Picture taken from my neighborhood of he mountain in question above our house. 

Sterling and younger brother Rodney in suits and ties to the right of the picture getting ready to go into the country church.  Rev. Theodore Hard is standing on the porch of parsonage on the right.

                 DEPTH CHARGES 

By:  Sterling T. Hard 

Among the many diversions we had as kids, one could only happen once a year.....in the late spring.  Nature, specifically hot sun, played a vital role. 

During the summer and on through the winter, farmers filled up small ponds on the mountain side behind our house with the contents of outhouse pits hauled  “coolie style” in two, five gallon buckets suspended from each end of a pole balanced across the farmer’s shoulders.  

(Just an etymological aside: the Chinese word 苦 力 (pinyin: kǔlì) literally means “bitterly hard (use of) strength” ...citation: wikipedia.org..) 

The farmers negotiated steep uphill rocky paths rarely more than a foot wide, carrying in excess of 70 pounds of “ripe” human excrement to be used as fertilizer to be ladled on the rows of crops to be grown next season. 

In the hot spring sun the smelly soup in the ponds developed a crust which looked pretty much what you would imagine it to look like...overdone bread pudding. 

Now Robert Wright had a strange fascination with depth charges.....and when you heaved a sizable rock high into the air and it came plummeting down to break the surface, the “sploosh” produced a geyser which would satisfy the most jaded naval “war gamers”. 

But kids tend to be competitive, and so the rocks got bigger to produce larger depth charge geysers.  There were a limited number of ponds, with a finite amount of serviceable crust, so the depth charge projectile size escalated rapidly. 

Robert had “lost” the war last spring and wasn’t about to lose again.  So this particular hot spring afternoon, he picked up the biggest possible rock he could, struggled to the edge of a pond and was only able to lean over to roll the small “boulder” off his shoulder. 

It was the biggest alright, but the putrid geyser caught him full in the face! 

With a crazed yelp he fell back clawing the crap off his face. He tried to open his eyes, but within seconds the toxic slurry had swollen his eyelids shut.  “I can’t see!!” he bellowed. 

Suddenly the immediate possibility of permanent blindness crashed through our shock. 

He started wailing desperately.  I slung him onto my back and started down the mountain at a dead run. 

Cold fear and racing adrenalin only slightly dulled the pain of my bleeding feet.  I had long since shredded and lost my thin rubber shoes when I stopped momentarily, gasping for air, to check on Robert.  His hands clapped against his face didn’t stifle the pitiable crying, I’m blind, I’m blind, I can’t see!! 

I boosted him onto my back again, stumbling and tripping, driven by the panic of the crisis, past dumbfounded onlookers as we approached the house.   

Exhausted, I dumped Robert on the ground and started hammering for all I was worth on the gate. 

Helpless laughter?...had Robert lost his mind?  I turned, astounded to see him clutching his stomach, bent over.....LAUGHING....hysterically! 

“Robert, you OK?....can you see?” 

Paroxysms of cackling laughter erupted from Robert.  “OH, OH, I could see again; by the time we were half way down the mountain...my tears had washed my eyes out.” 

His eyelids were red and swollen, but I could see that his eyes WERE clear. 

“Why didn’t you stop me?” 

“Oh, I was having too much fun riding you down, and besides, I’ve never seen you so scared.” 

Momentary relief turned to fury, as I flailed and pummeled him, intent on doing serious bodily harm.  But I was too spent from the harrowing charge down the mountain to do any real damage....besides; all it did was to make him laugh harder!

One of these plots could be a holding pond for human waste with a crust on top and you may not even know it.


Sometimes these holding ponds were near the village.  I went to a country church one Sunday with my father, Rev. Theodore Hard, where he was going to preach.  


Before church he was taking pictures and stepped back into the edge of one of these ponds.  His foot sunk down and he got the excrement all over his leg almost up to his knee. 


The preacher at the church helped rinse it all off with well water and since my father did not have a change of clothes, he took off his shoes and socks, rolled up his pants leg, and preached his sermon from behind a large podium.

Dr. Rodney T. Hard

"Honey Buckets" filled with human waste from neighborhood outhouses were carried on the shoulders of the farmers to be deposited in the holding ponds.

Terraced plots up the mountain side which would have a small pond of human waste nearby for fertilizer.

Robert Wright

Sterling Hard