Dear Sagebrush Sven,

An editorial in the Nov. 19, 2020, issue of your fine newspaper exhorts all the locals to “Shop Local.” We reside in rural southern Johnson County. Four generations of my family have been “buying Buffalo” over the past 100-plus years, so I guess that makes us “local.” For the most part, it has been a pretty fair relationship, however since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, many things have changed. I am writing to take issue with recent developments in “our” fine little village. 

We are in the habit of heading into Buffalo pretty early, stopping in for breakfast at a fast-food establishment and then getting on with our shopping. One of our more memorable trips to Buffalo since the outbreak of COVID-19 found us paying our usual visit to the fast-food joint where we were met with a sign stating “dining room closed.” That included restrooms. Now, we had been driving for 45 minutes and our breakfast coffee was creating quite a stir. But we dutifully placed an order at the drive-through window and took our breakfast with us on the road to the next stop, feeling confident in our ability to access the public restroom at the grocery store. We finished our breakfast in the parking lot, entered the grocery store at a brisk clip and headed to the restrooms. Surprise! A sign on the door read “Restroom closed due to COVID-19.” Mercifully, our list was short and became shorter as we scurried to buy our groceries, feeling confident that our next stop would bring relief!

A need to renew license tags on an old Dodge pickup took us to the courthouse and what we remembered as a very nice public restroom. As we approached the west entrance and attempted to open the door, we could not miss the sign that read, “by appointment only,” or something to that effect. Yep, the courthouse was officially closed to all business except by appointment. And that included the restrooms.

I have never been a big fan of public restrooms, but any port in a storm will do. Our next bright idea was to drive to the downtown square off Clear Creek and use the new public restrooms recently installed there. We parked the pickup in front of the Occidental and walked half a block east to the restrooms, bursting with excitement. To our amazement we were met with a crudely lettered cardboard sign that said, you guessed it, “Closed due to COVID-19.” We made it back to the pickup tight-lipped but without any apparent leaks and paused to think. The Busy Bee was closed to indoor dining, so that was out of the question. We couldn’t bring ourselves to march through the lobby of the Occidental Hotel to use their restrooms. Imagine if everyone in our predicament tried that! I recall the little sign in the ladies’ room reminding patrons to be gentle on “our old plumbing.” What if crowds clamoring for restroom facilities caused the pipes to burst into Clear Creek, killing the fish and raising a real stink? Wouldn’t that be something? But I digress.

At this stage of our journey, we are convinced there is not a single public restroom open in all of Buffalo, and we are too far gone to search any further. The only option left was to hit the road for home. About 10 miles down old U.S. 87, the husband pulls off to the side of the road, stating he simply cannot go any farther. As he did his business, I pondered all the Charmin blossoms that were dotting the prairie since the state highway department decided to close several rest stops to “save money.” I mulled over the fact there is no “gender equity” in roadside pit stops, because for a woman, it is out of the question. Absolutely not. No way, Jose. After what seemed a lengthy interval, husband climbs back into the pickup, complaining that the wind blew so hard his shoes got wet. We continued traveling south and as we approached the turnoff to our place, husband asks if we shouldn’t run on into Kaycee and pick up the mail? That’s when I lost it.

Since that dark day, COVID-19 continues to infect the citizens of Johnson County. There is no end in sight. No light at the end of the tunnel. No relief to be had. So we have decided to erect an old abandoned outhouse that blew over in a fierce wind storm this past summer, put it on a dolly, roll it up a ramp into the back of our pickup, place a 5-gallon bucket under the seat, and take it to town with us for our own private restroom facility. Heck, we might park it downtown on Buffalo’s Main Street and catch a few paying customers. 

Patricia Ullery-Whitaker 

Johnson County

 

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