Friday, September 12, 2008
La cabane au fond du jardin
That may sound very romantic and may even mean “the hut at the bottom of the garden” (which is what the photographer, my French blogger friend Papy Biou, calls this structure -- in French, of course -- on his blog, Le monde comme je l’aime), but to me it looks like something quite different.
I grew up in Texas years and years ago without benefit of indoor plumbing in our house. We had four rooms and a path, and to me Papy’s hut at the bottom of the garden looks exactly like our outhouse at the edge of the pasture. It was a building with which the members of our immediate family were intimately, and I do mean intimately, acquainted. An outhouse, for you younger readers, was the place to go when you had to go, in rain or shine, in snow or sleet or dark of night.
For those who care about such things, there are some small but distinct differences to be noted between a hut at the bottom of a garden and an outhouse at the edge of a pasture. For starters, one is a potting shed and the other is more of a potty shed. Or, to put it in mathematical terms, a potting shed is to the bottom of the garden as a potty shed is to the bottom of the gardener. And this definitely looks like a potty shed to me. Form follows function, as the architects say. It may even have been lifted from its old Texas home and transported to Papy’s garden, for all I know.
Ours, though unpainted, was the Cadillac of outhouses; it was furnished with not one, not two, but three seats (if you can call a hole ten or twelve inches in diameter a seat). We never availed ourselves of any multi-evacuating opportunities, however, because we were a prim, proper, and thoroughly Puritanical family.
Another difference is that a hut at the bottom of a garden is built on solid ground and probably houses garden tools and that sort of thing, but an outhouse at the edge of a pasture is built over a very large hole or trench that acts as a repository for what in town would be carried away by the municipal sewer system. Occasionally we would pour lime into it. Our particular hole or trench was about eight or ten feet deep to start with and took several years to fill up. Then my dad simply dug a new trench a few feet away and moved the outhouse, using the dirt from the new trench to fill up the old trench.
The buildings are similar in one way, though. Whether you enter a hut at the bottom of a garden hut or an outhouse at the edge of a pasture, you need to keep a sharp lookout for snakes and spiders.
Papy, your photograph definitely brought back pungent memories. And I do mean pungent.