Amid the old pheasant coops and greenhouses on a patch of dry land south of Coupeville, Woody De Shong has been busy reinventing himself.
A carpenter by trade, De Shong also is an entertainer, artist and poet.
He recently merged all of those creative talents into his latest project, turning a small stretch of property he rents from the Pacific Rim Institute for Environmental Stewardship into “Outhouse Row.”
De Shong has built five uniquely themed outhouses that he hopes not only serves his business interests and brings attention to the institute but also becomes a Whidbey Island attraction.
“It’s a unique thing,” De Shong said. “It would be hard to find another one in the country.”
De Shong, 65, fashions himself a fan of American West history and cowboy lore. He used to write cowboy poetry under the name Hal Brookes while living in Wyoming decades ago.
It was in Wyoming where he also developed a fascination for outhouses and considered naming a bed and breakfast he operated there “the Outhouse Inn.”
“The thing about outhouses, there’s a romance about them,” De Shong said. “They are very iconic.”
As he started brainstorming ways to promote a new business he began this year building tiny houses, De Shong recalled his love for outhouses and his imagination went into overdrive.
De Shong constructed the “Cowboy Palace,” the first of five themed outhouses he’s built and brought back his poet pen name to create a wacky video on YouTube to promote it.
The character in the video, Hal Brookes, resembles former legendary car dealer Cal Worthington in appearance and De Shong uses both bathroom and backwoods humor at every opportunity.
The “Cow Palace,” for instance, features the European bidet, however, the spelling is intentionally different.
He pronounces it a “boo-day” and it includes a cushy seat cover.
Of course, none of these features actually come with the outhouses, which are being built as display pieces for customers to order.
He also has built the “Hillbillie Gas Saver” and “Little Red Stoolhouse,” complete with a school bell that rings, among others.
A military-themed one is in the works armed with a “telescope and torpedo launcher,” De Shong said.
“This whole thing — we’re over the top on this.”
De Shong plans to produce a new video for each unit. He’s getting help from his sister, Nancy Santos, and son, Lion De Shong. John Dier is shooting the video.
Since making Coupeville his home, De Shong has volunteered his time and services at the Pacific Rim Institute on Parker Road and become a close friend of Robert Pelant, the executive director.
In the big picture, De Shong hopes the publicity generated over “Outhouse Row” will provide exposure to his new “tiny house” outbuilding business on the site as well as for the Christian-based, environmental learning center.
The tiny houses are designed to be used as an art studio or sewing room, not as a residence but are made of high-end materials and are well insulated, he said.
He is selling the units, which are just under 120 square feet, for less than $12,000.
De Shong also is building and selling outhouses to order from $200 to $400 apiece.
The outhouses are decorative and not intended for use, he said.
Pelant saw the opportunity to rent space to De Shong as a good match for his institute and a way to be community friendly.
Part of the institute’s mission is to “equip people and communities to live sustainably and care for creation.”
“We’ve known Woody for a long time. He’s been a good friend and volunteer,” Pelant said.
“We’re happy to help out and rent some space out for him. He uses one of our coops as well.”
De Shong’s arrangement included helping clean up the area he uses. He’s also made his carpentry skills available to the institute over the years.
“He’s a local person looking for a reasonable place to work and he’s putting one of our old historic buildings, the coop, to use,” Pelant said. “The reason that’s a benefit to us is even maintaining these old buildings costs money. That’s a positive.
“Part of our mission is service to community. We’re not an organization that deals directly with homelessness and low-income housing. If there’s an opportunity to give back more immediately into the community and it can have overlap with our mission, we’re all over it. The income goes into managing a number of the coops on Parker Road.”
Pelant called De Shong “a very creative man, no question.”
And, he considers it a bonus if that creativity leads to more visitors to the Pacific Rim Institute’s 175-acre property.
De Shong went in and out of character as he provided a tour of “Outhouse Row” Monday.
He also finds outhouses appealing because they tend to make people giggle.
“This is the little red stoolhouse,’ De Shong said, ringing the bell.
“Instead of a trip to the outhouse, we’re making it an educational experience. Everyone knows that E equals MC squared. That’s the theory of regulativity.”
Those interested in visiting “Outhouse Row” may visit the property at 180 Parker Road in Coupeville.
De Shong may be reached by calling 360-320-7218.