Wolferick III has claimed a crack between the wall and wooden frame that encloses a porcelain Yooper Pooper in the basement. Yes, I have a random toilet downstairs and a wolf spider on guard duty about five squares of toilet paper away from the seat.
It’s hard to know where to go next with this story. Do I tell you about the spider or the toilet? Today is World Toilet Day so porcelain wins top billing in this tale. At one time, my toilet stood alone in the open expanse of space where homeowners stored their coal for winter heat. A large antique sink, something I’d call a laundry tray, is mounted next to the toilet.
In 1859, the Quincy Mining Company founded the city of Hancock whose modern population is 4,549 people, give or take several hundred Finlandia College students. Quincy Mine with its massive hoist house sits on the hill above my house on Roberts Street. This was a working-class neighborhood where miners worked the shaft called Old Reliable for 83 years.
In the blip of existence, 83 years is a grandma still driving on her own. But in US mining time, 83 years was stability for two or three generations before it joined the boom and bust cycles prevalent out west where I grew up. Someone constructed my home when work felt stable enough to commit rock foundations and pipes to a family dwelling, around 1905.
My neighbor has a ghost of a toilet past in her basement. She reminded me that in addition to toilet and sink, builders included a drain. It’s handy because I can hose the toilet the way I used to clean bathrooms as a teen when I worked for a state park campground with six public restrooms.
While it makes sense that the lone basement toilet provided a place for a dirty miner to clean up before entering the upstairs living areas, the drain feature hints at another use. My friend and historian, Robin Hammer Mueller, shared an article with me that explains old-time plumbing. The toilet downstairs acted as an overflow in case of a backup.
Or, as other friend said, it was Grandpa’s toilet, Dad’s toilet, something to claim with pride in the dark recesses of the house.
If you read Robin’s shared article, let me explain the difference between a Pittsburg potty and a Yooper pooper — location. Da Yooper is someone from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and you can glean many insights from these authentic locals, including a brief look at an outdoor toilet also known as a Yooper pooper:
My local friends have also informed me that a baby from the UP is also a Yooper pooper, so it’s an informative phrase.
As for the lone toilet, Minnesota has dem too, ya, sure, you betcha (I still remember how to speak Minnesotan).
Maybe we laugh because poop is an uncomfortable topic despite the fact that everyone does it. Listen to Morgan Friedman. He reads Everybody Poops by Taro Gomi (I once heard an Elvis impersonator read this book at a Montana vaudeville show and it is burned into my brain as hilarious). Morgan is more dignified.
But for many, toileting is no laughing matter. Another friend informed me that over 850k people a year die because of a lack of proper toilets. In previous years of following World Toilet Day, I found out that girls and women are susceptible to rape when trying to find a place to go. Imagine the stress and worry.
When I didn’t have a toilet to call my own, I developed a hyper-vigilant bladder and once faced a charging moose to get to a vault toilet because I had to poop. Yet, I also wonder, how did everyone poop thousands of years ago? I’d love to know how Indigenous ancestors lived as one with the land, not contaminating their environment.
Would humanity solve toileting issues if we mentioned it more in literature? How often does a novelist mention toilets in a book? Do you? Well, now is your chance to practice writing about toilets. We will get back to Wolferick III another time.
TWO WEEK DEADLINE: due to the holiday in the US, Carrot Ranch is taking an extended week break. Stories are due December 1.
November 19, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that glorifies a toilet. Capture the marvel and status and love for a contraption we’d rather not mention. Go where the prompt leads!
Respond by December 1, 2020. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. Rules & Guidelines.
Submissions now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.
The Prized Possession by Charli
Opal prized something more than her grandmother’s Corning teapot. Leonard had hollowed a dead tree in spring after thaw. He and three pals from the mine heaved their backs and pickaxes to carve a year-round drainage system for their new home below Quincy Mine. It made the attic space above her uncle’s bar more tolerable to know she’d soon have a home for her children. The hardwood floors and oak staircase were fine craftsmanship, but the porcelain seat downstairs captivated Opal’s awe. Who’d have thought such privacy existed? For the love of God, she’d have her own inside toilet.