By Stan Maddux
STRAUGHN, Ind. – Not once has Phil McBride used the outhouse on his farm to answer Mother Nature but he felt it was definitely worth saving.
The 77-year old Indiana man preserved the outdoor toilet made of pine with a sheet metal roof to serve as a reminder of life back in the day and to keep alive the character old buildings add to their surroundings.
Last year, he restored a smokehouse in a losing battle with Father Time on his property for the same reason.
“I just like maintaining Americana and stuff. Once they’re gone, they’re gone,” he said.
The outhouse also stirs fond childhood memories McBride has of trips to Kentucky to see relatives who had an outdoor toilet.
“I can still remember that outhouse on the edge of the mountain cliff,” he said.
McBride said his outhouse and others like it were put up by the federal government for use by workers doing public works projects started in the 1930s to help lift the country out of the Great Depression. The work in his area involved putting in drain tiles.
McBride said the outhouse was there when he bought the 40-acre farm in 1971 outside Straughn, a community of about 200 residents about 45 miles east of Indianapolis. He used the outhouse strictly to store rakes, shovels and other hand held equipment.
McBride said he’s using it again for storage but one day out of curiosity might give it a try when Mother Nature calls.
There’s a seat and lid made of wood along with ventilation pipes from the holding area below the ground and out the top.
It might not be quite roomy enough to his liking, though. “There’s not a lot of dancing room inside,” he said.
McBride said he worked at a Chrysler plant in New Castle and was a mechanic before realizing his dream of being a farmer.
The seeds of working the land were planted when riding his bicycle to the farm owned by his grandfather to help with some of the chores while growing up in New Castle.
“I always wanted to farm and when I got a chance one time that’s when I bought it,” he said.
McBride raised crops and hogs when he wasn’t buying, repairing and selling backhoes off his farm to supplement his income for 25 years before recently cutting back on his work schedule. He now rents his land to a farmer for growing crops and no longer keeps hogs.
McBride said he replaced about one-third of the rotting and curled up boards on the exterior of the outhouse. New sheet metal went up on the once badly rusted and leaking roof. The outside also received a coat of white paint. Everything else, including a metal hinge that helps keep the door closed, was left intact.
“I tried to keep as much of the original material as I could,” he said.
I took only three days to complete the restoration in June. He invited his grandsons, Ross and Jack, to help out and they accepted his offer. The Purdue University students are from Indianapolis.
“I wanted them to get some hands on training on running a saw, drill and measuring with a tape. Just general use things they can use the rest of their lives,” McBride said.