Well, this is sure a pretty afternoon. If you wanted nice weather and today wouldn’t do, you would be in tough shape. But it’s been cold and clammy the last few days. The kind of weather that used to make folks cut trips to the outhouse short.
Things changed when you got a crowd of boys, or a crowd of girls, together and looking for some privacy. Most prairie houses were cracker-box affairs, with a kitchen, a parlor, and one bedroom on the ground floor and two bedrooms for the seven kids upstairs. The boys bunked in one room, the girls in t’other, you know.
Oh, sometimes there would be another room downstairs and a couple more bedrooms upstairs. But no matter how you sliced it the average family had mom and pop and seven kids on twenty by thirty feet of ground. Counting the porch! There was not much room and less privacy. So kids needing gossipin’ room would gather up in the outhouse and monopolize the place!
I remember one time some of the city gals the Cooters kept came early. Their school had burned or some such, and here were five gals and Lizzie; with nary place in sight to sit and gossip. Except the doniker.
So they would gather in there and play dolls and such. Which was a pain when somebody needed to see a man about a dog! And after three or four days the two hired boys decided to do something drastic!
The boys were twins, about fourteen at the time, name of Len and Jim Krawpullen. Never heard of such a name before or since, but Krawpullen was what they went by. They had gotten kicked out of school, and pretty much given a choice working in the country or going to reform school.
They chose to work it out, and the Cooters volunteered to work them. So here they were, making twenty five bux and found a month, doing a man’s work. If that sounds cheap, a farmhands wages were fifty a month and they had to fend for themselves. So I figgered Lane Senior and Junior were generous, because they got what the Farmers Almanac predicted.
“A boy will do half a man’s work, and two boys will still do half a man’s work.” Besides boyish high spirits, the boys had just about enough brains between them to furnish one of those little ants polite folks call pismires. Rude folks call ’em something else that begins P-I-S!
Anyhoo, one afternoon the boys felt bad in need and the johnny was occupied. And occupied. And occupied some more. The giggling and doll talk they could hear left no doubt of who – and that relief would come with supper call. The girls never missed a chance to eat!
One of the boys thought that a firecracker under the seat would make the girls move. T’other remembered there was dynamite and slow match squirreled away in the feed room. Not being either smart or familiar with blasting, they got a whole stick of Nobel’s best, attached a long fuse to it, and slip up to the back of the biffy.
Like a lot of country conveniences, the Cooter outhouse had a gap between the back skirting and the ground. The boys slipped their “firecracker” through the crack and eased her down real quiet. Then they lit the fuse and backed off to wait for developments. Which were not long coming.
According to Len, the outhouse lifted up a couple of inches when the blast went off, and before it could settle back in place four screaming girls were making a beeline for the house. And about ten seconds after that Mrs. Lane Junior Cooter had both of the boys by the ear.
Now – this was before the Cooters had running water. Those boys had to tote a number two washtub of water from the windmill for each of those girls. And heat it! And pour it out after each girl was clean.
After the girls were all cleaned up – they had to scrub the outhouse! Len said that scrubbing the walls and roof was the most sickening part of all, washing gal clothes after they had the Cooter Convenience clean was nothing compared to purifying that well splattered jakes.
Besides larnin two kids not to play with explosives, another good thing came of that. The Cooter womenfolks cut the menfolks biscuits and bacon off until Lane Junior put in running water and built a double bathroom annex on the house. One day without home cookin’ did the trick!
But speakin’ of the Krawpullens reminds me of the time the whole Cooter clan went to Dallas, seein’ the Twins off to boot camp. They boarded Len and Jim with Joe Wells. Now, Joe and his wife and boy lived at Babbs, a little community southeast of town.
The boy, Bob, was thirteen, and gun wise; where Len and Jim were fourteen and about as dumb as they come. The last day Len and Jim were to stay at the Wells’, Joe and his Mrs take off to town and leave the boys to their own devices.
The twins had noticed Joe kept a little .22 rifle over the mantle. Bob figured it would be OK to take the twins out with a box of .22 shorts and show them how to shoot. Natural, after a few minutes the twins knew all about guns, and Bob was froze out.
As Bob told it later, the twins were the worst shots he’d ever seen. They couldn’t hit a barn from the inside. They spent the next hour burning powder at anything that moved and a lot that didn’t, and didn’t hit a thing! By that time they had wandered across several sections of prairie and decided to take the short cut home. So the cut across Harry Otto’s place, past one of Otto’s grain bins.
There was a big brass padlock on the grain bin door and Jim decided to take a crack at it. And lo and behold he hit it! The only thing he’d hit all day – and the only thing of value he had shot at. Naturally, that lock flew all to pieces. So the boys took off running and didn’t stop until they were home.
The next morning the breakfast table was abuzz. “Did you hear about the robbery at the Otto’s? Somebody busted a lock and got away with 500 bushels of seed wheat! Ain’t no telling what this world is coming to, we get in a war and somebody starts stealing seed. Must’a been an Axis agent, maybe.”
Natural, Bob didn’t say a word. He was scared to death that his daddy would find out he’d been toying with forbidden fruit. So Bot tried to stay out of sight and take it all in. After a couple of days everything was quiet and Bob thought he was home free.
But at breakfast the third morning Bob’s daddy spoke up. “You know, I walked over to Otto’s grain bin and the lock was shot all to pieces. But the ground was soft and I couldn’t find a tire track anywhere. It didn’t look like there had been a bag of grain in the bin for years, and if there had of been they would have had to have a skyhook to carry it off without leaving tracks. But the insurance is going to pay Otto off for his loss. He says that will clear his note with Mullendore, so it looks like everything worked out for the best.”
Bob relaxes considerable, until his Dad goes on. “Funny thing, the only tracks I found around there were three sets of bootprints.” Then he looks Bob in the eye and winks!
Len and Jim worked for the Cooters until they got their draft notice. Now, like I said, between them they had about enough brains to come in out of the rain. So they get their “presidential greetings” and decide to celebrate. By getting drunk! Which, for non-drinkers, was not too doggone smart in itself.
And it was even dumber to sneak into French’s barn and draw two pint fruit jars of his “Lost Weekend” moonshine. They called that tipple that because because you take a couple of drinks and you lost the weekend. The twins took their loot to their room and proceed to hold their nose and drink down a pint apiece. On Friday night.
Mrs. Lane Cooter Junior missed them for Saturday breakfast, and noonin’, and supper. So Junior got Ol’ Harman out to help out. They busted down the door and found the boys – still out like Lotties eye. Ol’ Hardman always claimed a man ain’t drunk if he can lay on the floor without holding on – and those boys were wondrously drunk. The half sip left in the jars was proof enough of what had happened. Junior and Ol’ Hardman gathered them up and threw them in a stock tank to sober ’em up.
The shock woke them up – but they woke up to a very strange world. You talk about the jim jams, they had ’em. Sort of like that Kipling ditty that goes “In the full, fresh, fragrant morning/ I observed a camel crawl/ Laws of gravitation scorning/ On the ceiling and the wall./ Then I watched a fender walking,/ And I heard gray leeches sing,/ And a red hot monkey talking/ Did not seem a proper thing.”
It was all Ol’ and the Cooters could do to get the boys sobered up enough to report for induction the next Wednesday. When the Cooters drove the boys to Okie City the boys were about like that joke about how many drunks does it take to change a light bulb.
Two; one to hold the light bulb and the other to drink until the room spins. The boys got to the draft board on time, but they said they really didn’t sober up until their second day in boot camp.