The Latrine


There’s one in every campsite. There’s even sort of a standard design. It has a roof, and about half the space under the roof is open. That has a faucet and a pipe with a series of holes in it, so a patrol could stand on either side and all wash up at the same time. A metal tray catches that water and funnels it into a drainpipe. There is another faucet set off to one side, slightly away from the rest of the facility, for filling water jugs, canteens, and fire buckets.

The other half is enclosed, with a “L” shaped doorway, so that you have go around a privacy wall to enter. It’s a two holer, usually. Nothing more than an outhouse, except that this is an outhouse used by Troops of Boy Scouts all summer long. Pungent, some might say, foul, vile, disgusting, gross, even. It would make the old farm outhouse, used by just a family of 4 or 5, a cheery pleasant place to sit and read the Sears catalog.

Even if the Patrol assigned to clean it gives their last full measure of devotion to the task, it takes detachment, a strong stomach, and great need to make a Scout venture into the latrine for a sit down visit. Because most of the smell rises from the hole. But visit they must. For this is the only facility provided.

There are exceptions. A porcelain throne in the new First Aid hut, a couple of old stalls for the leaders in the back of the OA Lodge, and the ever present possibility of going into the woods and digging a hole being the most likely. There is one other possibility I had never considered.

I had a sick Scout. It had been a hot week in camp and having one feeling bad wasn’t unusual. What was a little surprising is that it was the Troop Guide, a sixteen year old Life Scout. As Guide his job was watching out for the new Scouts, helping them with Scouting in their first year. He had been coming to camp for five summers.

On Thursday morning of camp week, he did not want to go to breakfast. As I get ready to walk him up to sick call, I asked him all the usual questions, including the one I usually ask the younger Scouts, “Have you had a bowel movement in the last day or so?”

“No,” he says.

“When did you last have one?”

“Last Saturday, before I left home.”

I stood there for a while, trying to process this bit of information, “Saturday?!?”

“Yes, sir, it shouldn’t be the problem, I never poop when I’m in camp.”

More processing time, “Never? You mean, every year, you go the whole week without going to the bathroom?”

“Yes, sir.”

I walked him to sick call. The camp paramedic went through the same conversation, almost word for word. We sent the Scout down the hall to the air conditioned porcelain, and a little while later he felt much better.

Friday evening, when his mother came to pick him up after the closing campfire, I related this story to her. She got an odd look on her face as I was speaking. When I finished she burst out laughing.

“What?,” I asked.

She giggled some more, “Every summer, the first thing he did when we got home from camp was go in the bathroom and lock the door. He would be in there for an hour or more. I always wondered what he was doing. Now I know.”

Nothing has more strength than dire necessity.
–Euripides

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7 thoughts on “The Latrine

  1. Without reading a single word I knew what that building was…

    Of course, you never forget it once you've cleaned one top to bottom…

  2. All of you, just like Scouts. I write my heart out on some posts and I don't even get one comment.

    I post some poop humor, and here y'all are, yukking it up.

    One or two more, and I'm going to form a patrol.

  3. My oldest son's first year at Summer camp was exactly like the Troop Guide– 7 days without a BM.

    Man, you did that picture justice.

    Great post

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