There and Back Again
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No Shame Pieces
19/09/2002 - 10:58 p.m.
Walt lived out on a farm near Boone, Iowa, and Walt was an inventor. At least, that’s what he called himself. His wife called him a damn fool, but that was her opinion and Walt didn’t pay much attention to that. He had made all sorts of “time saving” contraptions on their farm, but the one he was most proud of was his outhouse.
One of the most necessary of jobs that comes with the ownership of an outhouse is pit digging. When the old pit fills up, a new one must be dug, and the outhouse must be picked up and dragged to the new pit. It was hard work, but Walt had solved the problem. Walt had built himself an outhouse on wheels. It was rather like a wheelbarrow, one wheel fixed to each of the side walls, and a four foot long handle on the back. When it came time for moving, the outhouse was simply tipped back on the wheels and rolled over to the new location.
Walt was, like I said, extremely proud of the thing. Once a week he would go out and grease the axels on the outhouse. This insured that, when moving day came, the wheels would roll smoothly. Walt would one day rue taking such pains with his outhouse.
Stanley was unable to hold a job. It would have been much easier for him if he was able to show up for work sober, but as it was had been out of work for a few months. This time, however, Stan had sworn off alcohol; and for dead certain this time. He had spoken to his brother who worked for a travelling salesman company, and he had gotten Stanley the harness salesman job. It would be Stan’s job to travel from town to town and make sales. It was to be Stan’s last chance, and he knew it. Since they were a harness company, Stanley was given a brand new buggy with the finest harness and four horse team the company had. Before Stanley started the trip from Des Moines to Fort Dodge, his brother gave him one last warning.
“If you go and get yourself drunk, or if anything happens to that harness, that’ll be it.”
About this same time, Walt noticed that the outhouse pit was getting a little on the full side. He spent the day digging a new pit, and that evening decided it was time to move the outhouse. Purple shadows were moving across the yard when his wife came out to see what he was up to.
“Come on in Walt. You can finish moving it in the morning.”
“It’s only ten feet from the old pit to the new one. I can move that old house in two minutes.”
Walt’s wife threw up her hands and went back in the house. She had no desire to watch the moving process. Walt walked to the back of the outhouse and tilted in up onto the wheels and began to pull the outhouse towards the new pit.
At this time it is necessary to give an explanation of the geography of the area. Anyone who thinks that Iowa is flat is mistaken, especially when they are speaking of the Boone area. The entire area is riddled with hills, bluffs, and deep ravines. Walt’s farm stood on the top of one such hill. At the bottom of the hill behind Walt’s property was a road.
Walt had dug the new pit closer to the house, and so was pulling the outhouse uphill. It was more difficult and was taking longer than he had originally expected. He let go his grip on the outhouse, and stopped to lean back and wipe his forehead.
Walt never did get his forehead wiped. The effort of leaning back on the outhouse was enough to set those well greased wheels rolling down the hill, and leave Walt lying flat on his back. He rolled over and watched it, assuming that the four foot handle would dig into the ground and stop the outhouse in a few feet. It seemed that the handle only acted as a weight to pull the outhouse faster down the hill. As Walt’s wife looked out the kitchen window to see him disappear into the trees at a fast sprint, she knew there was going to be trouble.
Stanley knew he was getting close to the town of Boone, and he would be able to stop there for the night, so he continued to drive the team on through the gathering Iowa evening. He was considering perhaps in Boone he could have a drink since he hadn’t touched alcohol for so long, and it was going to be a long drive the following day.
It was at that moment Stanley heard the noise: a curious sort of rumbling crashing, falling noise. It was then that Stan made his mistake. He stopped the team and looked up the hillside by the road to try and figure out where the noise was coming from. He looked up just in time to see an outhouse come crashing down the hill on top of him.
When Stanley regained consciousness, Walt was kneeling on the ground beside him, apologising fervently. The team had pulled loose from buggy and escaped. Walt and Stanley found them all four grazing three miles up the road as though nothing had happened, but everything else Stan had been carrying was wrecked, the buggy smashed and the harnesses bashed up dreadfully. However, for Stanley, the problem was just beginning: he would have to explain himself to his boss. No one would believe that while he was perfectly sober, an outhouse, fixed on wheels, had come barrelling down the hill on top of him.
Walt was careful to gather up what remained of the outhouse and the two men took the horses and what was left of the harness and buggy back to the farm. Walt’s wife had nothing to say.
The next morning, Walt made the telephone call to Stanley’s company himself. He explained everything, and also that Stanley had been completely sober at the time of the accident. The company accepted Walt’s story, along with his payment for over 700 dollars in damages (which was a much more considerable sum of money then).
Stanley’s job was saved, and he returned to Des Moines for new merchandise. Walt, on the other hand, had a new outhouse to build, this time under an ultimatum his wife set down: This time, no wheels!