Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pratt Stories - Privy Trivia

It occurs to me that mine is the first generation to grow up with indoor plumbing. Previous generations including my mother and father's grew up in homes with privies out back and chamber pots* in the bedrooms. This entered my mind since I have a couple of family privy stories to share and because I collected a bunch of privy and bathroom jokes and put them in a binder as sort of a house-warming gift for the cottage daughter Karen and son-in-law Ken bought at Black Lake.
In the process of collecting the jokes I recalled that when I was young there was a humorous booklet called "The Specialist" by one Chick Sales. It was about a carpenter that specialized in building privies. I took a chance and Googled "The Specialist-privy" and to my delight up it popped ! (those guys who invented Google deserved to get rich). Great grandfather William Bond Pratt, who made his living building houses, must have built as many privies as he did houses (unless he subcontracted them to a "specialist"). I chose the following quotes from The Specialist particularly because he talks about apple trees of varieties grown in Pratt orchards and the Pratts usually had a hired girl living with them. It seems one Elmer Ridgway needs a new privy:
Couple of days later I drives out to Elmer's place, getting there about dinner time. I knocks a couple of times on the door and I see they got a lot of folks for dinner, so not wishing to disturb 'em, I just sneaks around to the side door and yells, "Hey Elmer, here I am; where do you want that privy put?"
Elmer comes out and we get to talkin' about a good location. He was all fer puttin' her right alongside a jagged path runnin' by a big Northern Spy.
"I wouldn't do it Elmer, " I sez; "and I'll tell you why. In the first place, her bein' near a tree is bad. There ain't no sound in nature so disconcertin' as the sound of apples droppin' on the roof. Then another thing, there's a crooked path runnin' by that tree and the soil there ain't adapted to absorbin' moisture."
"Durin' the rainy season she's liable to get slippery. Take your grand-pappy--goin' out there is about the only recreation he gets. He'll go out some rainy night with his nightshirt flappin' around his legs, and like as not when you come out in the mornin' you'll find him prone in the mud, or maybe skidded off one of those curves and wound up in the corn crib."
"No, sir," I sez, "put her in a straight line with the house and if it's all the same to you have her go by the wood pile. I'll tell you why. Take a woman, fer instance--out she goes. On the way back she'll gather four sticks of wood, and the average woman will make four or five trips a day. There's twenty sticks in the wood box without any trouble."
"On the other hand, take a timid woman, if she sees any men folks around, she's too bashful to go direct out so she'll go to the wood pile, pick up the wood, go back to the house and watch her chance. The average timid woman--especially a new hired girl--I've knowed to make as many as ten trips to the wood pile before she goes in, regardless. On a good day you'll have your wood box filled by noon, and right there is a savin' of time." 
* Mom and Dad called them "Thunder Mugs".
NEXT: Trouble shooting

Emailed Sept. 8

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