APRIL 2005

> ESTELLE AND THE OUTHOUSE SNAKE | james wesley allen

When I hear people talk about the old days two things immediately come to mind. Porches and outhouses. Almost every home had a front and back porch. They came in mighty handy in the middle of the summer when one could escape the heat inside by sitting on the porch where it was always a few degrees cooler. Outhouses, on the other hand, were visited only when absolutely necessary. I don't think I ever saw a line of people waiting to get in an outhouse. This was due to the fact that in the winter time the icy wind coming through the cracks in the wall made one want to get in and out as quickly as possible. And in the summer, spiders and other potentially harmful insects were always loitering just beneath the seat. On this particular Sunday we had invited a number of relatives over for Sunday dinner. There was uncle Will and aunt Margie and their two sons, J.C. and Will Jr and their daughter Estelle. Then there were three cousins from Daddy's side of the family and their wives. Estelle was a couple years older than the rest of us kids and ruled us with an iron hand even to the point of using brute force now and then to get her way.

What was about to happen to her was to keep us laughing for weeks to come. Mama had cooked a fine meal as usual and after eating we all went out on the porch to relax. After a bit Estelle excused herself and walked around the side of the building toward the outhouse. Uncle Will was in the middle of a tale about when he was in the army during World War I when we heard this terrible scream coming from the back of the house. We all ran around the house and reached the side yard just in time to see the outhouse door open with a bang and Cousin Estelle with her bloomers down around her ankles, still screaming at the top of her lungs, launched a mighty leap that carried her at least ten feet.

Then she commenced jumping around in a circle, stomping at the ground and it was at this point that we saw a harmless black snake about three feet long drop free and go slithering across the yard and into some bushes, no doubt relieved to be free of this raving lunatic. Apparently the snake had crawled up into the roof to escape the hot sun and when Cousin Estelle came in had gotten frightened and fell down into her bloomers.

The women took Estelle into the house to calm her down and the menfolk returned to the porch. There was silence for a minute, then I saw Daddy look at uncle Will with a half smile while uncle Will was trying hard to keep a straight face, Suddenly they let go and loud explosive laughter that brought tears erupted from everyone on the porch. Mama was mad as a wet hen and called us a bunch of old fools. That night though, after everyone had gone I noticed her body shaking like she was having a chill and suddenly she let go with peals of laughter that could have been heard all over town.

> BIOGRAPHY | about the author

James Wesley Allen retired from the Louisville Police Department about 26 years ago. He has been writing for five years and has been waiting for someone to discover his writing talents. He has every reason to believe that his manuscripts will eventually replace the outhouse catalog. "And to those who are too young to know the purposes of an outhouse catalog, it's just as well."