Arts & Crafts

The Specialist

Privy Wisdom Part One

I love books.
I like the smell of them, the feel of them in my hands, the different textures of bindings and the varieties of paper and styles of lettering.

This is a book which my father liked. It made him smile, chuckle even.
I like it for the woodcuts, the linen binding, the neat size of it, the observational content.

When I was a little girl, it was still common in rural areas for the privy to be at the end of the garden: the luxury of flush toilets was reserved for town houses or the more affluent villagers.
I can even remember, in the privies of some of my fenland relatives, the agricultural catalogues hung on nails to serve as both reading-matter and toilet-paper.

For a child, the night-time journey to the privy, with moonshine and strange noises in the shadows, was an ordeal; but in daytime, with the sun shining through the cut-out ventilators,and pictures of farm machinery to look at, the privy was a place of escape and meditation.

Spiders , though, could prove distracting!

'The Specialist' is the story of an American who has devoted his life to perfecting his work, who is proud of his craft and content with his achievements.
The book is full of little chunks of advice about Lem Putt's craft.
What follows will include some of the woodcuts & some of the advice!

First, Lem introduces himself:

"I'm a carpenter by trade.
At one time I could of built a house, barn, church or chicken coop.
But I seen the need of a specialist in my line, so I studied her.
I got her; she's mine.
Gentlemen, you are face to face with the champion privy builder of SangMon County.

Luke Harkins was my first customer.
I built for him just the average eight family three-holer.
I give all my customers six month's privy service free gratis.
I explained this to Luke, and one day he calls me up and sez: 'Lem, I wish you'd come out here; I'm havin' privy trouble.'

So I gits in the car and drives out to Luke's place, and hid behind them Baldwins, where I could get a good view of the situation.
It was right in the middle of hayin' time, and them hired hands was goin' in there and stayin' anywheres from forty minutes to an hour.
Think of that! I sez: "Luke, you sure have got privy trouble."
So I takes out my kit of tools and goes in to examine the structure.
First I looks at the catalogue hangin' there, thinkin' it might be that; but it wasn't even from a reckonized house.
Then I looks at the seats proper and I see what the trouble was.
I had made them holes too durn comfortable.

So I gets out a scroll saw and cuts 'em square with hard edges.

Then I go back and takes up my position as before - me here, the Baldwins here, and the privy there.
And I watched them hired hands goin' in and out for nearly two hours; and not one of them was stayin' more than four minutes.
"Luke," I sez, "I've solved her."
That 's what comes of being a specialist, gentlemen."

The next chunk of advice comes when Lem is asked by a neighbour, Elmer, to give him an estimate on a new privy.

"Couple of days later I drives out to Elmer's place, gettin' there about dinner-time.
I knocks a couple of times on the door and I see they got a lot of folks to dinner, so not wishin' to disturb them, I just sneaks around to the side door and yells, "Hey, Elmer, here I am; where do you want that privy put?"
Elmer comes out and we get to talkin' about a good location.

He was all for puttin' her right alongside a jagged path runnin' by a big Northern Spy" (This is a variety of apple).
These are Northern Spy apples.

"I wouldn't do it, Elmer," I sez;"and I'll tell you why.
In the first place, her bein' near a tree is bad.
There ain't no sound in Nature so disconcertin' as the sound of apples droppin' on th' roof.

Then another thing, there's a crooked path runnin' by that tree and the soil there ain't adapted to absorbin' moisture.
Durin' the rainy season she's likely to be slippery.
Take your grandpappy - goin' out there is just about the only recreation he gets.
He'll go out some rainy night with his nighties flappin' around his legs,and like as not when you come out in the mornin' you'll find him prone in the mud, or maybe skidded off one of them curves and wound up in the corn crib.
No sir," I sez, "Put her in a straight line with the house and, if it's all the same to you,have her go past the wood-pile, I'll tell you why.

Take a woman, for instance - out she goes.
On the way back she'll gather five sticks of wood, and the average woman will make four or five trips a day.
There's twenty sticks in the wood box without any trouble.
On the other hand, take a timid woman, if she sees any men folks around, she's too bashful to go direct out, so she'll go to the wood-pile, pick up the wood,go back to the house and watch her chance.
The average timid woman - especially a new hired girl - I've knowed to make as many as ten trips to the wood-pile before she goes in, regardless.
On a good day you'll have your woodbox filled by noon, and right there is a savin' of time."

In every craft we need Specialists!
There will be more Privy Wisdom in Part Two....

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