So one of the main tenets of upscale shack living is being able to make something out of nothing. When I was about 5 years old (way back in the late 70’s), my grandpa Harry Prettyman taught me how to make a toy “tractor” from a wooden thread spool and a rubber band and a match stick. It was my favorite toy, and I was amazed that he could make something so cool out of nothing but junk. Grandpa Harry was born into rural poverty in Oklahoma in 1914, at a time when kids either entertained themselves with homemade toys or did without. There was no money for shoes, let alone store bought toys. Not that there was a lot of time for playing with toys, as kids started working almost as soon as they could walk. But when kids did have time to play, this is the kind of toy they would play with on the dirt floors of their upscale shacks in places like Turkey Ford, Oklahoma on the Cowskin Prairie.
Here’s one such example, there are many variations, but the basic concept is the same.
The ability to make something out of nothing is also pretty much how the blues were born. In the rural south, young kids would make a homemade guitar out of a cigar box and a broom handle, and thus the birth of America’s greatest contribution to music, the blues, which also gave rise to rock and roll. Here’s a great video where Scott Ainslie explains the cigar box guitar and demonstrates its use.
Here the incomparable Seasick Steve plays the one-string diddley bow, his is made from a scrap 2×4, a can of corn and a piece of wire. Truly something from nothing.
Steve epitomizes the upscale shack lifestyle. This song pretty much says it all. “I started out with nothin and I’ve still got most of it left.”