The Thunder Box – Oz Icon

15 12 2006



The Thunder Box
by Heather Blakey

The night was dark and dreary
The dunny (toilet) light was dim
I heard a yell
I heard a scream
By God she’s fallen in.


The earliest written reference to the disposal of human waste is more than 3600 years old and is found in The Holy Bible. “And you shall have an implement among your equipment, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and cover your refuse…”(Deuteronomy 23:12-13). For hundreds of thousands of years before the bible was written, human beings simply squatted when they had the urge to relieve themselves.

When I was growing up in the country in Australia we did not have a flush toilet. Our toilet was in a small wooden building behind the garage, overgrown with passionfruit. Mum planted the passionfruit by the dunny because the passionfruit need plenty of fertiliser and moisture to keep growing strongly, and dunnies usually were pretty rich in both of those. Our dunny was painted a cacky yellow colour and had a corrugated iron tank nearby.

Visiting the dunny at night was a daunting affair. A chamber of horrors awaited as I stepped along the shadow filled path. The long fingered shadows reached out, threatening to grip me by the throat. The owl in the tree hooted. I was always hunched over, in a state of terror as I sped into the toilet and shut the door behind me.

Spiders gathered in the corners and I lived in fear that one would drop in to my lap or I would lift the lid to find a red-back lying in wait. In these days of backyard dunnies 80% of red-back victims were men using the toilet, which explains the popularity of Slim Newton’s song ‘Red-back on the Toilet Seat’.

But I digress! In the early hours of one dark and gloomy morning I had carefully negotiated the path, had managed to elude the fingered shadows, established that there were no red-backs and I was sitting quietly, not thinking about anything much. All was still. Even the cows that usually managed to cough nearby were silent and the chooks were all asleep in the nearby chook shed.

Imagine my shock when a deep voice said ‘scuse me Missus’. I leapt off the seat and pulled up my pants. As I looked around to see who was talking I could see a light shining below the seat. The night man had come early and was changing over the night can.

I screamed and ran into the house, waking everyone with my indignace.




6 responses

15 12 2006

Wonderful, Heather – yes, I have known this Australian icon well!

15 12 2006

At Sakin’el I have conveted the main floor bath as is you are going out to a portch — or distant hut, all in rough old lumber and such.

The new conversion on the lower lever has been named by Emmie, the “Outside Inn” for it oo has a bath like and old added leantoo, and the hallway is ‘early shed’

many thanks for this — which I might post on the ‘in-house’ wall


15 12 2006

Terrific fun.

15 12 2006

This is so fun! I must share this with a friend who had a house in Alaska without proper plumbing. Her mother once got trapped in the outhouse by a grizzly bear. After that, all visits to the outhouse included a gun as well as toilet paper!


15 12 2006

My parents grew up with outhouses in the Appalachian mountains. Indoor plumbing may still not have arrived there for all I know. 🙂

17 12 2006

Eewwwww, yuuuuckk ….. I just Googled Red-Back. That is one nasty-lookin’ spider! Forget the grizzly bears– I’d take a gun just to shoot the red-backs!


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