Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

Daughter of Ishmael

by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Monday, October 31, 2011

Outhouse Tipping. Sport of Kings.

Seated: Grandma and Grandpa Berg and 'She Who Holds the Horses'
Surrounding them: The Instigators

Ghosts and goblins.
Witches, black cats and scary pumpkins.
Pirates, vampires and mummies.
An evening of treats, tricks and mischief.
And it has been this way for many, many years.
My Mom often talked of mischief perpetrated by her and her eight (yes, I said eight) brothers.
They were in a rural community, with all of the families around them involved in some sort of agriculture, so the opportunities for tricks were almost as endless as the imaginations that enacted them.
Pigs in the hen house.
Harnesses on the cows.
Wagons hauled to the roofs of the barns.
Tires and assorted junk piled in the roadways.
But the favourite, the real king of the pranks was outhouse tipping.
Though indoor plumbing was quite common in the cities and larger communities in the mid-1930s, on the farms and ranches surrounding Millicent, Alberta, most families still made use of the outdoor privy.
Cold in the winter, hot in the summer, but necessary the whole year through, the outhouse was an accepted and integral part of family life.
And very few of them were fastened down.
All it took was a concerted effort by two or more strong lads and . . . over it would go.
Followed by much laughter and hilarity as the perpetrators fled.
To the next farm.
Where their adventure would start all over.
Mom held the horses, or so she contends.
But I digress . . .
One Halloween, she and her eight brothers were making the rounds.
One farm, in particular was their destination.
The husband and wife who ran it were 'feisty'.
And protective.
And fun to pit wits with.
The Berg kids crept along in the darkness, trying desperately to be silent.
Finally, they left my Mom holding the horse's reins and crept closer.
All was quiet.
Light was pouring from the farm house.
The couple was likely eating dinner.
The boys picked their target out of the gloom.
It stood in lonely glory (can one use the word 'glory' in describing an outhouse?) to one side of the yard.
Finally, they reached the little structure.
Ahh. Now just a little push to set things going . . .
Now, unbeknownst (good word) to them, the farmer had decided, this year, to outwit his antagonists.
By hiding inside the outhouse.
At the climactic moment, he would burst from the building and give his shotgun a blast into the air.
That would scare those little scamps into next week!
His plan was brilliant.
Right up to the point where the boys tipped the outhouse over . . . on its door.
Trapping their would-be assailant inside.
Hampered but unbowed, he stuck his head through one of the holes and shouted, "Ye blimey little rats! I'll get ye!"
Then followed with the planned shotgun blast at the sky.
Admittedly, completed as it was through the hole of an outhouse, the action lost some of its 'punch'.
And the boys, by this time were already over the hill, laughing at their cleverness.
But the farmer's actions did achieve one thing.
Made doubly sure that his farm was on the 'trick' list for a long as the boys lived at home.
Or until he got indoor plumbing.
Whichever came first.


  1. Better to just laugh at the incident and set things to rights again..the more upset folks got the more trouble they had.

  2. One of the seniors I work with told me he and his pals used to move the outhouse over a little bit. Unsuspecting habitual users of the outhouse keep to routine, the rest you can fill in!

  3. Oh dear! That poor farmer! I feel sorry for the poor guy... Your uncles and mom must have gotten in all kinds of mischief. :) I guess my dad was like that... I guess he used to do that thing where you put a fresh cow pie in a paper bag and set it on fire on someone's doorstep, ring the bell, and then run. :)

  4. lol oh those out houses.
    I remember my cousins grand dad had an out house and peyooo!
    I always would think some bug would be down there ready to bite my ass every time I sat down on the wooden hole.
    I could never get used to that part of living. Better to have a bucket and then tip that into the hole. lol

  5. Too funny!!! The simple pleasures of life back then:)


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