Lost Horizons- Captain Tappy
Back in 1938 when my mother's family built three cottages on the shores of Highland Lake, their septic system was essentially a 500 gallon container under the pine tree. With so many family members and guests at the small cottage, the rule was simple. Men could pee in the one small bathroom, but Number Two, it was OUT for you. Out to the Outhouse across the road up the hill in back.
The same men built two of the three cottages (the one Uncle George and Nonnie lived in was a Sear's house ordered out of a catalog. Our cottage and my grandmother Gussie's sister Dorothy's ("Dot's") cottage next door were stick built and the same men, Uncle Fred, my grandmother's youngest brother and Uncle Carl, and George, the whole family also built an outhouse. It was painted white inside and forest green outside to blend in with the ample evergreens going up the mountain. The door was a foot short of the opening, to let the air in along with the light, and those wonderful aromas out. My grandmother would march up there every morning, throw a little lime in there from the bag on the floor, and brush away the spiders from the walls and toilet seat. I spent many a morning or afternoon sitting there reading the Reader's Digest. Many fond memories listening to the boats plying the waters as I hurried my task to run down to the lake and join in.
I spent the first 18 years of my life on the lake in that cottage, and then when I turned 18, the end of my freshman year at college, I had no cottage to return to. It had been sold, the prevailing attitude a self-fulfilling prophesy, "Well Frank's away at school, might as well sell it, he won't be back."
I returned for two summers to Connecticut, staying with friends who lived nearby, but never to that lake house. Then summer jobs in Virginia and girlfriends kept me in near Virginia Tech, and my days on the lake became childhood memories. And dreams. I would often dream of being on the lake again, swimming or skiing, or walking in the woods by the old racetrack, longing for those wonderful carefree days with family, and friends on the lake.
It would take another 18 years, when I was 36, married and raising my wife's two kids who were 8 (Monica) and 9 (Adrian), that I returned to the lake to show my kids what my childhood was like. My mom and dad, also interested in returning to the lake rented a cottage and we joined them for a week at the far end of the lake in First Bay. We had a ball. In subsequent summers we rented two cottages, one in Third Bay within walking distance of our friends for us, and another in Second Bay right next door to our old cottage for my folks. Sadly the new owner tore our old cottage down to build a plain, boxy structure in its place. No home to go "home" to.
It was the Fourth of July weekend, and we were over visiting at mom and dad's rental. I would sometimes sneak over and if no one was home at our old place, run up back and have a look (and a quick pee) at the old outhouse. Just for old time's sake. Finding people at home on this trip, I walked next door, just to look up at the old outhouse. It was gone ! No where in sight. Apparently the town, after how many years, built a sewage system with pump stations at every cottage with lines that took the waste down the hill to the treatment plant. No need for the outhouse, so tear it down.
Curious I walked up to see if they left a scrap of wood, something I could take as a memento. I recalled a series of initials someone had scratched into the wood at eye level. But nothing was there.
I walked down disappointed, then for the first time in years, walked through the old gate and up the steps to the front door and knocked. The owner came to the screen door. "What can I do for you?" he asked. I told him my family had built the cottage years ago and I used to summer there. "Is that so?" he remarked. "I notice that the outhouse is gone, can I ask what you did with it?" "Funny you should ask," he said. "Just tore it down yesterday and hauled it to the dump." I thanked him and walked off.
Then it hit me. Yesterday was July 3rd, the dump was closed today on the 4th, and would open again on the 5th. Maybe, just maybe if I got there early in the morning.... Stay tuned for what happened on the 5th of July.