The PIT and the Outhouse at Old Wildcat Guard Station
Dixie National Forest, Utah, 2003
by Michael Dant, PIT Volunteer
I’ve heard a lot of come-ons in my lifetime, but when Marian “Omar” Jacklin, the head archaeologist for the Dixie NF, said that the highlight of our PIT project would be pushing over an outhouse, I had some misgivings. Those misgivings were soon allayed.
The main part of our project was to continue the work of previous PIT volunteers, restoring the Old Wildcat Guard Station (ca. 1911). The site is on the Dixie NF just south of Torrey, Utah. The previous groups had shingled the five-room cabin and applied a coat of primer paint on the outside. Our task was to strip paint from the ceiling molding, sand the floors, apply the final exterior paint coat (a kind of railroad station red that had been the original color), dig a French drain, and do general cleanup.
The goal is to make the cabin enticing to folks who will participate in an artists-in-residence program beginning three years from now. Painters, writers, and sculptors will be encouraged to rent the cabin and take inspiration from the surroundings as they create their works. The Boulder Mountain area certainly should inspire them. A small stream runs through the valley, which inclines to small meadows surrounded by aspen copses and larger forests of big pines, eventually topping out to a craggy peak. Deer and elk graze the pastures, seemingly unafraid of humans. What an idyllic setting for any artist!
Marian was an easy taskmaster, so the atmosphere for the six volunteers was quite relaxed. Like many of her peers on other projects, she was eager to share her two decades of knowledge of the area as well as to take us on an afternoon side trip to some well-preserved Fremont and Ute petroglyphs in Carcass Canyon, many of which she could date based on various studies. She didn’t want to try to interpret them, however, saying “I don’t want to presume what was in the mind of the artist.”
One of the amenities, which she provided, was unexpected but certainly welcome—a solar shower. We found that a five-gallon container of solar-heated water could easily provide three much-appreciated showers. Conservation at its best. I think all of the shower users were surprised at how little could be sufficient, and I suspect that we all went home thinking about how we could try to conserve our water.
The razing of the outhouse was delayed until the last day. And for those of us who had never toppled one, it was truly a highlight. No, it was not being used at the time! As always, the benefits of PITing come from establishing new friendships and knowing that we had contributed to a worthwhile project.