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Alabama sans bathrooms . . .

I lived with my family in several houses before we moved from Alabama to Mississippi. Our first home in that city was on Fifth Street South. Click here for a sordid but hilarious tale of the itch, and of two naked kids undergoing treatment for their supposed infection of scabies.

The images shown at right show outhouses ranging from the most basic to the most outlandish. Note the brick outhouse in the center—is there anyone, anywhere, that has not heard this remark? Boy, she’s built like a brick—uh, like a brick—well, you know, like a brick outhouse! The last privy pictured is perhaps the ultimate outhouse, a two-story number with a ground entrance and a sky walk for the upper floors.

The house on Fifth Street was my first exposure to running water in the house and its accompanying refinement, a bathroom equipped with a bathtub and a commode. My prior residences in Alabama had neither, nor did the homes of our relatives in Alabama. Water was hauled in from the well or pumped from an underground source and hauled in, and baths were taken in a #2 wash tub or via a wash pan and a wash cloth. We mostly didn’t call them wash cloths—we called them wash rags because that’s what they were, squares of cloth taken from ragged sheets or towels or other cloth items that were no longer used for their original purposes. We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were way ahead of the current recycling craze now sweeping the country!

In lieu of an inside toilet, our necessaries were outside and away from our domiciles, usually placed but not always, downwind from the house, depending on the direction of prevailing breezes, and at some locations the necessary was in any location at a distance from the house that provided a modicum of privacy, regardless of the prevailing breezes—get the picture? When a man-made structure existed, it was called privy, toilet, outhouse, the little house behind the big house and numerous other names, mostly vulgar terms. Regardless of its name, location or composition each adhered to this corruption of Shakespeare’s immortal line, namely That which we call a toilet, by any other name, would smell the same—hey, I said the line was corrupted, didn’t I? And it rhymes!

Now for the gist of this posting—it relates to personal cleansing, or bathing. I hesitate to use this term for an early Alabama bathing facility, but I don’t know how to get around using it, so I’ll borrow a truism from one of our former presidents—it is what it is, and it was what it was, so I’ll call it a wash hole and continue from that point.

A wash hole in my childhood days was any declivity in a stream that held enough water to enable one to get wet all over, and through the use of soap cleanse oneself—take a bath. As a child I was exposed—literally—to bathing in wash holes, usually on a Saturday afternoon. Farming in my early childhood days, in my area and my era, was a full time job from daylight till dark beginning with Monday’s daylight  and ending at Saturday’s noontime—from that point farm work ceased. Menfolks would leave their toils at noon, eat a hearty dinner, nap for awhile in the shade, usually on the front porch and then head for the wash hole for their weekly overall bath—seriously!

That Saturday afternoon bath held good through Saturday night and all the way to the next week on the following Saturday afternoon, and then the process would be repeated. In that interim period of one week, ablutions were restricted to face and neck and hands and arms and feet—unless one were caught in the rain, nothing else got wet until wash hole time came around again. I cannot speak for womenfolks and their bathing habits. At my tender age I was never privy—pardon the pun—to their bathroom habits or their methods or frequency of ablutions. Whatever methods were involved, the women always managed to appear and smell much better than their male counterparts.

Armed with soap, towels, clean shirts and overalls or trousers following Saturday’s dinner and brief siesta, the men and boys, regardless of their ages—even the little ones such as I—would head for the wash hole and once there, strip and wade in or dive in if the depth of the wash hole allowed it. It could be a small pond, a deep spot in a creek or a gravel pit filled with spring water. Diving required a working knowledge of the wash hole’s depth—click here for a tragic tale of a wash hole’s depth overestimated.

The hours from noon on Saturday until Monday’s return to the fields provided a respite from toil and worry, and virtually everyone–men, women and children headed for town. In my case the nearest town was five miles distant—as a child I have covered that distance in conveyances ranging from a mule-drawn wagon to a Ford Model A to an interstate bus. The trip in a wagon brings up more pleasant memories. The men sat on the wagon seat and in the wagon bed—upright cane-bottom chairs were placed for the womenfolk, and the kids were left to hang on anywhere they could find room. Depending on the length of the wagon tongue, one or two kids could sit on the rear portion for a really rocky ride. For most of the five miles we ranged ahead of the wagon chasing rabbits, picking blackberries along the roadside, throwing rocks at flying birds—we never hit one—and luxuriating in all the pleasures of childhood. Once into town with the mules tied up at the courthouse square and munching on hay, we were pretty much on our own.

The two things I remember best about the town square were Wimpy’s Hamburgers—a name taken from the Popeye comic strip featured in most newspapers—and the movie house, placed on opposite sides of the square. Movies were shown only on Friday and Saturday nights, the same films on both nights, and they usually ran for several weeks. The fare usually consisted of two feature-length films, termed a double feature, one a cowboy show and the other a detective or love story, supplemented by newsreels, cartoons and previews of coming attractions, all presented in black-and-white—-color was still in the future.

But I digress—back to the wash hole. I learned to swim in various wash holes by lying in shallow water and propelling myself along by my fingertips along the bottom, and graduated from that to pulling myself along in deep water with the same motion—the only difference was that my hands were pulling water towards me instead of pulling me along the pool’s bottom. From that point I mastered virtually every one of the dozens of swimming strokes—nah, not really—I still use my hands to propel myself along to keep my head above water to avoid drowning, a simple act that would eliminate drowning as a cause of death if learned and practiced by everyone.

The unvarnished truth is that I really learned to swim when my brother-in-law Elmer tossed me off a bluff into Pearl River, a stream that runs through the Hobolochitto Swamp in south Mississippi. In those years the swamp included alligators of all sizes, and I could feel teeth nipping at my toes from the time I hit the water. Knowing that I couldn’t climb the bluff, I thrashed and splashed my way successfully to the opposite side of the stream. I was reasonably sure that Elmer would rescue me if I foundered, but I decided not to risk sinking to the bottom in order to be rescued. No, I didn’t use the crawl I learned in wash holes. I combined the overhand front crawl with some stupendous flutter kicking—any alligator would have avoided the area on the belief that it was occupied by a monstrous specimen of its own species or perhaps of an unknown species.

My tale of being tossed into an alligator-infested river is true—I know—I was there! Sometimes, depending on my audience, I tell the story differently. I claim that I survived by swimming faster than the alligator that came after me, a Herculean feat made possible by the fact that I was swimming in clear water, as opposed to what the alligator faced.

That’s my story of bathrooms, outhouses, swimming and alligators and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2010 in Humor, sports, swimming

 

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Letter to the editor, San Antonio Express-News: Listen up, San Antonio drivers!

Letter to the editor

San Antonio Express-News

P.O. Box 2171

San Antonio, TX 78297

Listen up, San Antonio drivers!

What you are about to read may prevent a collision that may seriously damage your automobile, including the possibility of it being totaled, and it could save you from incurring serious injuries sustained in a collision, and may even in some instances save your life—but only if you read and heed this message.

This is a tale of driver frustration and road rage, emotions that are daily demonstrated in every metropolitan city in the nation, but particularly in the Alamo city with its population second only to Houston in the state of Texas and seventh in the United States. There are numerous recordings of road rage in San Antonio, some that have caused major damage to vehicles and introduced death to some drivers.

A few years ago an elderly driver exited Loop 410 West, turned left under the expressway then left into HEB’s Market Place parking lot and parked. When he stepped out of his car he was shot dead by a driver that had followed him from the expressway. There were witnesses that noted an auto being closely followed into the parking lot by another auto, but none could positively identify the shooter or his car—to this day the murder is unsolved and probably will never be solved.

The consensus among investigating officials was that the elderly driver was an unknowing victim of road rage, having done something to infuriate the shooter. The elderly driver had perhaps failed to signal a turn or was following too closely or was proceeding at a leisurely pace on the city’s speedway known as Loop 410. Whatever the reason for the murder, one man is dead and the killer is free to kill again should the occasion arise in the future.

My daughter—a lovely lady, the youngest of my three equally lovely daughters—had the right rear window of her car shot out while traveling from work to home on Loop 410. She had no warning and could not tell the origin of the shot, but speculated it came from a car traveling beside her on the Loop or from someone off the side of the freeway. The window was still in place when she arrived home, albeit with a small hole in the center and cracks radiating in every direction. When we opened the door the window shattered into small pieces.

We called the police and a search was made of the rear seat area, but nothing was found that may have caused the damage. The police officer speculated that a lead pellet fired from a pellet gun had shattered the window, a pellet fired deliberately at the car or an errant pellet fired at some other target. Pellet guns don’t fire BBs—such guns are powerful and are used by hunters to kill small animals including rabbits, squirrels, birds and snakes. The pellets are heavy and are propelled at high speed with enough weight and power to penetrate a human skull—they can kill.

That pellet could just as easily have struck the right front window and hit my daughter or her friend that was by the right front window. This could have been an act by a juvenile following an I dare you taunt, or the act of someone my daughter or her friend had rebuffed at some time in the past, or perhaps someone that she or her friend had flipped a bird at on the freeway because of another driver’s action.

Please trust me, San Antonio—do not flip birds or make other obscene gestures at another driver. If you take such actions you are subject to having a window shattered or a bumper hooked, or be forced off the road, and you may die as a direct result of having angered someone that—please forgive the expression—you pissed off in some way.

Now to the gist of this posting:

I am an elderly driver—I freely admit that, and I endeavor to remember my status in all my actions, particularly in operating motor vehicles and guns. I don’t add guns as a threat—I just thought that I should mention that I am an accomplished shooter, including expertise with military weapons as well as those available to home owners, including shotguns and pistols, some with magnum capabilities. Oh, and I also have a pellet gun, an estate sale find I couldn’t resist.

No, I have never shot out the rear window or any window of an auto driven by a cute blond, or a cute brunette for that matter—and both are legion in this great city—nor have I ever been inclined to do so—I sometimes gawk at or wave at or—gasp—even wink at, but I do not shoot at such persons. And no, that’s not my photo—that’s one of the cute blonds I mentioned. I said I was an elderly driver, remember?

This morning I drove two miles or so to the Whataburger outlet nearest my home, the one located at the intersection of US Highway 281 North and Brook Hollow Drive. I stopped for a red light at the intersection of Brook Hollow and Heimer and stayed in the left lane. An SUV driven by a woman pulled up beside me in the right lane and stopped. I knew from experience gleaned over some twenty years of traversing that intersection that she would continue straight ahead when the light changed to green.

The street ahead had four lanes for a short half-block, but the right lane was provided to allow a driver crossing the intersection to turn right on a side street—-from that point the street narrowed to one lane in each direction. While the light was still red a second SUV pulled up behind the woman.

In anticipation of her accelerating to cross over to my lane, I moved out at a pace calculated to give her the space she needed—not sedately or at a crawl, but just enough to let her get ahead of me, and after she was in front of me I accelerated to the 35 MPH allowed in that area.

It wasn’t fast enough for the driver of the second SUV—he blew his horn repeatedly and then fell in behind me and stayed on my bumper until Brook Hollow Drive became a two lane in both directions and I signaled a left turn into Whataburger’s parking lot.

He immediately floored the SUV, passed me and turned sharply in front of me into my lane. I anticipated that action, the action of an idiot, and I braked enough to avoid our bumpers—my front and his rear—making contact. I was successful, and I turned into the parking lot while the SOB in the SUV continued under the 281 overpass and turned south on the access road toward downtown.

Our local news channels and our lone daily newspaper, the San Antonio Express-News, routinely report similar instances. Many, perhaps most of such actions are those of gang members, but not all—some are simply a matter of someone being in the wrong place at the wrong time or doing something—no matter whether deliberately or inadvertently—by voice or gesture or motioning or by vehicle operation, driving another person into such a rage that they wound and maim and even kill to get revenge for such actions.

In closing, remember that the life you save may be your own. Don’t respond to the actions of some SOB in an SUV, and be content by wishing that should that person be involved in a serious accident he—or she—will arrive at the hospital DOA.

No, I’ll take back the part of someone arriving at the hospital DOA. When I am faced with such churlish actions on the part of another driver, I say aloud to myself and to any others that may be riding with me that, Perhaps we will find that vehicle wrapped around a utility pole farther down the road, with the driver surviving with a few broken bones and a serious concussion, but no injuries to other occupants. No, I do not wish anyone to die, but I admit that I will not mourn for any appreciable amount of time if such occurs.

A final note: In the interests of full disclosure, I confess that I did not submit this letter to the editor. Over the years I have accumulated numerous rejections from that worthy, some of which—but not all—may have included a thought, or thoughts, that could possibly be considered criticisms of the paper. I don’t handle rejections well so I decided to appeal to a different audience—the highly erudite and always perceptive readers of my postings on Word Press.com. As of this posting I have never been rejected—not once—by Word Press.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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