The porch at Penn’s Store has unquestionably been the setting for scenes like the one at right countless times. The majority probably didn’t include electric amplifiers or microphones but I know an awful lot of guitars have been played at the old store; and mandolins and fiddles and other instruments too. On Saturday, I attended the Great Outhouse Blowout at the store for the second time. My first time was in 2004.
The Penn family has owned the store since 1850 and it is known to have existed prior to 1845. The place has taken a few beatings over the years. It took one in May of 2010 when flood waters rose well above the floor and the store was forced to close for awhile. That floor has been replaced along with some other bits and the store is again open for business. Penn’s isn’t open around-the-clock like a big city 24/7 kind of place but it’s open enough.
Today’s event gets its name from the structure at right. The first Great Outhouse Blowout was held in 1992 to celebrate the completion of the first ever outhouse at Penn’s Store and the big step up from “plenty of trees”. Chet Atkins headlined the entertainment at that first GOB.
A centerpiece of the GOB has always been “outhouse” races but not this year. Although I doubt it’s the full story, liability and the signing of waivers had something to do with the lack of racers. To keep the race course from being entirely idle, a three man foot race was organized.
My interior pictures of the store included one with and one without people. In the one with people, the fellow at the center is Squirrelman. After taking that picture, I spent some time in front of the store talking to a fellow named Bob. Bob is one of several locals who help the Penn family keep the store going. Squirrelman came out while we were talking and the two exchanged greetings. “That’s Squirrelman,” Bob told me. My complete lack of recognition prompted him to explain that Squirrelman was part of Turtleman’s crew. “You know? Call of the Wildman on TV,” he said in a way that made it clear that not recognizing Turtleman would almost certainly lead to questions of mental competency. “Oh yeah,” I answered. The walking race was between Bob, Squirrelman, and another member of Turtleman’s crew named Muleman. Bob barely beat Muleman to the toilet paper with Squirrelman a distant third.
I’ve since learned that Call of the Wildman is one of the Animal Planet network’s most popular programs and that Turtleman lives less than twenty miles from Penn’s Store. Researching local celebs might be a good move before I return for another Great Outhouse Blowout.