The Outhouse

We have running water at our house. The majority of people do here in town, but outside of town there are those who do not. They use outhouses in the summer. Very good friends with an infant daughter live out of town and have running water, but no flush toilets.

I lived once in a cabin outside of Anchorage where I had an outhouse. It was rather wonderful to go traipsing down the trail with my dog to the outhouse. I sat with the door open and looked down the wooded hillside. My dog, a golden retriever, loved those moments because she got lots of ball fetching time. I’d sit and throw the ball and she’d race further down the hill and then come racing back up in seconds flat. Once she had a bit of a run in with a porcupine so she didn’t come back in seconds flat.

That was a stressful afternoon. I was scared she’d been eaten by a bear or gone running out to the road. But an hour or so after she disappeared she came hobbling up the hill, tennis ball in mouth and with a painful grin. I think as unpleasant experience as it was, it was also a bit thrilling.

I spent the rest of the evening extracting quills and she spent the evening sometimes gently mouthing me to say it hurt but she understood.

When the porcupine came to visit the cabin, she greeted him with glee. I put her inside.

We did have a bear come to visit once and that was a scary thing. The cabin had a door, but the window on the door was missing and any bear who wanted to could certainly get inside. I recalled the messages from the billboards at the nature trails and stood tall in the doorway of the cabin with my arms stretching out to the frame, used a deep voice, made myself as large as possible and said, “Bear. You are not welcome here. Please move on.” (I really did say please)

The billboards don’t actually suggest those words. They say don’t run and shriek.

The bear, a two year old (as if I really can gauge these things!) looked at me and then quickly turned and lumbered down the trail to the outhouse where he slowed down. I banged a pot to get him to keep going but he ignored me and hung out exploring the outhouse for quite a while. I think he might have known that I wasn’t really as gruff and threatening as I seemed.

So it was nice to have a dog go with me when I went to the outhouse.

Living in one of the rural communities in Alaska, I had running water and toilets except when the pipes broke or things froze up. And then we used honey buckets which are plastic five gallon buckets with toilet seats on them conveniently placed outside of your main living space. Many people use them. And there’s some etiquette involved.

If I had to just go to the bathroom, I might use the honey bucket at a good friend’s house. But if I had to GO, then I’d run home and use my own. In the village this is easy because everyone lives really close. We don’t live in the village anymore, and are now in a full fledged town.

A couple weeks ago we went to visit some friends who live outside of town who don’t have toilets. They have an outhouse they use during the summer and a honey bucket for the winter. They had a number of guests over and of course, if one has to GO they can’t just run home because they are a good 25 minute drive from town so in those cases, it’s okay to GO in their honey bucket.

Well, I had to GO. And I just felt awkward using their amenities so I put on my boots and decided to trek out through the snow to their outhouse. It was no easy task let me tell you!

It’s also not something I’d do without a dog, nor in the dark. There were moose tracks everywhere and moose, as cute as they are, are not to be reckoned with or startled. They’re big creatures with a bit of a kick. There was also a lot of snow.

It’s springtime so there wasn’t too much snow to get there, but there was enough for me to be thigh deep in places. I did get there, only to discover that the door was snowed in so I had to kick and shove and kick some more, but I got the door open and finally all was good.

No mosquitoes. Fresh air. My dog romping merrily around. Privacy and the joy of being outside on a gorgeous Alaskan day.


Filed under Life in Alaska

2 responses to “The Outhouse

  1. dawnstoreywriter

    My only experience with outhouses was at our family’s summer cabin, where we had no running water – I didn’t mind it, but can’t imagine having to use it in the dead of winter! Thanks for this look at life in an Alaskan village.

    • My images of outhouses were all from Little House on the Prairie. I don’t know how people do it. But of course, up here, they don’t in the winter – they just have a more rugged version of a chamber pot.

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