Although I left the waterless life in 2000 when I moved into my little red box in the exurbs of Fairbanks, I did cabindwell for 13 years – of which 4 were also without electricity – but that is a story for another day, another blog.
Aside from red squirrels and their fondness for eating and nesting in yellow insulation, there is probably nothing more iconic of the cabindwelling life than the Poop Popsicle.
Poop Popsicle, def.: A spire of human excrement that accumulates below thePoop Popsicle growth is greatly hastened by addition of toilet paper, which is why many outhouses are copiously signed with exhortations from their owners for users to deposit their used TP in the provided receptacle (not the outhouse hole). However, even without the addition of TP, poop Popsicles grow at alarming rates, depending on the number of household users and the depth of hole. Now a really deep hole means that it is unlikely that a cabindweller will have to deal with a poop Popsicle that peeps above the hole, but on the other hand, it also means that it is unlikely to thaw and topple during our short summer months, thus eventually creating a towering shit spire - the base of which is out of reach.
outhouse seat during the winter months in northern climes.
For the most accepted way of dealing with uppity poop spires is to reach into the hole with a hefty stick (reserved expressly for this purpose) and deliver a mighty blow to the base of the poop stalagmite, thus toppling it. Obviously, if the hole is deep, it is difficult to really get to the root of the problem. This has led to various inventive and sometimes outright disastrous solutions to removing poop Popsicles. Cabindwellers have doused their spires with gas and lit them. They have exploded them with firecrackers (perhaps the real origin of the term “fire in the hole”), and hacked at them with axes and mauls and shovels and pulaskis. In fact probably everything and anything has been tried by outhouse owners in desperate attempts to avoid the inevitable – that at some point, the only way to deal with the ever growing poop pile that freezes faster and higher every winter, is to dig a new hole.
My first encounter with a poop Popsicle came my first winter in Alaska – lo these 18 years ago. I visited some friends (who shall remain nameless to spare them embarrassment) and in the course of the evening wandered out to use the facilities. When my headlamp illuminated the outhouse interior (another must-have item for winter outhouse excursions) I was stymied to find a poop spire that was a full two feet or more ABOVE the outhouse seat. I wisely opted for a squat in a nearby snow bank, but the mystery has plagued me ever since…not the formation of the spire itself, but just how the hell, and why the hell, anyone would go to the trouble of balancing and squatting and ultimately standing or maybe even hanging over an ever ascending spire of shit…wouldn’t have just one solid whack with a poop Popsicle stick done the trick?