Tiny Houses, Then & Now

So, why do I begin by titling my ramblings as Tiny House, then & now? In short, we humans want to simplify things to oblivion, or to complicate them to the same point. In this case, it’s simplification. The real story is that “tiny houses” have been the norm since man first put a few sticks and maybe a palm frond over paired rocks and huddled beneath them for shelter, but in the wilds of the Texas Panhandle where trees were scarce, labor even more so, and capital almost non-existent, the first settlers were pretty much forced to keep square footage to a minimum. So, from my decidedly narcissistic perspective, the homes I knew as a child are Tiny Houses, then.

Tiny houses were a fixture of my youth. Ours had two rooms. Four kids. A mama and a daddy. Numerous pets. Running water, especially when it rained. A trail to the outhouse. A thundermug for the little ones to avoid chaperoned trips to the outhouse during the wee hours of the morning. And vision. While the vision varied as a multiple of the occupants, the undying and unyielding heart of being a pioneer was a vision of individualism accomplished. Those who were content to share the vision of factory jobs, security, row houses and white picket fences stayed behind in the cities. But those who dreamed of seeing their vision become a reality went “out West”.

I don’t remember thinking of it as a tiny house, though. What I remember was home. No, most emphatically not a house, but a home filled with love. A home filled with the promise of future. A home where laughter could be heard. Where cries echoed from the walls after a skinned knee or some other mishap.

As I’ve grown from a wee brat to an admittedly much larger one (ask my 90 year old Mom… she’s quite adamant that I’ve managed to prevent more than a smidgeon of loss of the brat part), I’ve managed to live in a lot of abodes. And had the pleasure of calling many of them home, some a house, and even a few that were mere shelters. What is the difference that elicited such a varied reaction to the places I dwelled over the years? Recently I’ve come to reappraise what a home, tiny or otherwise means to the occupants.

My hometown of Spur, Texas has the unique opportunity to call itself the first “tiny house” friendly town. A place that is rapidly becoming a Mecca of the tiny house movement. A movement filled with the same spirits that populated the prairies of West Texas in the latter part of the 19th century, and the first half of the 20th. As a youth, surrounded by a dwindling population of real, old-time cowboys and hang-tough farmers beating the last bastion of the old West into submission I was impressed by the pure independent integrity of these extraordinary denizens of my home. The powerful, indomitable will of these pillars of my community early on helped me to realize that self, the core of one’s identity, could be the only tattered relic that survived the day-to-day struggles of what seemed to be a hostile world. Somewhere along the way, I noticed that in a land of cookie cutter houses, assembly line jobs, “fitting in” and not making waves, I realized I had grown up with a wild assemblage of misfits. In today’s world, every single person in the rural communities out here were oddballs. That individualism has stayed. And as a combined force, virtually nothing could ultimately defeat the community created by these individuals.

Which introduces the second part of what was important about the congregation of houses. Tiny houses mostly, simply by default of situation. I don’t ever remember folks talking about their houses being tiny. Sometimes there might be a reference to the “little house by the creek”, or some such, but it really wasn’t as much about size as just a descriptive. In a world where anything could happen, where it seemed the land and the weather were in cohorts to get you, the necessity of relying on neighbors was a simple fact of life. As yesterday segues into today, the need for sharing labor, equipment, time, food — and probably most importantly comradery, the lines blend to indistinguishability between then and now. As from time immemorial, it’s the spirit within the dwelling, the unquenchable pioneering spirit that always forces the few to reach for the stars. It’s never been the masses, but the few who make real change. Those pioneers are in perpetual search of the place to transform those dreams into reality. “Go West, young man…” was once a popular phrase encouraging people to go and make it happen… 

I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting and learning the stories of many in the tiny house movement recently. I’ve listened to a litany of reasons for the attraction to tiny houses. And I can’t refute a single one. However, I do ask myself why so many individuals are following the same lead. Ultimately, I don’t see the tiny houses as anything other than a tool, or a step, in the road for that small segment of humanity that is drawn irrevocably to express their unique individuality without losing their self while drawing on the community to fulfill those powerful visions.

Welcome to the Old West, my friends. A place filled with small communities of rugged individuals, all oddballs who welcome more like minded creatures to their midst. Here in Spur, we’re like everywhere in the old West, a little slow to let you into our inner circle, not from dislike, but simply from old wisdom. Come join us, give us the opportunity to know you… and we’ll become that community that makes it possible for you to be your best. Then we’ll fight for your right to be that awesome you in your vision… and expect the same in return.

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One thought on “Tiny Houses, Then & Now”

  1. Wow, Jim! So well put. Thank you for this. It explains Spur in such a beautiful way.

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