The story you are about to read is true. The names have not been changed to protect the innocent. I must warn you that some of you may find the contents of the following article to be offensive and in bad taste. Others may find this true story so ridiculous that it is almost funny.

Lee Pitts is an independent columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email him at leepitts@leepittsbooks.com 

I am often asked where I get the material for these weekly interludes that you and I share. Many folks have suggested that I have a fertile imagination, while others have said I am just plain full of manure. Actually, most of my stories are based on fact and often are told to me by my friends. This is one of those stories.

Glen and Charlotte are two of the nicest folks you would ever want to meet. Charlotte approached me at a recent cattlemen’s meeting and said, “Lee, I have got some fresh material for you.” Keep in mind that Charlotte is a most distinguished lady. “The state is currently putting in a new road by our ranch, and in the course of watching them build the road, I noticed that the workers in their trucks always drove way around this one particular spot.”

On further investigation, Charlotte found out that on this site in 1880 stood two outhouses.

According to Charlotte, there is absolutely no visual evidence left of the two outhouses because they burned down. The outhouses could hardly be considered historical monuments, nor were they eligible for the register of historical homes, and they were not Indian ruins. But it seems that a college group wanted to do an archaeological dig on the site to determine what people ate in 1880. Glenn had what I thought was a very logical suggestion. “My father was alive in 1880 why don’t they just ask him what he ate instead of rerouting the phone lines and everything else around the outhouses?”

During 1880, when the outhouses in question were busy making gastronomical history, a man by the name of Walter Foss was writing poetry. This far fetched story that Charlotte related to me reminded me of a favorite poem of mine written by Walter entitled “The Calf Path.” In the poem, Mr. Foss told of a wobbly calf that walked a crooked trail. In time that calf was followed by a single sheep and then a whole flock of sheep. Eventually, that crooked calf path became a lane, a road, and then a busy thoroughfare, all following that crooked calf path. Walter wrote,

“A hundred thousand men were led by one calf near three centuries dead,”

“And many men wound in and out, and dodged and turned and bent about, and uttered words of righteous wrath because there was such a crooked path.”

The outhouse story reminded me of that poem written 100 years ago. I wonder if a hundred years from now, as drivers skid and maybe crash on that crooked highway if they’ll know it was because of the outhouses and the people that once sat there….or if they will really care what they ate for dinner.

Getting through this together, Atascadero