Natchez Trace is a historic trail, blazed by bison and further forged by the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes, that connects the Mississippi and Cumberland rivers. Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame) was murdered on this trail as he made his way back to Washington to dispute payments for the Louisiana territories with Thomas Jefferson. Or maybe he committed suicide, driven by opium addiction and personal financial problems. He was staying at an inn along the trail called Grinder’s Stand, about 70 miles southwest of Nashville. Servants found him in the predawn hours, still alive, with multiple gunshot wounds to the head…he died shortly after sunrise. Pricilla Grinder, the wife of the innkeeper, noticed during dinner that he was pacing the room talking to himself. She claimed she heard gunshots during the night and saw through a slit in the door Lewis crawling back to his room, but for some reason decided not to investigate further. The only doctor to examine the body didn’t do so until 40 years later, and concluded that Lewis “died by the hand of an assassin.”
About 100 years later, President Roosevelt’s New Deal turned over 10,000 acres of land surrounding Grinder’s Stand into Natchez Trace State Park. Highway 40, the road I’m taking from Nashville to Albuquerque, cuts through the middle of the park. For about 20 miles there is only one simple park exit, offering a welcome reprieve from the truck stop exits peppered across the Southeastern US. Off the exit there are a couple small rocky trails leading into dense forests…no gas stations, no fast food, no Waffle Houses, no motels, no rest areas…and abso-fucking-lutely no god damn bathrooms.
It takes around 24-36 hours for food to pass completely through the average human body, so normally when people say they ate taco bell and then had the runs that night, it’s usually just because they probably also ate taco bell the night before. So when I say that about two hours after eating Prince’s Hot Chicken I was desperate for a toilet, obviously it’s not possible that the fiery bird had already moved through my entire system already. It’s more likely that once the hot heaven entered my stomach, everything else said “lets get the fuck out of here.” I knew I had about T-minus 3 minutes before launch time when I realized that the only exit for the next 15 minutes was the Natchez Trace State Park exit. One city into my road trip and I’m already shitting in the woods, perfect. I quickly pulled off the exit and turned onto one of the dirt roads that fed into the forest. I was paranoid that someone would see my car and pull up to see if I needed help, so I drove a good 300 yards down the trail until I felt comfortable I was quite alone. I grabbed some TP from the car, and walked about 20 or 30 paces into the brush.
Pooping in the woods is quite awkward. Positioning yourself as to not fall over mid push is hard enough, not to mention angling the ass in such a way as to not cover your pants and shoes with your own excrement. Squatting in general is a very vulnerable position, and extremely strange looking. Whenever more than 5 girls get together for a picture, there are a few that for some reason decide to do this really awkward semi-squat. Girls, please stop doing this. It never looks good. Anyway, so I’m balanced against a tree, taking care of business, when I hear the sound of an engine approach from my right, further into the trail. Two black and green four wheelers ride up to my parked car, I lower my head and hope they just drive by and don’t notice me squatting like a freak in the bushes. I hunch over and look at the bugs crawling around on the ivy around me…if I can’t see them, they can’t see me.
“Hey! HEY! You shittin’ out there?” Fuck. I’m desecrating their sacred park, probably in the spot where their father taught them how to strip wood or boil pitch or some shit. Best case scenario in my head is that they just point and laugh at my squat. Worst case…I didn’t want to think about that.
I start to awkwardly pull up my boxers while crab walking toward them. ”Uh, yeah, sorry! I couldn’t-”
“Shit son! You ain’t see all dat?” He points to the ivy around the tree I’ve been using for stability. “-at’s poison oak, man! You shittin’ right o’er a patch!”
My body absolutely froze. The immediate relief that these Tennessee boys were just there to help quickly gave way to a sprouting fear that I was about to get HPV from a plant.
“Oh. Uh no, I… I think I’m good! Thanks!” Thanks? What the fuck…and why did I just smile when I said that? I’m definitely making the creepy face a dog makes when he goes to poop and just stares at you with a mixture of shame and pleasure.
“Ok man, good luck to ya!” Their polite giggling slowly turned into bellowing laughter as they drove off back into the trees. I guess that could have been worse. No TP and I may very well have been wiping with poison oak. I wonder if the crew on the Lewis & Clark expedition traded advice about the best way to squat…actually they probably learned their technique from the Chickasaw. If anybody knows how to shit in the woods, it’s this guy.