There is one story from my childhood that had a lasting influence on my life. It’s a tad unsovoury but I think you’ll enjoy the story…
The block of land that we lived on was covered with fruit trees, including apples, plums, nectarines, peaches, apricots, lemons and of course our beloved walnut and quince trees.
Dad always had a large and abundant vegetable garden that he constantly tended (when he wasn’t working his normal two jobs).
There was definitely something about walking out into our backyard and pulling a ripe plum or nectarine off the tree and taking a big juicy bite.
I swear you could almost taste the sun with each bite, the juices dripping from your chin and running down over your hands.
It still makes my mouth water just thinking it…
Sounds amazing I know, except for the one horrid blight on this idyllic scene.
Strangely sitting in the middle of this paradise was our outhouse or as they’d say in Australia the “dunny”.
What is a dunny you may ask?
As a kid growing up in the “bush” it seemed completely normal that your toilet was in a separate little house well away from where you lived.
Our house was originally a miners cottage built during the 1850’s and was so small that it had no room for an inside toilet.
Each week we had a visit from the local “night cart”, a man employed by the local council to change out the pans brimming with bodily waste.
After collecting his truck load he would drive up to the mine shafts at the north end of town and pour the contents into the deep mine shafts.
Well, my theory is that, especially in the hot Australian summer heat this was the only time that he could swap the pans without the flies being so thick as to carry him away.
It clearly was a shitty job (excuse the pun!) but I suppose it was a steady one albeit solitary work, and definitely not for those with a delicate disposition or queasy stomach.
I distinctly remember holding my breath and breathing through my mouth whenever I had to use it. It was a veritable hot box in summer and an ice box in winter. Yes, totally unsavoury…
Not to mention tricky to navigate if you had to go at night, especially without any lights, nor were afraid of creepy crawlies, especially spiders…
To add further context to the story…
I grew up in a household that sometimes struggled to make ends meet you learned at an early age to finish everything on your plate no matter what.
My mum was short on patience and had a hair trigger temper! I suppose this somewhat understandable given her Irish heritage and matching red hair. All I’m saying is that if you disobeyed her you did so at your own peril!
I remember one summer afternoon, I must have only been about 6 or 7 years old. Mum had made me a Salada biscuit (salted cracker) slathered in peanut butter for lunch.
She had repeatedly warned us never to take food into the outhouse (Dunny) because of the flies that carried all sorts of germs…great advice!
All well and good in theory, but to a little boy who was both hungry and desperate to go to the toilet I wasn’t going to give up on my unfinished Salada no matter what.
I had a brainwave – I’d just take it in with me and place it carefully on the bench next to me, and keep it clean by swatting the flies away with my free hand while I went to the toilet.
What a scathingly brilliant idea!
So I scurried in and carefully placed the partly eaten biscuit on the bench next to me (within swatting distance) and proceeded to do my business.
I smiled to myself as I confidently swatted away fly after fly from the half eaten biscuit sitting next to me.
As I finished wiping myself off I must have turned too closely to the biscuit and to my horror knocked it into the foul and smelly pan below.
I knew mum would see the partly submerged biscuit floating in the waste and putting two and two together surely meant certain trouble for yours truly!
There was only one thing for it.
I lent over the pan, taking a deep breath and stuck my head and shoulder deep into the hole while holding on with my other hand for dear life so that I didn’t tumble into the abyss.
After retrieving the errant biscuit I then proceeded to wipe the visible waste from the exterior with my hand before then wiping it on the leg of my pants…okay but in my defence I was only 6 or 7.
Fearing that I’d be caught red handed I slowly opened the door and peeked out to see if anyone was in the vicinity.
Nope not a soul – thank goodness i breathed to myself!
As I walked away from the dunny, I remember eyeing the Salada doubtfully…it didn’t seem that bad I thought to myself.
This was especially true now that I had “cleaned it” off, I couldn’t even tell the difference between the peanut butter from the pooh.
Yeah, it was at this point that I decided to eat the evidence…
To this day I still can’t stomach the taste of peanut butter, the mere taste is enough to make my stomach turn and my mouth gag.
In fact, just the thought of peanut butter transports me back to that hot summers day in my childhood, and clearly one I’d rather forget.
Such a gross story, but one worth definitely telling. 🙂
Until next week.