The outhouse was situated between the henhouse and the coal pile on my grandparents farm in Kentucky. It was where I learned to dance, had my first art exhibit, won small victories and shared intimate secrets with my potty companions. It was a multipurpose facility.
For those who don’t know…
The weathered, wooden building was a four by six foot, two seater with a tin roof and a door that squeaked out a song when it opened and closed. It had little or no foundation and rocked back and forth in the wind. My dad put handles on the inside walls so you could hold it steady if the there came a sudden gust. The floor boards were loose and if you stepped on one, then the other, they gave way enough to get a good rhythm going.
I needed that in the fall of 1968 when I attended my first semi formal dance. The Eighth Grade Band Dance was a Fee School spotlight event. Anxiously anticipated for months, talked about afterwards for weeks, it was a make or break situation for eighth graders. I had two problems: I wasn’t sure who my date was and I didn’t know how to dance.
I had a whirlwind romantic life at the time. I had gotten Bobby C’s I.D. bracelet on Monday. Broke up, gave it back on Tuesday. Got Robbie B’s on Wednesday. Broke up, gave it back on Friday before class, and got both of them back by the end of the day. The dance was Saturday night and I was going steady with two boys. I was switching I.D. bracelets so often, my arm didn’t have time to turn green. That was problem number one.
Problem number two was my lack of proficiency on the dance floor. I could move around, but I looked silly doing it. I was all feet, skinny, flat chested and awkward. if you looked at me, you would wonder how I ended up with two boyfriends in the first place. I needed to learn to dance, and fast. This is where the outhouse came in handy.
We went to my grandparents farm almost every weekend. It was just up the road in Bracken County. They didn’t have indoor plumbing and the outhouse was an excellent place for quiet contemplation (I had to decide on a boyfriend) and to my relief, a good place to learn to dance. I had stepped on those loose boards a hundred times, but it never occurred to me that they would provide a solution to my problem. As they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
I had just been given a transistor radio, for my birthday and was listening to “Yummy, Yummy, Yummy” by The Ohio Express (a one hit wonder) I headed to the outhouse for the usual reason, but when I stepped inside with the need to pee and bubble gum in my ear, magic happened. I started bobbing up and down and moving back and forth, the boards giving way just enough to get my groove on. It felt good. I could hear the chickens clucking next door so I started flapping my arms and even threw in a few cock a doodle do’s. I stayed there all afternoon working on moves. I was ready for my debut.
I wasn’t allowed to date, so my dad drove me to the dance. We pulled up to the gym laboriously decorated with tissue paper stuffed chicken wire and silver streamers. It was gorgeous! With a blue moire dress, lace tights, a padded bra and a bracelet on each arm, I was gorgeous too! Dad got out, came around and opened the door for me. Extending his hand, he said, “You look very pretty tonight Jo. Every boy there is going to want to dance with you. Have fun and keep your chin up and your nose clean.”
He said that last bit about my chin and my nose every time I went anywhere. It meant “be good.” What stuck with me was the part about every boy wanting to dance with me. I believed it. I started thinking that maybe I didn’t need a boyfriend at all. I could play the field, dance each dance with a different guy. I would be so in demand they would be standing in line, waiting in enviable awe till it was their turn. I was so confident that I glided across the gym floor and told Bobby C, “Sorry, but we’re over for good. I need my freedom.” I handed him his I.D. bracelet and walked away. Don’t cry for Bobby C, he gave it to my best friend before the night was over. As I left my jilted young love, I saw Robby B standing at the punch bowl and gave him the same treatment. He cried and told me to keep the bracelet in case I change my mind.
“How embarrassing for us both.” I said to my soon to be former best friend and I asked her to return it for me when he gets a grip.
I was free! I waited for the moment to sink in and the lines to form. I spun around, pushing out my padded chest and faking a lady like laugh. I did that for 45 minutes.
I was wrong about the line of suitors. No one lined up. No one even asked me to dance. In fact, no boy asked any girl to dance. They all stood around looking at their feet and drinking non spiked punch. The girls got tired of waiting and started dancing with each other. It became competitive as each girl tried to best the other with their moves. There were thirty girls, first timers in heels and panty hose, in a circle, lighting up the joint. We were on fire!
That night I invented the Funky Chicken. I never got credit for it and I’ve accepted my loss of fame. But it was me, inspired by a humble outhouse nestled between the hen house and the coal pile on a small farm in Kentucky.