Steve's Yarns-- All those years growing up and living in Oklahoma, California, Arizona, Texas, and Africa..... Ain't done growing up 'til I get over on the other side :-)

Steve Van Nattan







Violating journalistic rules, we look at unlikely stories about Elimination in Africa and my World



The photo is of a Roman toilet from the days of Caesar.
It would seem that elimination then was a lot more social than now.

The title is a take off on an old American folk song.




It is considered neither essential nor proper to deal with elimination issues when telling stories of war, exploration, or survival. Really, what do we know about the loo protocols in any of the stories of the great wars of history? Not much.

And, those early explorers of Africa, and the trappers and miners who opened up the Canadian North and the Yukon, not a word on their toilet provisions.

Did not a group of Congo Africans gather around Henry Mortimer Stanley during his trek into Africa to find David Livingston? Did they not marvel, "Kumbe, see now that his skin may be white, but he poops the same color we do." This alone won their hearts to believe he was one with them. That is the story in Stanley's book that he did NOT tell, and I have given it to you now by stretching the blanket a bit.

I have read many missionary biographies and exploration accounts, and I have always wondered how these brave souls dealt with elimination in the Africa jungle, or in India in the 1800s with a thousand curious chuklie wallahs watching.

So, I shall cautiously try to relate some of the strange and terrifying experiences I have had in the art of elimination in Africa and other back country places. Nothing will be left out, er, in.

Is this disgusting? Absolutely.

Is this a bit off color? Actually, in the story of elimination, the more dirt, the better we cover it.

Is this offensive? Of course, and I am willing to bet pie and coffee at the Dahlia Cafe that you will read these stories anyway.



Loo-- British and Aussie for a bathroom or latrine. Ask for a bathroom in England, and the maid will run the water for your bath. Ask for a bathroom in Australia, and they will laugh heartily. Aussies are less inhibited.

WC-- (Water Closet)-- The European version for the US and Canadian "Restroom." The British make a lot more sense than we Americans. After all, who really goes into a Restroom to rest. In fact, the air and ambiance are often far from restful, unless you like to rest in the back corner of the barn.

Wash Room-- A bit Victorian, as in, "And, where may I wash my hands please?" You Americans..... please do not take that guest to a sink and hand them a towel. They do NOT need to just wash their hands. They need the whole treatment.



One great revelation to modern man was the flush toilet, which was invented in 1596 by Sir John Harington who designed the forerunner to the modern flush toilet at his house at Kelston, England. It let water out of a tank to wash down and empty the bowl. He installed one for his godmother Queen Elizabeth I at Richmond Palace, although she refused to use it because it made too much noise. The roar of the royal flush doubtless announced to the whole palace that her highness had once again fulfilled her destiny. Such things should be left to the privy counsel rather than the commoners.

Sir John did not find an "S" trap at the Home Depot hardware store when he invented his toilet, and the fumes from the sewer came back into his home for nearly 200 years. Alexander Cummings invented the "S" trap in 1775, and we all should be very thankful he did. I did not see a monument to Al in Piccadilly Circus when I was in London, and I think that is very unfortunate.

A year later the American Revolution took place in New England because "S" traps were taxed so heavily by King George. The US set up a boycott of British "S" traps, and to this day you can smell the stink in the air whenever Congress is in session.

But, the toilet, or "water closet" as the British have it, was really perfected and marketed to the world for the common man by Thomas Crapper. That is the absolute truth, and in some parts of London and the back woods of America the toilet is still referred to as "the Crapper." What a legacy for any man to realize his name has endured and not gone to waste.

The problem with Mr. Crapper's model was the tank high on the wall. When you pulled the chain, the flush was violent, and if the toilet happened to clog, you could not jerk the top off of the tank and stop the flush.

You may have heard that tornadoes and hurricanes in the north rotate in reverse of cyclones in the Southern Hemisphere. Thus, some clever soul claims that toilets in Australia also flush or swirl the water in the opposite direction as in the US and Europe. I checked it out when I was in Brisbane, and I can assure you that is not true. If it were true, the toilet would swirl the water right out onto the floor..... well, maybe.

You may also wonder why the toilet needs to make so much noise when it flushes. This is because if there is not a great roaring flush of water, followed by a painful gasp, the toilet will not "swallow" properly. And, in case you do not like the term "swallow," that is the official technical term used by your trusty plumber.

In fact, long ago, Father Junipero Serra of San Juan Capistrano Mission in California, installed the first flush toilets in the USA. They were defective, and would no swallow properly. Father Serra sent off to Spain for a whole new set made by another company, and they flushed very well indeed. This is where we got the old Spanish ballad, "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano." Well, if that story is not true, it sure missed a great opportunity.

Elimination puns are presenting themselves in violent abundance, but I am trying to ration them so as not to over fill the thing.




Let's get this straight right now-- Africans do not make a big fuss over the place where they leave their poop. Americans and Europeans now days make a bathroom into a palace of sorts. All manner of decorations, wall hangings, photos of your vacation to Greece, and air quality management are added to the Yankee loo to give it ambiance. The Japanese are the most extreme in their obsession with classy elimination and have even added automatic bottom washers and dryers. The Japanese crapper greets you by name and turns on your favorite music to poop to. A rollicking tango does wonders for regularity. The Japanese give you a remote attached to the pot to turn on all the various electronic accouterments that simply must be included in order to make pooping a fulfilling experience. Here is the Rolls Royce of toilets in Japan.

Americans in particular are known to spend long hours in the loo, perched on their porcelain throne, reading the newspaper, doing home work, and even texting friends. I refuse to be social and even answer when anyone tries to update me about world events from outside my throne room. I want to get it all over with, work it all out, and get on to much more interesting places to be sociable.

They tell me that Nebuchadnezzar sat on a golden throne and watched the battle. We sit on a ceramic throne and listen to the battle. There are a lot more of these sayings on college restroom walls, but they are all unpublishable. I think a bit of ancient history about the African loo is in order.

The African has no interest in an ambient loo. Their latrine is often a small building made of posts cut from trees embedded in the ground vertically, and there is a limited attempt to weave some branches and leaf rubbish horizontally between the posts. The modest White Man enters, and to his chagrin can see way too much of the outside to feel comfortable. What the poor fellow fails to realize is that the inside of the loo is almost in total darkness, and no one can see him.

The pit toilet at the right above actually has an improvement over the latrines of the days when I lived in Africa. Some African has learned to add the ventilation pipe to draw off the smelly fumes. If the wood cover at the side is faithfully placed over the hole when not in use, the latrine will not smell. Clever.

The latrine at the left is a rather temporary one, maybe for a church conference or out in the fields during cultivation time before the rains come.



So, our Anglo-Saxon missionary, explorer, or visiting theologian to Africa asks to be shown the facilities. If he is British, he will say, "And, where may I wash my hands." He has just come in from a long safari, and he has no interest in actually washing his hands. In reality, his bladder is about to burst. One American missionary I knew took a poor British Government official out on their porch where they kept the wash basin. He did not know about the Victorian way of asking where the loo was.

This new arrival to Africa is in for a shock when he is escorted back out of the house and pointed to the rickety loo in the back yard, and it is sometimes a bit of a trip. [ Free item-- when you build an out house, be sure it is down wind. ] He walks into the loo, and he finds it breezy, and if the African did not know how to vent it, which they did not long ago, the visitor is hit by a powerfully rich atmosphere.

Now, he looks for the throne where he may sit and contemplate life for a few minutes, and there is none. Instead, there is a hole in the floor, and that's it! The missionary of long ago who was out visiting Africans learned to take along his own paper because the cleansing process was seriously flawed. In India the method is washing with water which is horribly unsanitary. Paper in Africa long ago was a real luxury, and no African would treat paper with such disdain. However, the Sears and Roebuck catalog eventually made its way to Africa in the 1950s to missionaries who wanted to order from it. This catalogue had long been in use in the USA in outhouses in the Ozarks and Appalachia. So, the missionary would trade the old catalogue for a few eggs or some bananas, and the African would drop the catalogue inside his loo to upgrade it and be ready for visiting White folks.

My experiences go back to 1954 and up to about 1976. So, African loo arrangements will be much more modern today, especially in towns and cities in Africa. But, out in the rural areas the above discussion will largely still apply.



There was a missionary in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) when I was a kid who had mastered building out houses. His were substantial cement block wonders, and he had learned of the way to design the things so that they vented out the odor from down below. I shall not go into detail, but it works. He even white washed the loo so that it was a marvel to look at. He built seats, a lower small one for kids, and a higher larger one for grown ups.

When the Africans saw this they were in awe of the missionary. Just think, no stink, and the cement floor in place of the tamped mud one of the African, and the thing looked better to the eye than their own homes..... this was an amazing missionary. The word for latrine in Swahili is "choo". Because this missionary had built many of his models and made thousands of Africans marvel at them, the Africans did what they often do to honor a man-- they named him after his highest skill-- Bwana Choo-- "Mr. toilet". To the Africans this was a way to give the missionary distinction, but to the rest of us missionaries, and to the missionary man himself, it was very suspect and not quite what we would want carved on our tombstone.



The art of hedging was one of our skills in our missionary kids' boarding school in Kenya, Rift Valley Academy. The founders of the school planted cedar hedges along many paths, and these hedges over many years became huge. At night, instead of going all the way to the bath rooms building, we boys would stand against the hedge and pee. All went well until one day Pa Hollenbeck, our dorm parent, caught the foul stink of aging urine as he walked by a hedge, and he read us the riot act. We were more careful from then on to pick our hedges and rotate from one to the other.

Of course, our hedging was nothing new. Long ago in Rome the citizens all peed on the walls of any building around. Caesar contra murum navigate. He did. And, in the Bible we see that this distinguished men from women. God's curse on Ahab was thus: 1 Kings 21:21 Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel,

In Ethiopia, while we were missionaries, we found that there was only one public toilet in Addis Ababa, a city of one million people. We also were warned that the custom was to pee on the wall for the men, and in the gutter for the ladies. This in no way implied that the Ethiopian people were primitive. It was common to see a man in a business suit step over to the wall and take care of business. And, this would have been true all over the Middle East.

One missionary was trying to practice his new language skills and greeted a lady squatting in the gutter. He reported that she did not reply with the usual response to a greeting, and he had not idea what she was saying. Culture shock is serious stuff. During the dry season, the sidewalks near the walls reeked horribly, and we all looked forward to the rainy season which we called the flush season.

The Ethiopian people have a very sophisticated language with very precise tenses and grammar structure, but many of their nouns are blunt. A bathroom is called a "shinte beit," or urine house.



Pinching ants (Siafu in Swahili) roam in mammoth swarms large enough to fill your whole home, floor to attic, if they invade. They have powerful pinchers which they use to catch and dissect their prey. They will clean your house of all cockroaches, mice, and even snakes if you vacate for a day or two. In the early days of missionary work in Africa that is what the missionaries did because they had poor methods of insect control.

When the pinching ants are ranging and looking for a food site, they move through the grass almost unseen. If you were to step on them, in their migration trail, and keep moving, you would probably not get any on you. But, if you stop and stand on a spot where the pinching ants are, they will at once swarm up your shoes and legs. All people familiar with them report that the pinching ants have a strange behavior. They will not bite you until they are all over your legs, and possibly other parts, and all at once they will bite together. The result is a horrible feeling of tiny knives cutting you all over your body.

So, what does this have to do with elimination?

It is common for men living in the bush of Africa to not use the outhouse at night but to go outside to a brushy area and go there if the task at hand is only to urinate. One evening, while my family were visiting Charlie Hess and his wife, my little brother and I needed to relieve ourselves. Uncle Charlie told us to take a flashlight and go outside in some tall grass nearby. We went outside, found the appointed place, and turned off the flashlight. We were almost finished with the process when my little brother screamed. I thought a snake had bit him. Then, it was my turn. We were both being attacked by pinching ants.

These ants do not bite and run. They bite and bury their pinchers and hang there till they die, or until you pick them off with force. The photo shows how the mandibles are buried deep. In the photo the victim tried to pull the ants off, and the ants' bodies came off and left the heads firmly attached.

Well, my parents came running out of the house wondering what horror had gotten to us, and they soon figured it out because of the dance we were doing-- the antsy two step. The rule in Africa is that all modesty may be thrown to the wind when a person is attacked by pinching ants. These beasts have been known to wait until they have occupied a person's whole body up to his neck, and then BANG, attack.


So, the rule is, strip at once, and start picking ants. There is no way you can stand to go find a private place to do this. My brother and I were told to strip down, and Mom and Dad started picking while chuckling at our plight. Their turn would come.

We boys, when we found a mass of pinching ants moving along, would slip up quietly and start grabbing ants by the abdomen. We would then point the ant at our jacket, and the ant would grab the jacket. We would then pull the abdomen off. We did this ant by ant until we spelled our name on our jacket in ant heads. Hey, when you were still only ten years old and too young to get a game licensee and go hunt the big game, this would have to do.

The video tells about the life of pinching ants. In Africa we called a larger less aggressive black ant "army ants," and the ones in the video pinching ants or Siafu. Sometimes they are called driver ants. As to the blind aspect, if you had the nerve, you could slowly put your finger down in the wide path of pinching ants marching along, and if you did not move they would go right around your finger and keep going. Twitch your finger, and you would get nailed at once because anything that moves is lunch.

Here is a second video if you need to follow the war of the tiny world more.



Most of you will never have to provide facilities for a rough camping situation. But, for you interested in preparedness and camping, here are the rules.

A slit trench is meant to be used only for elimination. Dig a separate hole for camp garbage and bury it daily.

Dig a trench about one foot wide, two feet deep, and long enough to not completely fill up during your camping session. If you can arrange to dig the ditch on the other side of a fallen log, and in a clump of bushes, that is ideal. Tell everyone to case out the location every time they use it for unwanted varmints. The log can thus be used as a seat.

As the trench fills, cover it with dirt, and move over a bit. If you dig a longish ditch, each person can cover with dirt every time it is used and prevent flies. Plan to take a small shovel for this purpose, and leave it at the slit trench. Tell everyone to use some sort of call word to inquire if the facility is in use before barging around the bush.

Whatever you do, do not forget toilet tissue, and take plenty in case some other campers steal yours because they forgot their own. Tell the guys to urinate at night in some other bushes downwind so the slit trench use is minimized.

IMPORTANT: Be sure to locate the slit trench downwind from the camp.

This has been well proven by myself and friends and family in game park camping in Africa. If elephants decide to browse the bushes where the slit trench is, you may want to dig a second one for a back up. Elephants do not really care to use slit trenches, but they are a bit insulted with people to do so while they are eating.

Now, tell me, how many places on the Internet will you get such tried and proven instructions on elimination in the wild?



A sun downer is a British colonial invention. The sun goes down on the equator at the same time all year round. So, you may invite your friends to come over at the end of the day for a sun downer. This consists mostly of sipping gin and tonic and lemonade spiked with Nubian gin, a deadly high powered gin made by natives in the Sudan. Everyone catches up on what is happening on all the farm estates, and news from the UK is gleaned by those far from civilization.

A group of British White settler farmers and government officials were having a sun downer in Kenya one lovely evening in the 1950s. The usual colonial home had manicured lawns, tidy and abundant splashes of flowers all around the perimeter, and at the lower end of the lawn / flower garden was an out house. The home in those days had modern indoor facilities, but when people were outside it was often easier to use the old out house. These were thus kept presentable for this purpose.

In this group was a lady, a very proper type, who slipped from the group and went to use the out house. No sooner was she inside than the group heard a terrifying scream from the out house. Several ladies rushed to the rescue, and they learned that as soon as the lady sat down to take care of business, a snake had promptly struck and bitten her from inside the hole.

It was decided that the medial officer visiting the sun downer should be called at once. He rushed to the scene, and keeping a stiff upper lip, and a classically British composure under such emergencies, he inspected the site of the snake bite. Sure enough, the lady had the two fang marks on her bottom, and the medical officer at once fetched his snake bite kit, made two small cuts over the fang marks, and proceeded to suck blood and venom from the wounds with suction cups.

At this point a chicken cackled. And, someone said that it came from the outhouse. An inspection was made, and the chicken was found inside the hole near the seat. She had made a nest there, and she did not care to be disturbed and let the lady know so by pecking her violently.

The medical officer dressed the wounds, and everyone tried not to laugh and make merry. But, the lady never again spoke to the medical officer. Doing one's medical duty can sometimes be perilous in the end.



Traveling in Africa brings many experiences in elimination. On African trains long ago, and on the lake steamer passenger ships on Lake Victoria, both types of cultural toilets were available, "Asian Type" and "European Type". This meant the Asian type had the hole in the floor. Some Africans and Asians would sneak into the European type for a bit of culture, but we could tell by the foot prints on the toilet seat that an African had been there before us. I am not making this up. Sitting to eliminate was simply not right to the African.

In case you think the African form of elimination is primitive, and that we Europeans are more advanced, recent research has shown that squatting to eliminate is more natural and makes things work the way God intended. So, we pay the price for our idea of what is more civilized-- hemorrhoids.

The railway coaches did not store the sewage in tanks and drain them later at some facility. The flush of the toilet sent the contents straight to the trackside. A sign in the WC said, "Please do not flush the WC while the train is in the station." Even so, smart peasants wandering about the train station platform stayed clear of the side of the cars. Also, when the train was traveling out in the country, the only people you might see standing near the tracks as the train went by were tourists trying to photograph the train. A very interesting picture might well come about in this way.

The East African Railway and Harbors Company had a brand of toilet paper called Bronco. Why this US Southwest name was used for British toilet paper is a puzzle, but it may have been telling us what kind of people might use it-- bronco busters. It was hard paper that had been burnished to a high polish. I hesitate to tell you what it did when used, but you could tell as you passed a loo on the lake steamer from the comments in progress. It was necessary to hold it between your hands and rough it around violently so that it did something other than polish the product. And, the railway people never changed it. They must have had five boat loads of it in a warehouse in Mombassa.

I found a site online that is about British products from long ago, and someone actually made a recent run of the original Bronco for nostalgic purposes. You can see it in the photo at the right. The site gave the following description:

"Toilet paper, 'Bronco' brand, London, England, 1935-1950. Rough on one side, shiny on the other and seemingly nonabsorbent, toilet papers such as this ‘Bronco’ brand would be very familiar to anyone over the age of fifty. At one time advertised with the slogan “Bronco, for the bigger wipe”.

How true, it only made the problem bigger.

A word on wiping. When in the woods of America, or in the forests of Kenya, indeed, in the wilds anywhere, do not wipe with just any old leaf handy. There is poison ivy and poison oak, but they are not large enough for the task, so they seldom are a problem. Just don't get into them with your tender posterior while squatting.

But, in Africa and some other areas of the world there are stinging nettles. The leaves of the African variety are large and just the size for an effective wipe. The nettles are microscopic and not easy to see. When you grab a nettle leaf and pluck it, the thick skin on your hand will not tell you that you are into a serious situation. But, one wipe, and your tail end will be on fire. The nettles are actually tiny hypodermic syringes, and when touched, they pump the poison into the victim.

One solution for nettles is mud, so if you are in enough trouble to sacrifice modesty, go plant you bottom in the mud along a stream.



Growing up in a boarding school is one thing, but in a boarding school for missionaries kids is quite another. Missionaries, much like their British colonial government official neighbors, are usually people of strong will and motivation or they would never make it to the jungles of the Congo or to the social jungles of Nairobi's east side.

So, we kids in Rift Valley Academy were sometimes a bit odd and independent minded. We also had our own vocabulary for many things. Much of this was borrowed from the British colonials and their kids in another boarding school nearby.

The word for the bath room, the loo, was the "gudge". Toilet paper was "gudge roll". I have tried to find the origin of this word, and it would seem this one was entirely invented by some former social sub-set at RVA long before my time.

During the Mau Mau uprising we were under lock down at night because of the stated intentions of the Mau Mau rebels to kill the kids in our school. We were well guarded, but we had to stay in all night. The rest rooms were in a corrugated building outside the dorms, and anyone needing to go in the night had to walk outside to that building and back. This was forbidden at night during the Mau Mau era. So, a large porcelain pail was set under a staircase in the hall of the boys dorm upstairs. This was usually nearly running over by morning, and it was extremely fragrant as well.

Any bucket used for this purpose in our school was called a "poo-how". Again, no etymology found. But, anyone using another name for it was not one of us, he was just pissing through.

This procedure went on for a couple of years without incident, and then one day I was in the dining room just below the boys upstairs dorm. I noticed that Helen Barnett, a student who helped with kitchen work, had put all the deserts out on a table for supper. It was chocolate pudding on individual saucers. This pudding was a British product and was like chocolate flavored chalk mixed into milk. Many of the kids declined it. Being addicted to chocolate, I would have eater a brick if they had dipped in in chocolate, so I was pleased to see the pudding.

Then it began to rain, and the rain was coming from the ceiling over the chocolate pudding. AND, the rain was yellow. It seems some young boys were upstairs playing rough games and chasing one another, and one of them kicked the poo-how over. All the kitchen ladies came running, and a wail of screams and terrors burst loose. As soon as they got control of themselves, they then wailed for lack of desserts for the meal which was very near to be served.

The boys dorm up the hill was called Kidong after a local place name in the area. One had to be in at least ninth grade to move up the hill to this prestigious palace, and my day came. We all had jobs we had to do, and I hated washing dishes. This task consisted in leaning over steaming tubs of very hot water, plunging your arms into that hot water up to your elbows, and scrubbing dishes, or dipping the dishes into even hotter water on racks for the rinse. Gloves were not on the budget in the 1950s. My hands ended up looking like anemic prunes from this process, and I hated it. So, I volunteered to clean the bath rooms. The thing about that job was that I could haul a huge hose into the bath room, and I could blast the whole place (except the toilet paper) with water and wash it down top to bottom in a very short time. I always did this when other boys were not around so they would never figure out how easy my job was. Toilet cleaner tenure was a precious thing, you see.

Later, in college something similar happened. I got a job on grounds keeping for the college to help pay my tuition. A list of jobs was posted, and one of them was to clean out the horse coral. The college had a Physical Education course in Equestrian Care and Riding. Everyone else was avoiding the job of cleaning the horse coral and signing up for other jobs. I got to thinking about horse manure. It is pretty dry, does not get sloppy, and furthermore, I like horses. So, I signed up for that job. I got some kidding, so I moaned and tried to seem heroic for doing this. As I expected my four hour shift cleaning up the horse coral was easily done in about 40 minutes. A lady in the community next to the college helped the college with horse riding instruction, and she saw me one day and brought me an ice cream bar. This became a regular custom, and I told no one. The rest of the time I drove around in an old 1938 Buick that was converted into a flat bed utility truck. It had steering that had one full turn of play in it, and no one wanted to drive it. I drove it here and there tidying up this and that and looking intense like I was in a very big hurry.

Never underestimate the joy of volunteering to do something nasty. It usually is a lot less horrid than you think, and no one will ever bump you out to get your job if you groan a bit at the right times.




Outhouse in Briartown, Oklahoma

When I was a kid of about six, my Dad pastored a rural church in Briartown, Oklahoma. Almost everyone in the area still used out houses because that rural economy was still depressed and was coming out of the Great Depression very slowly.

This is the frijoles powered outhouse

On Halloween night the teen age boys in the community used to push over outhouses. They pushed ours over, and my Dad set it upright again and no harm was done. But, some of the locals, especially older cranky men, whose teen days were suppressed by their parents, resented the out house trick.

One farmer pushed his outhouse over about two feet so that the edge of the out house sat just where the pit was. The boys hit his outhouse every year because he made such a fuss. That year, they pushed it over, and each boy took a step to catch his balance. Just one step, you see, but that was just what the old geezer was planning on. Two of the boys fell into the pit, and they raised a stink all over town for a couple of days.

Another man simply dug a shallow hole for his outhouse, and he dug a new hole every year nearby. When the boys pushed his outhouse over, he scooted it over to the new hole, set it up, and then filled in the old hole and planted a fruit tree in it.

A Texas brat was more noble. He decided to push over the outhouse. A little while later, the old man found his kid and asked him if he was the one who pushed over the outhouse. The kid told him, "I cannot tell a lie, Daddy. I was he one who pushed it over." The old man took off his belt and wailed the tar out of the kid. The boy then asked, "I did not lie about the outhouse. I told the truth just like when George Washington did not lie to his Daddy when he chopped down his Daddy's cherry tree. So, why did you give me a whipping, Daddy?" The old man said, "George Washington's Daddy was not sitting in the cherry tree."

As with all Texas yarns, if it that one was not true, it sure should have been.


The Two Room School House

Long ago, during the days of the country school, before consolidation turned American education into a social event rather than a learning process, each country school house had outhouses. They had two out at the end of the playground, one for boys, and one for girls. Back then, a boy would wet his pants if the boys outhouse was in use rather than use the girls' which was empty. Unisex anything, back then, was thought of as a result of a sick mind or total perversion.

Also, if some boy was late from recess, you could tell where he was by looking out yonder at the outhouse. There might be a wisp of smoke coming from the cracks in the wall, and the kid might have a faint odor of Bull Durham when he finally found his seat. In those days, that was as serious as bad behavior got, and the school marm would get that eighteen inch ruler from her desk and wail away. Then, when the boy got home, he got it again from his Dad.


In Michigan

In a church I pastored for a couple of years in Michigan we had a family of people who really lived "back on the farm." They had inherited a family farm that was very old, and they kept it up well. The problem was, they did not have an easy way to put in an inside restroom with a septic tank and drain field.

So, they had an outhouse. It was clean, but it was not heated, and in the winter it was viciously cold. I need not say much, but simply imagine that first second of contact of your tender parts with minus 20 degree F. in February.

Whenever we visited, we loved the old fashioned hospitality, and the dinners were made up of fresh food from last summer's garden and lots of it. But, the trip to the outhouse was a terror, and after returning to the house, we realized why farm people BACK UP to the fire place.


Frankfurt Airport

We had a lay over in the Frankfurt, Germany airport on our way to Ethiopia, and we had hours to kill. Not wanting to venture around the city, we hung out in the airport. We were kindly given a dinner ticket by the airlines which helped. And, they provided a lovely day care center where Elizabeth could take the kids, and while she got a nap in the same center, the nice German ladies watched the kids. I had to park in the lobby since I was not a Mother.

German hospitality is legend. But, there was one aspect of German convention which really blind sided me.

I needed to relieve myself, so I headed for the restrooms. As I approached the restroom, a stocky mean looking German lady was parked squarely between the men's and ladies' restrooms. This lady stepped up to me, jabbed her hand at me, and said, "Pfennig." I was not sure what Pfennig meant, but I assumed it might be German for Penny. I was thoroughly disgusted that the airport officials let beggars hang around the airport restrooms and beg for money.

I tried to ignore the lady, who looked like the Kaiser's little sister, but she again jabbed her hand at me forcefully, and blurted out "Pfennig" rather violently. I told her in English that I was not contributing, and I went into the restroom and proceeded to use the urinal.

Alas, the jackboot lady followed me into the restroom and parked right behind me to wait until I was done. I saw her, and I got a serious case of bashful bladder. I wanted to thrash her soundly verbally, but I barely know enough German to order from a menu.

After I finally finished, I turned around, and as I headed for the sinks to wash up, out came the hand, and "Pfennig!!!" I told her she was rude and disgusting in English, but I suspect she did not know a word of English. I fled the restroom with the lady jackboot following me along yelling, "Pfennig." She finally gave up.

As I later watched the restroom area I noticed that every man or lady who entered the restrooms would reach into their pocket and give the lady a coin without any solicitation from Frau Pfennig. It finally dawned on me that the lady had been hired by the airport authorities to collect fees for using the restrooms.

I still marvel that such progressive people as the Germans, with all their clever automation and engineering wonders, still hire a mean Mamma to collect der Pfennig for restroom use.


Airplane Restrooms

Don't you love those restrooms on airliners?

Now, I realize airplanes are fighting furiously against the law of gravity, and I am always very happy to learn the the engineers of the plane mastered the laws of aerodynamics so well that the plane stays up all the way to Colombus. Of course much of the skill the engineers show is in their ability to make the plane strong while limiting the weight. This is done by miniaturization. But, gentlemen, why the throne room?

Those same engineers must never fly in airliners. Like the Detroit auto making engineers, who never sat in the back seat of a Focus, the airliner engineers never used one of those tiny restrooms. They also never tried to sit down and do their business in an airplane restroom at 30,000 feet during a thunder storm..... on a plastic throne just a bit larger than a donut.

At first, as you enter, you think, "How clever. They have compacted this thing so that everything I may need is available.... it is just a bit close in here." But, as you proceed to the Opus, you find that close is an understatement. You partially disrobe and take you seat, hang your coat on the hook on the door, and you wonder if there really is a seat there. Small is also an understatement.

You descend gently, and your head ends up in the folds of your coat hanging on the door, and you realize that your Dutch posterior was not taken into account when the Italian engineer made the throne. If you are a man, you do a tuck of the hardware and hope it stays put while in use. All you need is to fill your britches with.................... never mind.

Then after you bang your head on the bin of extra supplies above you, and a box of facial tissue tumbles down on your head, you are interrupted by frantic banging on the door. The little window device on the outside of the door tells that idiot outside that the room is "occupied." Maybe it is an Arab terrorist who cannot read English.

By now, you have a total block of action due to nerves and claustrophobia. You keep talking to yourself, "Relax, many people before you have survived this,"



"PLEASE HURRY" calls a tiny voice. Oh no, that is some poor kid out there about to wet his pants, or worse.

So, now you go into high gear, push hard, and accomplish the task. Your colon rectal physician will have another hemorrhoid to remove later. You dig around down in the corner somewhere to find the toilet tissue, and you hope you can do this task fast but not get it all over yourself.

You flush, and you panic as the wee toilet roars with rage. Sorry about that Omaha.

You jerk your clothes back on, wash at high speed, and unlatch the door. While you pull it open, little Johnny is pushing it from the outside, and he nearly collapses on you. His Mommy blurts out an emotional, "Oh, thank you sir," and you barely escape as Johnny goes to work. He is the only one in the plane who fits in the restroom.

You trundle back to your seat, and if you were me, you would tell yourself to calm down because you are on your way to Australia from Texas, and this will be happening several times during the flight.

The steward comes by, "Sir, is this your coat?" You grab the coat and check for your passport, and it is safe in the inside pocket. Sigh. You check the side pockets, and in one is a McDonald's happy meal toy, a gift from Johnny.

Rejoice, the little kid did not wet his pants, and he grins from ear to ear as he passes you on his way back to his seat. "I like you, Mister. I will try to always go when you go because you helped me not wet my pants."

"Everyone has his fifteen minutes of fame."
Quote from Andy Warhol


Mighty Fine Burgers

We have a couple of great hamburger places here in Austin, Texas named Mighty Fine Burgers. They have perfect burgers-- char broiled-- and they have been voted the best burger in Austin. They offer a gluten free bun alternative, so my wife can eat there. They process all the potatoes on site so that the fries are fresh, and vegetables are all very crisp.

But, they have a very strange restroom for the men. On entering, I was very impressed with the cleanness and the high tech arrangements. There is a steel grate under the urinals which prevents the wet floor issue, and cleaning is very efficient.

But, when I left that area and walked over to wash up, I was seriously startled. The wall next to the sink allowed me to look right out onto the dining area and see people eating. I at first wanted to go hide, but it occurred to me that no one would do that without some strategy, so I figured it was one way glass. The interior of the restroom was black and low lighting, so no one could possibly see through the one way glass.

I was relieved, but I have still not figured out why they did it. Perhaps it is a security issue, and employees can watch diners to see if something is wrong. Also, it simply could be that some clever architect thought it would be a cool way to have an interesting wall without hanging art on it or painting it.

For you conspiratorialists, do you suppose it is for the Seventh Day Adventist pastors to catch their people eating hamburgers. I know some SDAs who sneak the beef once in a while.


Art Linkletter's House Party

You will no doubt be pleased to know that I had my fifteen minutes of fame in Hollywood. Here is how it happened.

Art Linkletter had shows on CBS and ABC on and off from 1945 to 1969 under various names. Art Linkletter's House Party was the ongoing show on the radio when I was in 3rd grade at 79th Street School in south Los Angeles. All the ladies of the church, including my Mom, all listened to the show. It was clean and fun, and the main attraction was when Art interviewed about seven grade school kids and asked them questions.

The kids on the show were chosen from schools all over the LA area. Art asked the school principals to try to send kids who were alert and creative. It was 79th Street School's turn to send kids to the show, and my teacher convinced the Principal that I would do great on the show. This was because I had responded so well the John Dewey's Progressive Education. This was an insane notion that kids should not have their creativity inhibited by too much real education.

Thus, I, Stevie, was a master at finger painting, and I wowed the whole class every day at "Show and Tell" time. I could make a very ordinary trip from Inglewood to San Fernando Valley into a nightmare of terror and suspense. It was all lies of course, but the teacher faithfully avoided inhibiting my creativity, so I got to lie my way to fame. I should have run for Congress, really.

So, I was chosen to be on Art Linkletter's House Party. The morning we were to go I was walked to school by my Mom, and there was a stretch limousine a mile long waiting for us kids. Wow-- did we ever feel famous. I got a seat way in the back, and I really felt cool, like Al Capone maybe. Limos were pretty rare in 1953, and I got a buzz out of watching out the window and seeing all the people gawk at us.

Off to Hollywood we went in style, and when we got there, a very kind lady met us and stayed with us the rest of the day. She showed us the sound effects area, and, since I was an avid afternoon radio listener to The Lone Ranger and The Cisco Kid, I loved seeing how the studio sound room made the sounds of wagon wheels, thunder, and horses clopping.

I kind of had to go to the bathroom, but we were not asked about that. The nice lady kept us busy right up to show time at noon, and then we were lead into the studio onto the stage and seated ready for our moment of fame. As I sat down, I looked at the audience, and I was very impressed with how big the audience was and how little I was. Then there were the hot bright lights shining down from above. I sort of ended up in la la land, and I also had an urge to go the the bathroom.

Art Linkletter started at the far end of the row talking to us kids. Some kids were from other schools. Art was a master at getting kids to talk because he genuinely loved kids. He later wrote a book of all the crazy answers kids gave to his questions. One kid told Art his family had gone to an aquarium. Art asked if he saw an octopus. The kid said he did, and he told Art that the octopus was very dangerous because he could grab you and crush you with his testicles. Art kept a straight face and said, "You mean tentacles, don't you?" The boy said no, the octopus used his testicles. These kid moments were what kept Art on the air for so many years. People loved the innocent surprises.

By the time Art got to me, I was becoming very interested in where and when I would be allowed to go to the bathroom. So, Art asked me what my Daddy did, and I told him he was a preacher. Art asked me who had the coat of many colors, and I drew a blank. He moved on to Adam and Eve, and I got that question right. My apologies to Joseph.

At this time, back in my neighborhood, in every home of the church we attended, every lady was listening intently at noon to hear little Stevie shine on the radio. TV, in those days was pretty much a disaster, and the radio was still ruling supreme.

After the kids' interviews Art Linkletter gave all of us kids presents. I had listened to the show with Mom many times, and I had visions of things past kids had gotten, like roller skates and model airplanes. Art gave us a stack of Golden Books and a cardboard horsey we could hang over our shoulders with straps and go galloping along using our two legs as the legs of the horse. Big wup.

So, the show ended, and they took us across the street from the CBS studios to a restaurant and ordered us all a classy hamburger. I was not a happy camper. I was trying to stuff more in one end while the other end was raging for relief. But, still, no one asked any of us if we needed to use the bathroom. This was about 2 PM. No relief since about 7 AM that morning.

The ride home in the limo was pure hell. I was in constant strain trying to hold it. And, I succeeded. We arrived back at the school, and Mom was waiting for me grinning from ear to ear. This was as close as any of our family every got to being big in Hollywood. I failed to appreciate Mom's joy and told her I needed to go potty REAL BAD.

We started walking home. Mom carried the stack of Golden Books, and I rode, well, the horsey rode me. There was no galloping because the horsey was too bow legged from pinching his rectum shut. Then, I lost it. The horror was beyond description. Sixty five years later I can still feel it oozing down my legs. Mom would have ordinarily been a bit stern and encouraged me to try to keep holding it. But, Mom was so proud that she at once comforted me, and she told me we would stop at Mrs. Padget's house and get help.

I was amazed. Mom was so nice. But then, when a Hollywood star poops his pants, and when that star is YOUR kid, well, it does not matter so much.

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Padget, our little Stevie here, the star on CBS radio earlier today, has just pooped his pants." Mrs. Padget was just as proud of me as Mom was. She was a very sweet lady "full of good works" like the Bible says. She almost made a celebration of my disaster.

I walked home sans underwear, and at the next meeting of the Ladies Missionary Fellowship, I was fawned over and praised and received the doubtful accolade, "So Darling." Nine year old boys do NOT like to be called Darling.

I flailed to catch the next wave of success and ride it into fame and fortune, and that is why you have never seen my name on any blockbuster movies since 1953. Furthermore; if all those famous Hollywood stars have to "hold it" all day long, I would rather be a farmer anyway. Famers can poop all over the farm where no one can see them.

So, if you ever see me coming with my cardboard horsey, walking like a crippled frog, and with a look of intense pain on my face, please clear the road to the facilities. I am in deep trouble.



The peasants, like Anonymous, Edward Showden, and Wikileaks, worry a lot about the attitude of the snob elite of this world. These snobs show by their behavior and words that they think very highly of themselves.

Well, let us peasants console ourselves. When we eat our bangers and chips in the UK, or our frijoles and tortillas with cheese in the USA, and wash it down with Folger's coffee because we could not afford a high end lunch.....

And, when we hear of the snobs eating Wasa Crackers and Camembert cheese with a salad made of Radicchio lettuce, Enoli mushrooms, and capers, and they wash it down with a glass of Chateau Lafite wine.....

Take comfort folks, the end product of you and the snob rich looks and smells exactly the same, and theirs is just as repulsive as yours. You, in fact, got the bargain in the deal.

Ecclesiastes 3:19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.

And, admit it, all ye who have grown up in Africa or on the farm, there is some sort of nostalgia about an outhouse. HERE ARE ONE LADY'S THOUGHTS.



Thoughts on elimination are rather disorganized, as you can see from this article. This is because elimination is that way, it often fails to fit into the schedule, no matter how hard we try to organize it. Witness all your efforts to empty bowels and bladders of your kids just before a long trip. After thinking you really got that mastered this time, junior invariably wails, "Mommy, I got to go number two." And, he always waits until you are halfway between San Angelo and Lubbuck, Texas, right?

We all, in our younger days, recall the solution from Mom-- "HOLD IT."

That only made it worse, right? We started hallucinating, having visions of poop all over the car seat and Dad's wrath. And, we would arrive at Grandma's house becoming the center of attention in a very undesirable way. Why won't Dad just find a restroom so we can arrive at grandma's house and have cookies and milk and hugs in peace? Perhaps this is why there are so few writers who are willing to write about elimination-- it brings back some terrifying memories.

Well, that is the scoop on the poop for now.

I am sure you have your stories to tell, but seldom can you tell them for fear someone will be offended. It is strange how some natural functions of our lives are kept off limits. I am not sure exactly why, but it must go back to the Victorian Era in England. Back then, it was considered improper to even discuss eggs in mixed company. I personally believe that our taboos over elimination issues are the reason for all the poop jokes people tell. If elimination were not taboo, the jokes would be pointless and never hit the fan.




If you travel to South Korea always ask for green tea.

This is a real life story and extremely rare.