Generations of NCC campers would resoundingly cry “dig ‘er deep and dig ‘er wide!” when Steve “Frau” Frauenthal read The Specialist at council fire.


The captivating 1929 story by Charles Sale is summed up best by Lem, the main character: "You’ve heard a lot of pratin’ and prattlin’ about this bein’ the age of specialization. I'm a carpenter by trade. At one time I could of built a house, barn, church or chicken coop. But I seen the need of a specialist in my line, so I studied her. I got her; she’s mine. Gentlemen, you are face to face with the champion Privy builder of Sangamon County."


Well, we’re proud to say we’ve got ourselves a privy--a mighty, mighty pretty privy!


On Sunday, October 10th alumni from Lincoln and Whippoorwill learned the simpler forms of sanitary engineering when they assembled an outhouse by the Shalen Lean-to, constructed on Pinnacle by the 2017 and 2018 Workgroups. David Birdsall designed and built the privy in sections but despite the popularity of The Specialist, convincing campers to sign up to dig an outhouse hole turned out to be a tough sell. These kids today!


Fortunately, our intrepid Alumni Work Party volunteers felt otherwise and jumped at the chance to be privy to some privy work. A crew consisting of Nicole Byrne Navarro, Che Navarro, Dave and Kristen Weisser, Luke Abbey, Lauren Blum, Matt Hickey, Peter Gucker, Doug Furman, and Jen Livingston hiked up Pinnacle with tools in their packs for a day of service, laughs and memories.


While Peter Gucker scouted and cleared the perfect location, another team removed brush around the perimeter of the Pinnacle summit. The fall foliage was starting to emerge and rewarded us with lovely views while we worked. Following brush removal, we cleared an obvious path to the privy so sleepy campers can easily find their way in the dark.


Although there were only two of us digging at a time, the rest took turns inspecting the depth-to-width ratio, keeping Lem’s well-worn construction principles (e.g., “it’s a mighty sight better to have a little privy over a big hole than a big privy over a little hole”) from Frau’s story in mind. Ever wonder why construction sites often appear to have more idle gazers than active workers? We can attest--there is something mesmerizing about staring into the abyss! Once the ground was dug, Peter, Luke and Matt expertly crafted a foundation to support our glorious throne for generations to come.




Since this is a ¾ tall privy, we did not need to wade into the crescent moons vs. stars or diamonds ventilation hole debate, but it does have other excellent features that you can check out the next time you find yourself near Pinnacle’s summit fielding a call from nature (No, not corn cobs or Sears, Roebuck catalogs).


After sharing (thankfully non-privy) stories around the picnic table at lunch, the group divided with one team making final adjustments to the outhouse floor while the others went to resurrect the fire ring at the Whippoorwill Junior Lean-to. The ring had become dislodged by the root system of a tree that toppled in a windstorm years ago. We relocated the fire ring closer to the lean-to, leveled the ground, put down a base of sand and restacked the rocks so Whippoorwill campers can enjoy their s’mores around a much sturdier fireplace.


In late afternoon the two teams came together sharing pictures of their finished projects, and we enjoyed a wonderful cookout on the Whip field to celebrate our accomplishments. Our deepest gratitude to David Birdsall for his building expertise, Peter Gucker for his equipment and engineering skills and all our volunteers for dedicating their time and energy to improving the lives of campers at North Country Camps!