Friday, January 29, 2010

Tipping Point or Legends of the Fall

My friend Robert phoned me yesterday from Vancouver Island to kick my butt back into gear on a project I was working on for him before I went to Kazakhstan.  He asked how our frozen water pipes were doing.  I said they thawed but the hot-water had split open somewhere and was leaking so serious repairs were still necessary.  I said "It is terrible.  We are down to one bathroom for two people", and we both burst out laughing at the stupidity of THAT statement.

Robert said it is better than what we grew up with and he is right.  We both grew up in the era when the outhouse was a fixture on any farm, many small towns and even parts of some cities.  Of course, thinking about outhouses made us think about Halloween pranks, back in the "old days" when pranks were in good fun and didn't land you in jail.  Tipping the neighbour's outhouse was a traditional part of every Halloween night for many teenagers and generated many a good story.

One of my uncles built his outhouse around four posts sunk four feet in the ground.  He loved to brag about his "Untippable" outhouse.  One night he watched as a car load of kids (his oldest daughter, tired of his bragging, among them) butted up against it and tried to push it over.  Motor rev'd, wheels spinning but no movement.  He bragged even more after that.

An acquaintance who grew up in the Peace River country told me his gang used to roam the country on their saddle horses.  One neighbour had built his outhouse set in among four trees so it could not be tipped.  Lysle and his friends went to the house for hot chocolate, "admitting defeat".  While they were inside keeping the neighbour and his wife occupied, the rest of the group used their saddle ponies and lariats to raise the outhouse several feet off the ground and then nailed it to the trees.

Another story concerned a man who lived by the railway in a small town and built a concrete outhouse which could not be tipped.  Until one night the station agent was watching the late freight pull out of town and noticed a cable snaking tight behind the caboose.  They found the cement outhouse a half mile down the track.

In Saskatoon, at one of my dad's cousin's, the kids would sneak along the high fence then make a break across a clear place to the shadow cast by the outhouse.  Safely there, they would then tip it over.   The cousin, one Halloween night simply moved the outhouse a few feet forward until the open hole was in the shadow and netted a couple of boys who likely caught hell when they went home smelling of "roses".

it was a constant battle, all in good fun, with no one taking serious offence (unless they were IN the outhouse and it was tipped forward onto the door).  There are likely enough stories out there to fill a book.  Someone should write it.


  1. Great stories, BF. Got any good ones about tipping cattle?

  2. Can only say I've used an outhouse a couple of times in my life so sorry no stories from me.
    Rob you just leave those poor cattle alone. I'm a firm believer in PETA = People Eating Tasty Animals :)

  3. Actually adult cattle are routinely tipped if they need their feet trimmed to correct problems with their hooves. There is a piece of equipment to do this and the animals lay quiet while the farrier (???) works on them.


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