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WITH VIDEO: Woodcarver is ‘privy’ to songwriting, too

Larry Burnett shows off his woodcarving, dubbed “It’s a Long Walk to the Outhouse,” which won people’s choice award at the 2017 Hancock County Fair. The 76-year-old member of Millstream Woodcarvers made the artwork in response to a song he wrote on the same subject, titled “A Country Landmark.” (Photo by Randy Roberts)

By BRENNA GRITEMAN
LIFE EDITOR

If there is ever a time to pause to appreciate indoor plumbing, it is on these subzero January nights.

“It’s a long walk to the outhouse,” after all.

That’s the title of Larry Burnett’s people’s-choice-award-winning woodcarving, inspired by true events from his boyhood, and it’s an artistic response to the light-hearted little ditty he wrote on the same subject.

Burnett’s outhouse appreciation is apparent to anyone who visits his Findlay home. Amid all the trappings of a modern-day bathroom, his is a room heavily decorated with that little wooden shanty from a simpler time. Framed outhouse pictures circle the wall; the shower curtain hangs from tiny ringed outhouses; and hinged outhouses open and close, one even dispensing toilet paper.

The decor prompted a friend to suggest Burnett write an ode to the outhouse, something he immediately pooh-poohed until early the next morning when a melody came into his head. And the words followed:

“Our little outhouse sits out yonder
A hundred feet away
There was seven in our family,
We made several trips a day.”

Titled “A Country Landmark,” Burnett says the first verse sets the stage for a song that recalls his youth in the 1950s, in rural Colorado and later in McComb, where he graduated high school in 1959. The song has six verses total and a chorus that does, in fact, reference the pages of a Sears catalog.

The 76-year-old Burnett is a member of the Millstream Woodcarvers, a handful of which gather once a week to pick at their guitars. It was verse four of his original song that inspired Burnett to create a carving for the 2017 Hancock County Fair. That carving, titled “It’s a Long Walk to the Outhouse,” depicts a country home on a snowy night, and a seventh-grade Burnett doing what most would do under the same circumstances:

“I recall one cold winter evening
I really had to go
It was a long walk to the outhouse
So I peed out in the snow.
Dad knew it was I the next morning
But how did he know?
Oh yeah he was very angry
I peed my name in the snow!”

Burnett learned at the woodcarvers’ Christmas party that his artwork, cut from basswood over about 85 hours, had won people’s choice award at the fair.

While he was surprised at the honor, Burnett has learned that nearly all people of a certain age, when prompted, seem more than happy to reminisce about their own outhouse experiences. And he’s very willing to assume the reputation of the type of guy who wants to hear each and every story.

“If you forget my name you just call me ‘the outhouse guy,'” he says.

Griteman: 419-427-8477
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