What does a 5-year-old do sitting in a farm outhouse in Colorado with no toilet paper?
That is the exact situation I encountered one cold evening back when I was 6 years old. And now that we are having trouble finding TP on store shelves, I’m reminded of those days.
Remember, that was 200 or 300 years ago, so it seems like the Plains Wars were just ending, but truth is, it was the 1950s and my family was visiting my grandparent’s farm in northern Colorado. I was a California kid.
There I was, occupying one opening of a two-hole outhouse, late in the evening during a stormy December. The wind was howling, and I couldn’t believe how bitter cold it was in there. After doing my business, I looked around for the TP. There was none in sight. I checked twice. Nope, nada.
Calling for Mom or Dad or a grandparent did no good because of the howling wind. They couldn’t hear me, and I had to figure this out myself. The only paper products in that outhouse was a Sears & Roebuck catalog, which I had been looking through.
I had been wondering why some of the pages had been torn out. That seemed odd. Further, it seemed most of the pages torn out were clothes and household goods. As I puzzled over why only pages with certain types of products were torn out, it dawned on me why those pages were missing. My eyebrows shot up and I’ve never looked at a catalog the same.
I knew that I had to wrap my mind around this obvious fact that catalogs were the TP. The pages were much bigger than a square of TP, so I figured out that folding and tearing a page into four pieces was the way to go. That was the easy part. The tough part was figuring out why a bunch of pages were missing, then a bunch of pages were intact, then more missing.
Pages containing farm equipment and tools were intact. Pages with toys and clothes were obviously being torn out. However, pages with women’s undergarments were intact. It wasn’t until years later when I was a teenager that I figured out that mystery.
I carefully picked pages that had clothes or household goods and tore out a couple of pages. When I got back in the house, an uncle asked, “What pages did you use?” When I said I used kitchen stuff pages, everyone in the house roared with laughter and I got pats on the back. Guess that was a rite of passage on a farm.
Fast-forward to this week, when store shelves have no toilet paper or paper towels. I laugh each day when I go to the mailbox and find lots of multi-page, newspaper-like advertisements from chain stores. Our solution may be in the mailbox.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.