Arts & Crafts

More Privy Wisdom

If you did not read The Specialist, it might help to go back and take a look.
This is the second part of the record of an American craftsman, one of the hundreds of unrecognised experts who improve the lives of ordinary folk everywhere.
Lem Putt was a Specialist privy-builder.
Here he is with his little family.

We left him giving advice to a friend,Elmer, about a new privy he was going to build for him.
Lem took his work very, very seriously.
This was to be the perfect privy, a job to be proud of.
He had told Elmer where the privy should be: now he wanted to discuss its construction.

'And when it comes to construction,' I says, 'I can give you joists or beams.
Joists make a good job.
Beams cost a bit more, but they're worth it.
Beams, you might say,will last forever.
'Course, I could give you joists, but take your Aunt Emmy, she ain't gettin' a mite lighter.
Some day she might be out there when them joists give way and there she'd be -- catched...

Lem had good abvice about every detail of the ideal privy.........

          Now, about her furnishin's. I can give you a nail or a hook for the catalogue, and besides, a box for cobs. (These were pipes made from corn-cobs. There had to be a place in the privy for smokers to put them).
You take your pa, for instance; he's of the old school and naturally he'd prefer the box; so put them both in, Elmer.
Won't cost you a bit more for the box and keeps peace in the family.
You can't teach an old dog new tricks,' I sez,

'And as long as we're on furnishin's, I'll tell you about a technical point that was put to me the other day.
The question was this: "What is the life, or how long will the average mail order catalogue last, in just the plain, ordinary eight family three-holer?"
It stumped me for a spell; but this bein' a reasonable question I checked up, and found that by placin' the catalogue in there, say in January -- when you get your new one -- you should be into the harness section by June; but, of course, that ain't through apple time, and not countin' on too many city visitors, either.
'An' another thing-- they've been puttin' so many of those stiff-coloured sheets in the catalogue lately that it makes it hard to figger.
Somethin' really ought to be done about this, and I've thought about takin' it up with Mr. Sears Roebuck hisself.

'As to the latch fer her, I can give you a spool and string, or a hook and eye.
The cost of a spool and string is practically nothin', but they ain't positive in action.
If somebody comes out and starts rattlin' the door, either the spool or the string is apt to give way, and there you are.
But, with a hook and eye she's yours, you might say, for the whole afternoon, if you're so minded.
Put on the hook and eye of the best quality 'cause there ain't nothin' that'll rack a man's nerves more than to be sittin' there ponderin' , without a good,strong, substantial lock on the door.'
And he agreed with me.'
When I was a child and staying with Granny and Grandan in Cambridgeshire, I sat for ages reading the catalogue and looking at the pictures. I don't remember who printed the catalogue, though. I think Sears & Roebuck are an American firm.

And i loved watching the sunlight make patterns on the wall through the stars cut into the door.
Lem had ideas about those, too.

'Now, about ventilators, or the designs I cut in the doors.
I can give you stars, diamonds or crescents-- there ain't much choice--all give good service.
A lot of people like stars, because they throw a ragged shadder.
Others like crescents, because they're graceful and simple.
Last year we was cuttin' a lot of stars; but this year people are kinda quietin' down and runnin' more to crescents.
I do cut twinin' hearts now and then for young married couples; and bunches of grapes for the newly rich.
These last two designs come under the heading of novelties & I don't very often suggest 'em, because it takes time and runs into money.' 


              'Now,' I sez, 'how do you want that door to swing? Openin' in or out?'
He said he didn't know.
So I sez it should open in.
This is the way it works out: 'Place yourself in there. The door openin' in, say about forty-five degrees.
This gives you air and lets the sun beat in.
Now, if you hear anybody comin', you can give it a quick shove with your foot and there you are.
But if she swings out, where are you?
You can't run the risk of havin' her open for air or sun, because if anyone comes, you can't get up off that seat, reach way around and grab 'er without gettin' caught, now can you?
He could see I was right.
So I built his door like all my doors, swingin' in, and of course, facing east, to get the full benefit of the sun.
And I tell you, gentlemen, there ain't nothin' more restful than to get out there in the mornin', comfortably seated, with the door about three-fourths open.
The old sun, beatin' in on you, sort of relaxes a body--- makes you feel m-i-g-h-t-y, m-i-g-h-t-y  r-e-s-t-f-u-l.

'Now, I sez,'How about the painting of her? What color do you want her, Elmer?'
He said red.
'Elmer,' I sez,'I can paint her red, and red makes a beautiful job; or I can paint her a bright green, or any one of a half-dozen other colors, and they're all mighty pretty; but it ain't practical to use a single solid color, and I'll tell you why.
She's too durn hard to see at night.
You need contrast-- just like they use on them railroad crossing bars-- so you can see 'em in the dark.
If I was you, I'd paint her a bright red, with white trimmin's -- just like your barn.
Then she'll match up nice in the daytime,and you can spot 'er easy at night, when you ain't got much time to go scoutin' around.

Granny's privy was much more dicreet, always creosoted ( you could smell the tarry smell) and with clematis sheltering it and adding sweet scent. More private ( hence privy), more English.
For Lem, every privy he built stood as an advertisement of his skill.
I can see why he liked red & white!

There's a lot of fine points to puttin' up a first-class privy that the average man don't think about.
It's no job for an amachoor, take my word on it.
Well, time passed, and I finally got Elmer's job done; and, gentlemen, everybody says that, next to my eight holer, it's the finest piece of construction work in the country.

Sometimes, when I get to feelin' blue and thinkin' I hitched my wagon to the wrong star, and maybe I should have took up chiropracty or veternary, I just pack the little woman and the kids in the back of my car and start out, aimin' to fetch up at Elmer's place along about dusk.

When we gets to the top of the hill overlookin' his place, we stops.
I slips the gear in mutual, and we jest sit there lookin' at that beautiful sight.
There sits that privy on that knoll near that woodpile, painted red and white, mornin' glories growin' up over her and Mr. Sun bathin' her in a burst of yeller color as he drops back of them hills.
You can hear the dog barkin' in the distance, bringin' the cows up fer milkin', and the slow squeak of Elmer's windmill pumpin' away day after day the same as me.
As I look at that beautiful picture of my work, I'm proud.
I heaves a sigh of satisfaction, my eyes fill up and I sez to myself, 'Folks are right when they say that next to my eight holer that's the finest piece of construction work I ever done.
I know I done right in Specializin'; I'm sitting on top of the world; and I hope that boy of mine who is growin' up like a weed keeps up the good work when I'm gone.'
With one last look as we pulls away, I slips my arm around the Missus and I sez: 'Nora, Elmer don't have to worry, he's a boy that's got hisself a privy, a m-i-g-h- t-y, m-i-g-h-t-y, p-r-e-t-t-y privy.'


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