The Bobcat in the privy

Jan 26th, 2018 | By | Category: Mary Cook's Memories of the '30s

By Mary Cook

Emerson knew I was terrified of going out to the privy alone at night.  Especially if it was cold in the bargain.  Often my sister Audrey could be persuaded to go with me, but sometimes she was busy with something else, and I was left to my own devices … to shudder and shake for the couple of hundred feet from the summer kitchen to the grey-board building that served as our bathroom.

My brother Emerson didn’t help matters at all.  He would stand just inside the summer kitchen door and make weird sounds, or he would open and close the door which squeaked like fury, sending chills right through me.

I always took a lantern at night, it offered little light, but I felt safer with it beside me.  When I was really scared, I often took our old collie dog with me, and made him stay outside the door to wait for me, with a piece of crust in my hand to keep him there.

When finished, I would tear back into the house like someone possessed, never daring to look back just in case someone was following me.

Then came the night when I vowed I would never go out to the privy alone again as long as I lived.  It was windy and cold, and I had put off the inevitable until I could wait no longer.  All evening, sitting around the old pine table, Emerson had taunted me, saying he was pretty sure there was some wild animal circling the privy.

“All furry and black as ink too,” he said.

If I didn’t hurry, I knew there would soon be no use in making the effort to go out.  I grabbed my coat and took one last pleading look around the kitchen.  Emerson was sitting at the table, and his eyes were slits with the look of impending doom.  I offered him the licorice pipe I had in my wash-stand drawer.

“Not on your life,” he said, shuddering for effect. “I’ve been out there already, and that’s enough for me. Watch for that black bobcat … it looked real mean.”

I made a dash through the summer kitchen and picked my way along the little path leading to the privy.  The lantern was no help at all.  The wind was howling and blowing snow against the door.  Holding the lantern high, I could see no animal so I hurried in, slamming the door behind me.  I was shaking so badly that I considered spending the night there … at least until someone came looking for me.  I hung the lantern on the little wood box which held the Eaton’s catalogue.

Finally, I reached into the box to tear off a sheet of the catalogue, and my hand closed around a piece of fur.  I screamed bloody murder!  I grabbed the lantern and didn’t even bother to pull up my underwear, making a beeline for the house.

I told everyone in the kitchen that there was a wild animal in the privy.  Father said that was impossible and Mother said I imagined it.  I could see Emerson snickering behind his scribbler.

Father said he would take a lantern and go out and have a look.  I stood in the doorway of the summer kitchen and watched Father go into the privy, and saw him reach into the Eaton’s catalogue box and  pull out the animal!

“There’s your bobcat,” he said.  It was his old fur hat, battered but familiar.  No one had to ask how it got there.  When we got back to the kitchen, Emerson was already on his way upstairs to bed.  He knew better than to ask for the usual cup of hot cocoa we always had before bedtime.

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