Civil War Transcendence, Part 79



Ahab took me to a table in the back yard on which sat a large, white ceramic bowl and accompanying pitcher, which I reasoned was full of water. I also spied a bar of soap, along with a hand towel.

I asked if there was a bathroom in the vicinity. Ahab tilted his head and looked at me in the most uncomprehending way.  I reiterated that I meant “was there an outhouse on the property?”

Brown Outhouse in Field --- Image by © Jill Flynn/PPSOP/Corbis

Brown Outhouse in Field — Image by © Jill Flynn/PPSOP/Corbis

He grinned and gestured to a small building about 70 feet farther back on the property. I smiled and said I would rather utilize these facilities before I washed up.  He again smiled with all the patience of Job and bowed. I knew he must have thought “here is another of these visiting idiot people that aren’t from around here with all their weird ways.”

Anyhow, I proceeded to the outhouse, extricated my proverbial newspaper, did my business, and returned to the table to wash up.  Ahab watched me closely on my round trip journey without a sign of embarrassment. I believe he was the self-appointed guardian of the Newcomer family, and he had decided that I needed to be meticulously watched.

I removed my coat and rolled up my sleeves to wash my hands and forearms. It was then, for the first time, I really got a whiff of how bad I smelled.  So, after washing up and running my fingers through my hair, I flapped my coat about five times to get the sweaty odor out as much as possible. Abruptly, Ahab handed me a small bottle with a stopper. I accepted the proffered container and uncorked the top. I took a sniff and smelled the distinct scent of lilacs. I profusely thanked Ahab and dabbed the stopper numerous times under my armpits, once on my chest and a few time on the seat of my trousers. This must have been another faux pas in Ahab’s eyes, because he raised both his eyebrows to their full height.

I grinned at him and, donning my coat, asked, “Shall we return to the big house?”

He responded, “Yes sir, Marse Hager.”

I smiled and said, “No need to call me that. I am just Jim.”

Ahab looked embarrassed and didn’t reply. He just extended his arm toward the mansion indicating he wanted me to precede him.  I guessed he didn’t want this weird white man to at his back. I might infect him with a disease or attack him.

About Civil War Reflections

Vernon has been a Civil War buff since childhood, but had been inactive in Civil War history for over two decades. However, in the early 1990s his interest was rekindled after watching Ken Burns’ “Civil War Documentary” on PBS. He particularly became interested in the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and decided to learn more about this epic struggle.
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