"The Perfect Gift"

Friday, December 27, 2002

What do you get for someone who's hard to shop for this Christmas? Try an outhouse. This may seem like an unusual gift, but not for Nan Snider who is a collector of outhouses stories and photos.

This story began with a speaking engagement last April in Little Rock, when Snider mentioned that she collected outhouses. On her return home she received a call from Kent Bates, anchorman for Channel 4 KARK-TV out of Little Rock.

"When I answered the phone, Kent asked me, is this the lady that collects outhouses?" Nan said. "I unashamadely answered. Yes. He said he wanted to drive to Monette and interview me about outhouses. He asked me where I kept them, around my house, or in the front yard? I was shocked at his question, and quickly told him I did not collect physical outhouses, but rather stories and photos of them"

Kent drove to Monette the following week, along with his cameraman to interview Snider for a Tuesday morning and evening news feature spot.

"He looked at all my outhouse books and pictures, and listened to how my fascination with outhouses began," Nan said. "I told him I used to have an outhouse as a girl, growing up on the farm, and thought I got my first pangs to be a journalist from sitting in the outhouse with a big tablet, writing poetry, songs and country stories. It was like having a little think-tank all of my own.

"He wanted me to take him to visit an old outhouse," Snider said. "I took him to the antique outhouse in Black Oak that belongs to Mary Nelson. Of course they had to take pictures of me going into it, and explaining the important role played by the big Sears and Roebuck catalog.

"As an adult I had written about outhouse humor in my newsletter called 'Country Chronicles,'" Snider said. "Since then, everywhere I go someone has to tell me a funny outhouse story, or tell me where one is located. I get Christmas cards, birthday cards, and tourist cards with outhouse pictures on them.

"Once I drove through the bank to make a deposit and the cashier said she had something for me," Snider said. "She ran over to where she kept her purse, whipped out a picture and came back to the tellers window. She told me she and her husband had been on vacation in North Carolina, saw an outhouse and thought of me.

"My husband, Alvis, told someone that the sad part of all this was that I took that as a compliment," Snider said. "He finds little humor in outhouses, and the chances are slim he will change his mind anytime soon."

Channel 4 aired the story about Snider and introduced the news feature, "And now here's Arkansas' own outhouse lady." In the feature Snider told Kent that she had always wanted an outhouse of her own, but had not received one yet, however she said there was always Mother's Day, Easter, birthdays and Christmas yet to come.

Well Christmas came early for Snider this year, as Melton and Monte Emery of Caraway delivered a big outhouse and put it on her front lawn, complete with an engraved plaque which read, "Painted House-Outhouse, November 14, 2002, To Nan Snider, from the Emery Family."

"I couldn't have been any prouder of this gift, than I would have been a two caret diamond ring," Snider said. "This may have not been a two caret but it is a two-holer. It is such a hoot, to have this out on my front lawn. Alvis is worried about me, and he hopes this is just a phase I am going through.

"This outhouse is not just any outhouse, after all it has been in the movie A Painted House," Snider said. "This is a part of history. It depicts an important scene in the movie, when the city girl was held captive in the outhouse on a hot fall afternoon, by young Luke Chandler, telling her there was a snake outside on the path and she had better not come out.

"I just fell in love with the outhouse part of the story, when I first read the book (by John Grisham)," Snider said. "When Melton and I were chosen as extras to be in the movie, I told him I really would like to have that outhouse. I went on to tell him, I had asked everyone I knew about getting it, after the movie was over. Melton told me to let him see what he could do, as he knew the props men and most of the crew. He told me that if he got it, it was mine.

"I never said another word to anyone about trying to get it, as Melton and Monte knew a lot more about the filming, the set, the props, and the crew than anyone else I knew that was involved in the movie," Snider said. "Monte worked for the film crew and Melton had supplied most of the set props and old equipment. These guys were busy every day that the film crew was in the area, in one way or another. Monte's son Jake was in the movie as well as his antique tractor. Melton, his wife Faye, and granddaughter Morgan all worked as extras.

"We all had a good time working as extras and getting to know the other 150 who were doing the same thing," Snider said. "After the movie was over, the film crew began to dismantle the different movie sets. Melton was given many of the old outbuildings at the Clarkdale set, and one of them was the outhouse.

"Melton called me up one day and asked me where I wanted him to deliver my outhouse," Snider said. "I thought he was pulling my leg, because he knew how much I wanted it, but he wasn't. I had always heard that Melton was an ethical man of his word, and he proved that to be true."

Melton and Monte pulled up in Snider's front yard, with the outhouse strapped down on a flatbed trailor. Alvis asked four men from the Monette Co-Op to help with the lifting and placement, as he just shook his head in disbelief. There it stood in all it's glory, right in the front yard of Nan and Alvis' new home for the whole world to see. Even the sight of an outhouse coming down Highway 18 caused many passersby to stop by for a closer look.

Well Snider got her Christmas wish, she has her very own outhouse. She has already put two spotlights on it, and plans to add Christmas lights. After all a trophy like that needs to glow in the dark.

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