Every now and then there’s a huge spike in traffic to my blog. In one case it was because @cblatts linked to a post of mine. But most of the time it’s not because people are actually looking for me. It’s something even better. They are searching for the term “shotgun shack.”
What’s a shotgun shack? Wikipedia gives this history and definition:
‘The shotgun house is a narrow rectangular domestic residence, usually no more than 12 feet (3.5 m) wide, with doors at each end. It was the most popular style of house in the Southern United States from the end of the American Civil War (1861–65), through the 1920s. Alternate names include shotgun shack, shotgun hut, and shotgun cottage.’
Wikipedia says that the style can be traced from Africa to Haitian influences on home design in New Orleans, but that shotgun shacks are found all over the US. The homes became a symbol of poverty in the mid 1900s.
‘Shotgun houses consist of three to five rooms in a row with no hallways. The term “shotgun house”, which was in use by 1903 but became more common after about 1940, is often said to come from the saying that one could fire a shotgun through the front door and the pellets would fly cleanly through the house and out the back door (since all the doors are on the same side of the house). Another reputed source of the name is that many were built out of crates, e.g. old shotgun-shell crates, and those made for other purposes. However, the name’s origin may actually reflect an African architectural heritage, perhaps being a corruption of a term such as to-gun, which means “place of assembly” in the Southern Dohomey Fon area.‘
Midwestern rocker John Mellencamp’s song Pink Houses alludes to shotgun shacks. It’s a bit on the sarcastic side and makes commentary on rural hardships in the US: “Ain’t that America for you and me, ain’t that America somethin’ to see baby, ain’t that America, home of the free, yeah. Little pink houses for you and me….” And the killer line near the end: ”Cause it’s the simple man baby, pays the bills, the thrills, the pills that kill”
The Talking Heads song ‘Once in a Lifetime‘ directly references shotgun shacks and it’s where I took the name for my blog. The song captures a feeling I get often when moving around in the world of aid and development. I’ve found myself waking up in a shotgun shack one morning and then heading to the US to visit my parents in their middle class houses that feel absolutely palatial and luxurious in comparison. Or spending a couple of weeks eating rice and ‘leaves’ and an occasional egg in a rural community but being wined and dined at some donor meeting the following week.
And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself-well…how did I get here?
But people searching for shotgun shack these days are not looking for me or for those songs for the most part.
Nope. They are looking for information on how to build their own shotgun shack either because they are unable to pay for their current home given the economic downturn in the US or they are making a clear decision to downsize, prioritize and live more simply. (Or a smart combination of both).
For example this story: ‘…Debra and her family lived in a nearly 2000 square foot home on an acre and a half of land. Then her husband lost his job and they began to work 4 jobs between them to pay the mortgage, until one day they remembered they had a choice.
Before having their son, Debra and her husband Gary had spent 9 years living in very tiny homes in South America. Living small hadn’t felt like a sacrifice, but a way to stay focused on what is important. They decided they wanted to get back to that.
They stopped working so hard, sold or gave away all of their extra stuff and began looking for the perfect tiny home.’
According to the site, Tiny Living encompasses:
- Tiny Houses
- Life Simplification
- Environmental Consciousness
- Self Sufficiency
- Sound Fiscal Plans
- Social Consciousness