That fall, Mike and I were seven years old. We were the entire second grade class in our one-room country school. Everyone else was older. There were no first graders. The big boys tolerated us hanging around, probably to ensure we didn’t find anything more interesting to get into. We wouldn’t dare. Those were the rules.

One morning at recess, the older boys decided on a competition. Boys do things like that. They try outdoing each other. All of us gathered behind the boys’ outhouse. The girls were off somewhere doing girl things.

The challenge: to see who could pee the highest up the back of the outhouse. Mike and I were excluded for being too young and thus not serious challengers.  Can’t remember who won. It doesn’t matter.


Mike and I decided to have a turn.  We waited until the afternoon recess. At the time, the big boys were busy getting into trouble somewhere else.

So there we were, peeking around the boys’ outhouse. It was 20 yards behind our one-room school, hidden from the half-wall of windows on the front of the school. We checked in all directions. We were concerned as much about being caught by the older boys as by our teacher, the huge and very intimidating Mrs. Brown.

No one was in sight. Good!

The vertical stains the older boys had left that morning up the unpainted weathered wood on the back wall had dried, but were still clearly visible.

Mike went first. I stood well back.

A strip of wet appeared on the wall, and then up it went, far above my height. Mike was much taller than me. I was sure that’s why he peed so high that day. I was small for my age. And Mike was a few months older. He’d be eight before me. I was envious.

“There,” a smiling Mike said in his usual modest but confident tone when he’d finished. It sounded like a challenge, as in, ‘now, beat that!’.

I stepped as close to the wall as I thought wise and got ready.

Nature was on my side, until then. I’d been holding it since morning. I’d built up a great need to pee. And Mike’s impressive feat had made me all the more determined.

My instincts told me not to waste precious resources by wetting a track all the way up the wall, like Mike had done. I had to get straight to business.

But as much as I tried, it seemed my efforts would fall short of Mike’s high water mark. Regardless, I raised my trajectory and put in a last ditch effort, with all my might. Just then, a strong gust of wind swirled around the outhouse, deflecting my efforts back . . . right upon us.

“Yuck!” we said in unison, trying to wipe our stinging eyes. Our contest ended abruptly.

Mike had won, fair and square.

Later, we both failed trying to explain without lying (too much) to a skeptical Mrs. Brown how patches of wet got all over our shirts. She probably knew or guessed, as the snickering big boys had done.  We weren’t about to confirm her suspicions.


“ Upstream” is copyright 2014 © By James Osborne   All Rights Reserved

3 thoughts on “Upstream

  1. This is such a precious story, Jim. I could gel the tension, the expectation and disappointment after nature foiled your bet attempts! Congratulations!


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