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Commentary: Interesting People You Meet

 Saturday, Oct. 26, was Pumpkinfest in downtown Franklin. I was there, but I was not walking around eating funnel cakes and buying those little hanging butterfly feeders. 

  
For two hours in the afternoon I was at a table in front of Landmark Booksellers, selling and signing copies of volume three in my Coon Dogs and Outhouses series. The title seems to catch people’s attention and they stop out of curiosity. I’ve met some interesting folk this way. This Saturday was no exception.
 
One fellow saw the picture of the redbone coon dog on the cover of volume one and sat down to tell me about the redbone he owned.  As it turned out he’d grown up close to the boyhood home of the late Jerry Clower, Route 1, Liberty, Miss.  You readers will remember Jerry as a great storyteller who was on the Grand Ole Opry for a number of years. We sat for a spell swapping Jerry Clower stories about coon hunting.
 
The thing that attracts most people to my books is the “Outhouses” in the title. And these are mostly older folk. The younger generation has not had the benefit of these experiences. One fellow stopped and told me about his family’s “two-holer.”  He said that growing up he’d had a lot of good (and private) conversations with his father and brothers as they sat together.
 
One little lady, who was wheeling herself around in a wheelchair, barely slowed down at my table but she said in a loud voice, “You can’t tell me nothing I don’t already know about outhouses. I was always scared of spiders under the seat and carried something to shoo them away. I just never did like to get bit on the butt.”   She gave a high-pitched laugh and wheeled off toward the funnel cakes.
 
An older fellow walked by, saw my books, and said, “Let me tell you an outhouse story.”  He did not wait for my approval but just launched right in.
 
“I have relatives up in East Tennessee. It was a few years ago before they’d got any plumbing or lights up in their holler. We were going up for a visit and just before we got there I had to go something fierce. As soon as the car stopped, I jumped out and headed down the path to the outhouse. When I come back in about 30 seconds, my cousin sez, ‘It didn’t take you long.’  I sez, ‘I ain’t been yet. That thing is full of wasps and yeller-jackets.’ But he sez, ‘Oh, they won’t bother you. They’s just needin’ to go, too.’  
Well, I went back and sure ‘nuff they didn’t bother me, but I was careful not to set on any of ‘em.”
 
Later in the day, a friend of mine told me about a fellow from Michigan he’d met back in the summer. This man had grown up poor in a rural area. One thing he really wanted was a class ring so he did all sorts of odd jobs, saved every penny he could and ordered one.  He had not had it long when he was in their outhouse one day, finishing up his paper work, when the ring fell off and into the pit.  He’d worked too hard for it just to let it go.  He had to “mine” for it but he managed to retrieve it. 
 
Another friend who grew up in “rural” Williamson County told me about a “two-holer” one of her relatives had. They’d gotten electricity before indoor plumbing and had two boys who were big time pranksters. They rigged up a speaker in the outhouse.  They’d give an unsuspecting visitor time enough to get seated and then a voice would come from the pit:  “Please move to the other hole. We’re trying to paint down here.”
 
By far the most interesting outhouse story of the day came from a little lady who was up in years and probably didn’t weigh 100 pounds.  She came around the table and sat with me to tell it.  
“It was just a few years after the state of Israel was established. I was working as a volunteer, getting areas ready for settlement.  Our camp had guards for our protection during the day, but they went home at night leaving us on our own.  We had a shower, but the toilet was an outhouse. There had been some problems with infiltrators so we didn’t like to go to the outhouse after dark. 
 
We’d just pee in the shower. But one night I had to do what you couldn’t do in the shower. There was a moon, but the trip was scary.  I’d no sooner sat down until I heard footsteps. Then the door began to creak as it was pushed open. There was no place to hide except down in the pit, and I wasn’t about to jump down in there.  Talk about being scared. After a few more creaks from the door, a wayward sheep stuck his head in. I can tell you first hand that fright can tense up your muscles and slow down your bodily functions.”
 
Yes, there are a lot of interesting folks out there with stories.
 
 Dr. Lucas G. (Luke) Boyd is the retired principal of Battle Ground Academy. He lives in Franklin and may be contacted at coondogspress@bellsouth.net.
 

Posted on: 12/13/2013

 
 

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