It’s been several years – decades? – since I’ve gone to an outhouse. But the bathroom attached to my office provides the same services. Because of the time spent in the facility, it is useful to have at hand a ready supply of reading material. There’s nothing quite so boring as sitting and staring at a blank wall, not unlike watching paint dry. Now, thanks to Flanker Press of St. John’s, and a gentleman who goes by the moniker of Grandpa Pike, I have a brand new book to add to my stash of bathroom reading, Grandpa Pike’s Outhouse Reader.
Laurie Blackwood Pike grew up in Stanhope, NL, but, leaving when he was four years old, he also grew up in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Outhouses were common in the 1940s and 1950s.
“On the wall beside the hole were strips of paper cut from an old Eaton’s catalogue, or the Family Herald, nailed in place, or sometimes laid in a pile within reach of the seat. While you were waiting for nature to take its course, … you used these strips the way you would use toilet tissue today.”
The Eaton’s catalogue and Family Herald may be things of the past, but, Grandpa Pike suggests, “people everywhere still read in the bathroom.” He hopes that his book “will take your mind off the more mundane.”
He tells his stories in eight chapters, umbrellaed under the good old days, animals, sports, life, the Duke, people, sales and travel. All 70 of them are humourous, inspiring and, sometimes, thought-provoking.
“A book like this … contains short reads, and you can simply fold down the corner of the page when done.” I personally prefer to not dog ear my books. “Upon your next visit, you might even choose a story at random, the length of which you’ll determine by estimating the time required to complete the job.”
Bathroom users and book readers will have their favourite stories. Grandpa Pike’s animal stories especially resonate with me. You know, he’s a very punny guy. In “Dawn,” he writes about the time he had to give his cat away because he was moving. His ending is classic: “It is indeed a long night that has no dawn.”
Grandpa Pike’s Outhouse Reader is not the kind of book to read in one … ah … sitting, then relegate to a shelf. Keep it on your vanity and read a story or two as the need arises.