There must be a river of words down below. It's like a pump that must be primed. What does that mean? We used to visit my great grandmother Kicklighter in Georgia oh so many years ago. She had a hand pump on the back porch. It was a lovely screened-in porch with a sink along the outer facing screen. It was situated on the right hand side over the bowl sunk into a long plank that served as a counter. The bowl which was the sink with a pipe leading outside carried the flow of water to the yard. In the early chill of morning echoing the rooster's call to wake to a new day we would take turns with the hand pump to bring water from the well to the stoppered sink. That water was ice cold when splashed into your face. It gave a surprise to sleepy eyes.
However, it was often a challenge to begin that flow of water. Pumping away with a dry air sound coming from piping gave the clue that it must be primed. A bucket of water was always available for that duty. With a pan the water was dipped and poured into the top of the pump while the handle was levered up and down in a rapid motion. The water would provide the suction needed to pull the water from the underground well up through the pipe and into the sink. The flow and splash of water was a happy sound under the ever brightening sky. It was always an adventure in those cool crisp mornings. After a quick brush of the teeth and extra splashing of the cold into the face came a trip to the rest room after a long winter's nap.
The rest room was a small shack behind the house. It was a two holer. The frame was of wood that had aged naturally into a dry gray patina. It stood the test of time in rain and shine. The door had a strap of leather on the inside which hooked over a nail driven into the door frame. This was the latch to give the occupant privacy as he/she took care of his/her business. Privacy was dubious to say the least. The aging boards had shrunk over the years. If the wooden slats had been snug when first built they weren't when I first entered it. There was about an inch of space open between the slats during my young lifetime. It gave added light in addition to the quarter moon shape cut out head high in the door. There was extra ventilation via this openness as well which provided chilly drafts as well as creepy sounds there in the twilght of the tiny room.
Upon entering there was maybe a foot and a half of floor board leading to a bench seat. In that bench seat were two holes cut through. They were side by side. This must have been the equivalent of having two bathrooms at that time. No waiting. Just come on in. There's plenty of Sears catalogue to go around.
The path leading to the little house behind the house was a well worn one. It became familiar even in the dark. A flashlight was necessary then to see inside once the shack had been reached. The creepiness was heightened at that hour and that flashlight was needed to ward off any haints or boogers that might come calling in the darkness. It was always a case of need over coming fear at such times. The light's beam would travel around the inner walls while taking care of business. It always found the spider webs loosely flowing in the night breeze moaning through the cracks. There were small hornet's nests in the highest part of the ceiling. Mud daubers were evident from the dried crusts attached to the walls. They were not active in the dark it's true but they still frightened a kid my size when alone and closed in the tight space of the two holer.
To take my mind off of the things surrounding me in the dark I'd pull the papers from the basket and read the comics in the flashlight's gleam. The Phantom galloped through the jungle. Tarzan swung through the trees of Africa but the two of them never met. Strange to my little mind. Guess the jungles of Africa were bigger than I knew. Mandrake the Magician would gesture hypnotically to save the day. I wished he would gesture hypnotically to relieve my jitters while sitting in this hole. Ripley's Believe It or Not always provided interesting facts of strange things in this world. Strange things my small brain attributed to the confines of that shack. When the funnies were read they were torn into strips to be used to wipe my ask me know questions and I'll tell you no lies. There were some strips that deserved such treatment. For others it was an ignominious ending but necessary in this case, to me at least.
The nights in that little enclosure were scarey enough but the days brought their own frights. In the mornings the visit required a longer stay, one that made a bright red circle around the botton protion of my anantomy. Since I could see so well in the morning's light I would read the comics entirely through, even the strips I had no liking for. Such visits required the need for extra time. For those moments I would pull up the stool to rest my feet. Sitting that long with my feet dangling would cut off the circulation which provided a case of pins and needles and I did not like that feel. I was seated for the long stay this particular morning and became engrossed in the cartoon advenures offered by the Clio News. My concentration was slowly interrupted by an ominous sound below. The bench upon which I sat opened directly to the ground below me. My butt was exposed to the world outside, naked and defenseless. And directly beneath was the sound of scratching accompanied by the low and slow buck buck of a chicken.
I tried to ignore it returning to my comic adventures. The sound of scratching became a little louder. The clucking gained in volume and number. The chickens, filthy creatures, were gathering around the shack. Their gutteral clucks became more numerous. Fights broke out with wild screeches and wing flaps. A thin line of sweat glazed my features as my imagination ran rampant. I saw feathers and movement flash in the second hole to my right. A rooster crow was followed by the sound of scaley feet tipped with talons pounding on the dirt behind me. Clucks compounded upon clucks as the mob of feathered fiends began to surround the back of the shack. I quickly put the comics to good use. My pants were around my waist and belted in record time. I ripped the thong off the nail and threw the door wide leaping from my foot rest into the open spaces. I was halfway to the house when I looked back. I slowed down. I stopped. I walked back.
Where was the army of chickens? Where was the 5 foot rooster? Not behind the house, that was certain. As I edged around to the back of the shack the odor assulted my nose. My eyes were surprised to see two hens scratching the earth away from the opening behind the half moon house. There was a rooster sitting on a limb of a tree looking at me quizzically. I turned away and walked to the house. In my mind I played through the fear fantasy that had clutched hold of me while sunk in the hole to the left.
It was a horde of feathered fowl with evil beady eyes latched on to what they saw poking through the hole before them. I saw their sharp orange beaks wet with drool evoked by their eyes. It had been a mad dash of scaley three-toed feet beating on the dirt in their mad rush. It was early and they were rushing so fast to their prey that collisions of feathered bodies brought on the vicious fights of claw and talon for the prize. Squawks and screams had echoed through the vastness of my fearful imagination that I cut my business short running from the facility with only one thought in mind: "The early bird catches the worm! The early bird catches the worm!"