Every year before winter started, my dad and brothers would dig the new outhouse hole. They would pry the outhouse up from a year’s worth of human waste and then would move the outhouse, settling it over the new how. My dad would instruct my brothers to fill the old stinking how with gravel and sand. As they filled the hole, the smell would subside until the next year when they moved the outhouse again.
We lived at the root of the mountain in a very rural area. There was electricity in our house, but we had a well. We pumped the water with an electric pump. When we lost electricity, which happened at least once in the depth of winter, we would melt snow for water. Because the electricity was not reliable, we had a coal-wood stove for heat. It was cozy.
During the day, it would not occur to me how alone we were in the wild desert. But at night, it was a different story. I would look out the window, listening to the howling beasts of the night. Even worse, there were times it was so so quiet that I would only hear a “who, who.” At night, I had to walk to the outhouse.
Usually, I took a flashlight. Sometimes the flashlight would not be at its place by the door. It was easier to run to the white bulk of the outhouse than to search for that missing light. Once inside the outside, I was safe. Later, I would run back to the house in a wild rush. Not looking. I didn’t want to know what dark evil thing was behind me.
We did live in the wild. Our neighbors, Ute Indians, would tell us stories of skinkwalkers and witches.
“You need to stay in the house,” they would tell us. I wasn’t sure if they were telling us real stories or campfire stories to scare us. Definitely, I was scared. My imagination would people the landscape around the house with coyotes, cougars, skinwalkers, and witches. Sometimes I could hear the screams of cougars, sounding like desolate women in the night. To me, the outhouse was too far from the house.
The house was filled with the family, light, music, and food. The contrast was too much sometimes. I would hold it and hold it until . . .
One day as I was getting ready to dash to the outhouse, the moon came out. It brightened the landscape and I could see the small lawn, the garden, and the bushes near the house. The landscaped color-leached was a new black, white, and gray wonderland. Instead of rushing to the outhouse, I sat on the porch soaking in the moonlight.
I wish I could say that I was never scared of the dark again. It is not so. I have walked in the urban night and wished that I was back in my apartment. I have seen the mean, the wild, and the insane, but this one day I found beauty resting in the night: the wild mother of the night.