly would enjoy your old family photos ! I don’t know why but I have a soft spot for your Rascal. His puppy eyes perhaps ?

  7. What a lovely tale you’ve had to tell. I love the pooches, every one. And yes, Mama Dawg does look like my Kai quite a bit.

    As for the outhouse, that cracked me up. There are lots of them here in Maine, especially in more remote areas. My grandparents had one at their camp – very scary, especially at night.

    Thank you for sharing, my dear.

    • You are welcome. I actually once had an RA fan/fellow blogger who, upon discovering we lived on a dirt road, asked me if we had indoor plumbing. At first I thought she was teasing. And then I realized she was serious. ?!!?

      Well, after that I decided not to take for granted that anyone would assume a middle-class rural Alabamian in the 21st century would have one of them fancy bathroom thangs indoors. 😉 We do have hunting camps and clubs here, too–nearby Wilcox County is a huge haven for hunters from other parts of the country–so I suppose they are not uncommon here, either. But for some of the big city folks who read my blog I thought it might be something of a novelty. 😉

      I think they are a handsome horde of hounds, too. 😀 When I saw your Kai’s face in one of your photos, it really reminded me of MD.

      • Oh, my. People do have interesting ideas about rural life. I tease a lot about living in the woods, but I do roll the rock away from the cave door occasionally and look out. 😀

        As for MD, I showed her picture to my sister, who finally said, “Oh, she looks like Kai.” Which was exactly what I have been telling everyone. And that lad of hers looks like he is going to be sweet trouble.

        I applaud you for opening your home to those creatures in need. I pray for the day when all those wee spirits find a warm and welcoming hearth.

        • Well, she was from New York City, so–her ideas might be a bit skewed. 😉 Also people in other parts of the country have a very stereotyped view of Alabama. We are all married to close relatives, we have no shoes, spent a lot of time in swamps, etc. etc. We really aren’t quite that bad . . . 😉

          We have to come up with names for MD and PD. I was holding Puppy today and he’s almost getting too big for me to hold! He’s been growing during their time here.
          And thanks. 😀 I heartily agree with your sentiments.

          • Are you taking suggestions for names? I had a friend from the South when I was little, and her name was Carollee. Mama Dawg looks pretty and sweet, like my friend was. For Puppy Dawg, is there a family name you like?

            (I think I told you that Lucky escaped being called Crispin. At least he doesn’ t think his name is “No, no, bad cat.” I wonder if mothers in Leicester do as mothers in the U.S. sometimes do and yell their children’s full names followed by something like “You come here this instant!”)

          • I noticed how much puppy has grown in the latest shots- clearly a good diet is really helping him. Well done on making the little chaps life so much better.

            • Yes, he’s getting quite coltishly leggy, that one. And when I picked him up last night he was heavy! Such a sweetheart. How can we not try our best to look out for him and his mama?

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