Clinic Stories

Who Needs Outhouses?

Having grown up in a farming area and having worked for many years with farm animals, outhouses were a common sight. While most were no longer the primary toilet, many people kept them to use when they were working outdoors or for nostalgic reasons.

In my many trips to rural Mississippi I wondered why I never saw an outhouse even as a reminder of the past. At first I thought it was just chance but as it became more obvious that they did not exist curosity got the best of me. I began asking locals what happened to the outhouses. In case you are tempted to do the same, I advise against it. People routinely bristled at the question and thought I was an insulting Yankee casting them as bumpkins. I stopped asking.

After working several times with a very open minded man with extensive family ties to the farming community I decided to break my silence. Jackpot! “I can tell you exactly why”, he exclaimed. “My father worked for the extension service when there was money to install indoor plumbing and he helped many farmers add bathrooms. In Mississippi money was tight, people didn't live close together and the weather never got unbearably cold so they just went outside. Most people went from the bushes to indoor toilets.”

Although outhouses have a rustic charm, calling them privys or composting toilets does little to cover the smell or discourage flies. Having used outhouses many times as a child and while hiking to this day I can tell you that those Mississippians were not altogether wrong.

Back to Top