Tongue tracks in what once was the butter, last partial crust of bread, ineptly cut two inches thick at one end, left in a puddle of spilled tea, Tea pot empty, as is the marmalade tin, and missing it’s lid. Adelaide..elderly ex chambermaid to The Queen, and her partner Benny had breakfasted early, for it was summer and the two were away with wagon and plaid steamer trunk, “seeking yellow houses”, and whatever else they could scrounge.
I was looking forward to peace and quiet on the farm, a read in the hammock, a ride on my mare cool of evening. But panicking hens and looming dust cloud, clang of gate, in her old black London Taxi- came Alice, Godfrey’s prank happy sister, Alice. She was clad in bathrobe and gumboots, stomped in waving a thick letter, “Those two old rogues of yours dove into the ditch when they saw me”, Alice shrilled,” but before you go pull them from under their wagon- read this.” Nothing upset Alice…ever, but I had to guffaw, when I read what she had been bequeathed..
Godfrey writes- Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly, under the clothes line- to where the weathered old outhouse stands vigil over the sea.
I’ve done many a job since wandering from Wales as a lad. Turning cents to dollars, learning the vagabond way. Singing in the streets got me pelted with rubbish and beets, but my best job ever was in Knockfollie’s Bridge, the town on Knockfollie’s Bay.
Twas first summer in Canada, I came seeking work fishing lobsters or cod as my grandparents did. As a kid I did not throw up in the herring bait, as my sister would retch oer the stern. Every person I asked looked at me with my suitcase and kilt, they all in unison said-” Go talk to Verne”
Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly, back through the cobbled town square. Ask anyone, for Verne Gergley’s Outhouse Museum is down there. Verne was living his dream, it was not about money, but his passion was preserving the dunny. Vivid his memories, a prairie boy, “The outhouse beyond the weeds and dad’s hives, twice shipped out of town by train as a prank, oft shifted three feet over, it was part of our lives”
“My friend Beatrice, I replied after handshakes, still believes a toilet indoors is nasty, only for the lazy and wealthy”. “A midnight skip to the loo in Welsh winter keeps her fit and healthy”
“We discussed outhouses we had known in fond recollection, and needing to wee from the copious coffee I’d drank, asked to see Verne’s collection”. “Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly, Verne walked with me, “Ive 200 toilets and other mementos to see”.
“It began as a joke, and as jokes do, it grew.” “I wrote a book on design, construction, and how to best photograph the old loo”. “Folks east of town donated the barn, and outhouses they could not bear to tear down”. “This one is made from the bow of a boat a chap named for his much loved mother”. “Ive a Mongolian Outhouse, Ming Chamber-pots, Bric a Brac, and the writer Farley Mowat’s dear long-drop outback, it has a bookshelf, help your self”
“My last hired helper, sadly said Verne, was a “Snollygoster”, jailed pinching toilet rolls from the one shop in town, so I lost her”. “You have knowledge of the back-house, are personable to and do not bloviate, though you dislike beets, I will hire you”.
“In the shade of the ancient shit-house, I sit down and write. I’ve a bunk of my own, and choice of toilet to use every night. Most have a moon, carved in the door, I have found scrawled poetry, words of love to youth gone for city and several to war. I met my love on the pathway where the brambles doth entwine. I waited for her to use the privy, sweet summer of 1939.
Verne Gergley reports that, “old folk oft return yearly, to tend the outhouses they still hold dearly, it is they plant tomatoes, ripe and red on the stalk, oh the stories they tell, of Knockfollie’s Bridge when we sit up and talk”.
Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly,” two happy years, I lived at the Outhouse Museum, wrote Godfrey.” “I greeted the visitors, played bagpipes special celebrations, an old pair we found in an outhouse being given away”. “And yes it was Verne and I stuck for two nights and a day, on a sandbar with barge load of toilets, aground by the low tides of Knockfollie’s Bay.
“Verne had a small crane on back of his Ute, and a winch.” When the local “Privy Council” town ordnance demanded an outhouse be removed we were there in a pinch”. Across the vast province we drove on this dark, winter day, almost home when a sturdy old hut, painted purple fell off on the highway”. It landed intact, upright in the middle left lane, even the door stayed closed, as I waved my kilt to stop traffic, and Verne got it loaded again”. Make your way slowly, slowly, slowly, I asked of Verne as we got underway, for I had to hold tight to the wayward crapper, on the winding roads home, to Knockfollie’s Bay.
Over the years, Verne built an iconic museum, “Latrine Enthusiast” magazine sent a writer to interview him. “Godfrey, he wrote, one day it will all be yours”, my children do not take my toilets seriously, but you do, from Verne Gergley.
Beatrice writes- “I settled Alice with Valerian tea, which she sniffed with disdain. The packet of legal papers, had come from Worzel, who still received mail for Godfrey. Among it a copy of The Will and Testament of one, Verne Gergley- sadly passed, and a note from Godfrey-” Verne if I go before you, leave the Outhouse Museum in care of my sister, Alice, she will know what to do.”
“So he got the last laugh after all, Alice blew on her tea steam…”Somewhere in Nova Scotia, where I’ve never been is a shrine to the stinky latrine”. “Years of tormenting my brother the beets, my clever pranks, the paddlings he endured everyday”. He left nothing but a path of poems, a suitcase of moldy books, and 200 hundred toilets in an Outhouse Museum, down on Knockfollie’s Bay.
I never knew, and in as much shock as Alice, had forgotten Adelaide and Benny, trapped in the ditch. perhaps it was a place I could send the two, perhaps old Verne left a yellow house for them there….we made our way slowly, slowly down the road to the overturned wagon…