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Once Upon an Outhouse

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Or... what to do with an old telephone booth

I just love a good innovation. It’s a homestead art form goin’ back millenia, probably even predating zoning ordinances.

The first cave-dude to sit too close to the ol’ campfire after indulging in some greasy mastodon and subsequently discover the gas light, blow torch, heat-treated leather and jet propulsion may not have been a great innovator, but among the witnesses there surely would have been one or two.

Casual observers are way more apt to see the possibilities whereas the ones in the throes of experimentation are often so preoccupied with covering their asses (to smother the flames of creativity, I suspect) that they don’t notice any social benefits whatsoever! A very early example of “tunnel vision,” if you were lookin’ fer one. One man’s mood lighting could easily be another guy’s backdraft!

In the spirit of the economic distress currently befuddling the planet as a whole, homespun innovations can take on some interesting shapes. Old shoes can find new life as a set of hinges on a gate like in the last big depression, or duct-taped to a board, they become a long range pestilence controller for flies, spiders, cookie snatchers and, if you have a mini-van with any number of dependents, you’ll see an immediate use for this.

Any SUV over ten years old and now deemed worthless could find a useful second coming as a movable greenhouse or chicken coop. My own one-ton tool box is startin’ to look more nad more like a tomato hot house, especially when it rumbled up to a gas pump. The fact that it’s bright red and startin’ to get ripe may have something to do with this vision. Add a couple of skylights, a power vent, water spigot and drip system all coupled with high-back buckets, am/fm stereo cassette, heat and a/c; then I’d have an upscale tomato house. And I could still take it to town if I had to. Heck, maybe tomatoes like to go for rides! Maybe I could get a grant to study the effects of mobility on tomatoes. Nah, it’s probably already been done.

Park yer boat under the downspout of yer roof to collect rain water, set up drip irrigation off the drain plugs and water the flower beds! This would save water, control runoff, conserve gas and cut pollution and it could even double as a kids’ pool. Instead of a “hole in the water you throw money in,” it could become something funny to store water in. I should’ve been doin’ this for years now! For a true sense of irony, you could even raise fish in it, saving not only on boat insurance, maintenance, licensing and tags, but all that wasted leisure time as well. Time much better spent innovatin’!

Everyone likes cool yard art and there’s certainly no accountin’ fer taste there, hence the vast array of tasteless crap offered every spring that looks really swell next to a check-out stand but somehow converts to catharsisism when planted in your posy patch.

I like yard art to have meaning as well as purpose and maybe a little humor thrown in. I bought a dirt bike 30 years ago that has more testosterone than I will ever possess. It outweighs me bettern’ two to one and sometimes prefers to ride on top. I’ve had several opportunities to guess its weight, but a hot exhaust pipe is all I can remember. So I’m going to mount it in a flower bed in its favorite pose; up on one wheel (either one would be appropriate) with a mustachioed mannequin flailing along in cut-offs and tank top for an endless ride. Better it than me! I could even make the headlamp be my driveway beacon. Innovation! I could rig a motion sensor to the horn and cause deer beans to be broadcast in all directions. Double Innovation!

Now here’s a tricky one; the hammock. These are outstanding tools for the hatching of innovations and if you get ahead through diligent practice, towards the end of summer, they can become a dandy dryer for garlic herbs and tea leaves.

The average dog yard could be much better utilized as a feedlot for a buffalo or any one of the new designer hybrids like beefalo, buffalope, ostribeefiphant, porkypotamus and many more, I’m sure. Just let yer dog run amok like your neighbors do.

If you happen to have a pool, well you’re in luck, ‘cause all you have to do is unplug the filter unit and raise more algae than you’ll ever care to stuff in capsules.

Without a doubt, one of the coolest innovations I’ve yet to encounter was over at a friend’s place. He’d spoken of a need for an outhouse somewheres near the garden to avoid trackin’ up his home when nature called. I flippantly suggested he use an old phone booth as I fugured there must be a huge stockpile of them somewhere, and therefore cheaper than framing lumber and siding.

I returned later to find he’d taken up on my advice and, nestled ‘tween a couple of lilac bushes, was a bright red, cast iron English phone booth with mirror filmed windows. This allowed the occupant/innovator complete privacy and relative security, not to mention a great view! I was at once quite proud of my suggestion but wondered why the foreign model, to which he replied, “Was the only one around!”

So I asked how it was workin’ out and he said, “Have a seat.

“One day I was weedin’ the spinach patch and had an urge to download some roughage. While I was ‘on the phone,’ so to speak, a dern bull moose wandered out of the woods and right through the garden gate I left open. He pulled up a row of garlic, mowed a bed of lettuce, spinch and chard, then freshened his breath with most of my spearmint!”

“Didja try to scare him away?”

“Well, I couldn’t think of anything right off but the previous night’s meatloaf and cabbage sure did! That bull trotted out of the garden, right on over and gave a big sniff at the door, prompting an explosion of mint fogging up the glass! I was grateful for this as I didn’t want him to think I was his twin brother in a glass cage and therefore vulnerable to a practical joke or something.”

“What then?” I had to know.

“Well, as I sat there lookin’ at an out-of-focus moose and sortin’ out my various options, a breeze took away the fog. The moose saw his reflection and smiled, I think. That’s when I noticed spinach stuck between his teeth and that always makes me giggle, ya know. ‘Cept I tried like hell to hold it in so’s not to rile him up, considerin’ my pants were around my ankles.”


“I couldn’t stop gigglin,’ I mean, it was almost like a death wish or something! That’s when my wife’s prize-winnin’ cherry-raisin cobbler made a broadcast sounding like a piccolo with hiccups!

“You know, at first, I don’t think heh ad a clue as to what kind of call that was, but when his nostrils caught on, he didn’t want any part of an explanation. He took about five giant staggers backwards, putting him squarely entangled in our wind chime menagerie that I’d fashioned out of an old calliope my wife found at St. Vinny’s.”

“How’d that sound?”

“Not bad once I found some ear plugs. Our dog ran away from home!”

“No, I mean the moose in the chimes. How’d he sound?”

“Not bad, though I doubt he’s ever studied music all that much.”

I haven’t been over there since.


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Scott Clawson Scott Clawson No, he's not the electrician, he's the OTHER Scott Clawson, who's a quality builder when he's not busy busting a gut while writing his humor column for the first issue of each month, or drawing his Acres n' Pains cartoons.

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