An outhouse by the side of the road has created a little stir in Ashland. It’s not the outhouses’ proximity to a farm stand – or that through its open door you can see two toilet seats side by side. As NHPR’s Sean Hurley tells us, it’s what the outhouse is being used for that’s causing all the commotion.
We’re winding along the pumpkins and the freshly picked produce, Chris Owens and I, at his farm stand on Route 175 in Ashland. I’m not here to buy corn or lettuce. I’m here to find out about Owens brand new...amenity.
“I've always wanted to build an outhouse here,” Owens says. And there it is. A great wooden outhouse by the side of the road right in front of his farm stand.
“You can look in the toilet if you want,” he tells me, “I'd say there's at least a hundred.”
But a hundred what? I’m not sure yet.
“So I thought we'd have an outhouse,” Owens continues, “and I thought, 'well, we should have a two seater so people can both sit in there.' "
Which sounds both practical and - terrifying.
“We’ll have an old Sears Catalog,” Owens says. “That’s what people used for toilet paper way back then. “
But then, at some point during the construction phase, Owens had a Eureka moment.
“Then I'm thinking, a polling booth is almost the exact same size as an outhouse,” he says.
So he painted a sign over the outhouse door that reads: “Official NH Voting Booth.” And then he set a mannequin on either side of the two seater. And then, he says, “We called around -- we had to go to Massachusetts to get a Trump mask and a Hillary mask.”
Next, Owens put the masks on the mannequins and plugged some flags into the outhouse roof.
Above the Donald Trump figure is a sign that Owens reads, “’If I am elected we will build a wall between
Plymouth and Rumney, and Rumney will pay for it.’ It's classic!”
Classic, but I was still a little confused.
“So it’s a working two seater outhouse,” I say, “so then when you use it’s like you’re voting ?”
“No,” he says. “That would be so disgusting. Right in front of an organic vegetable stand to put a freestanding outhouse?”
So it is a freestanding outhouse in front of an organic vegetable stand, but it’s one of those decorative ones. And you don’t vote the way I thought. Instead, you collect a ballot from the farm stand and then, Owens says, “You put your ballot right in the toilet. That was part of the part of the you know that people like it – ‘that's about the only place this ballot belongs is in the toilet.’ "
We peer down through the toilet seats at the piles of ballots. “It took off immediately,” he says. “Like instantly there were people, cars here just taking pictures and wanting to vote. And it just spread.”
Owens guesses a couple hundred votes have already been cast and expects more than a thousand by November 1st when he plans to post the results by the side of the road. “See that there'll be a sign,” he says, “Trump blah blah blah. Hillary blah blah blah.”
Owens informs me that I’m not going to be allowed to leave without visiting the outhouse. “Let me give you a ballot,” he says.
So, ballot in hand, I step inside the outhouse, close the door…and vote.