Steve Auth was building tiny houses before most people even knew what tiny houses were.
Today, tiny houses have become a counter-culture social movement for people who want to live simply without the frills and space of a large home. There are even TV shows dedicated to the movement.
But when Auth started building his small, immaculately constructed living quarters more than 10 years ago, he never thought of them as tiny houses.
His creations were called something completely different: Wooly Wagons.
“I never really called them tiny houses, but that’s essentially what they were,” he said.
Fast forward to today, and the 64-year-old has become a master at building small, picturesque campers based on traditional gypsy and sheep wagons.
All the wagons are constructed with an aluminum frame and sturdy, weather-resistant wood such as fir, Cyprus and cedar. And just like campers, they all come with modern conveniences like running water, batteries and power convertors.
Auth said he’s built about 20 of the wagons over the last 10 years at his ranch-style property in rural Howard County located approximately six miles northwest of Russiaville.
About half of those have been bought by people who are now living in them as their home. The other half uses them as campers, an extra bedroom or just a place to get out of the house.
Orders for the wagons have come from as far away as Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Illinois, Missouri and Texas.
Auth’s wagons have now found a niche in the tiny-house movement, but he wasn’t inspired to start building them from any kind of no-frills philosophy.
Instead, he said, his inspiration came unexpectedly from a movie called “Wooly Boys.” The film, released in 2001, told the story of a sheep rancher who visits the big city. One of the characters lived in a traditional sheep wagon.
Auth said he was instantly taken with the structure.
“I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to make one of those,’” he said. “They’re pretty neat.’”
And so he did.