On the Death of Oscar

Posted January 25, 2006 by Robyn Suddeth

Helpful Definition Before Reading Further: Oscar = the ammo-box-turned-toilet contraption brought along on Multi-day river trips…

I’m sitting here at a coffee shop on a sunny Sunday morning, searching for any interesting river stories in the recent news. Just a minute ago, I came upon an update from the USDA Forest Service about improvements to river access on the Wild and Scenic Trinity River. (Which, by the way, is another good winter run for anyone looking to get out there before Spring.)

What, you may ask, does this have to do with the Death of Oscar? Not much. Except that in the update the Forest Service proudly describes their state-of-the art composting toilets being installed at the Trinity put-in.

After reading this news, my train of thought goes as follows: Oh! They had those new toilets at all the overnight camps on the Middle Fork American this summer. Those were so much nicer for people than Oscar… But I kind of missed Oscar sometimes. Sort of added a real wilderness, roughing-it feel to a trip.
So I’ve been inspired to write a little something on the death of Oscar, because I’m sure most people are so busy being ecstatic about improved bathroom conditions on the Middle Fork that they fail to give Oscar the proper good byes and respect he deserves.

ahem..(Throat Clearing). Oscar: Although not the most comfortable toilet seat my bottom has experienced, and although you did at times make privacy very difficult, we loved you all the same. Why? Well, without you we would never have been able to play some pretty good practicle jokes on people.

For instance, there are the mornings when one guide would go to break you down in the morning before leaving camp and would secretly bring along a bag of leftover brownies from the night before. He would then put water in the bag and make it look like, well… I won’t go into those kind of details in such a serious address. Suffice it to say people not in on the little secret were quite appalled when this guide worked himself up into a fake rage at everyone upon his return, reached into your box for the brownie mixture, and started throwing it around. Only when us guides in on the joke started eating the stuff did people begin to realize they’d been had.

And then there was the Oscar speech we would give when we first got to camp. Whenever there was a newer guide on the trip, we would use his/her last name in replace of yours. If Susie Smith was the unsuspecting guide, the trip leader would gather all the guests around and explain that the ammo box he was holding was called “Smith,” and should be utilized when one felt the need to relieve himself. “Smith only EATS,” he would explain. “She does not DRINK.” And for the rest of the trip people would go around saying, “Hey man, do you know if anyone’s using the Smith right now?”

So you see, Oscar; You’ve been the source of some great times over the years. And even though it seems that everyone is happy about your absense, please know that you will be missed. We hope you have gone to a better place.


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