This column originally ran on Sept. 27, 2020.
Like a lot of people in Lincoln, Matt Steinhausen wondered just what was going on at the corner of 56th Street and Pine Lake Road, that busy intersection lined with brick-and-mortar signs of Lincoln’s impressive southward expansion.
Who built that hillbilly shack with the tiny front porch and an outhouse to match on the northeast corner of the busy intersection?
Why a brick two-car garage with no brick house to keep it company?
But unlike a lot of people in Lincoln, Steinhausen made his way down the long driveway to find out.
He hollered a hello.
And he got to the bottom of the mystery when a man in rubber clogs and a straw hat emerged to explain.
Steinhausen posted a photo of Patrick Clyne on his Facebook page last week. He shared pictures of the tiny cabin with its tiny bathroom equipped with corrugated-steel shower walls, a vintage sink and state-of-the-art toilet, the tiny kitchen with limited counter space but all the amenities of a fancy house — an artfully hidden fridge and freezer, an electric stove, a queen-size murphy bed tucked behind the plank wall.
He’d been fascinated by the place for a year, said Steinhausen, who lives on an acreage southwest of town.
A home inspector by trade, he and his son have built a few tiny homes and he’s written about them. He told Clyne he hoped to share the story of his 160-square-foot house, too.
No problem, said the owner of the Little House on Pine Lake.
And then the love started pouring in. People shared and shared the story of the man in the straw hat.
“My kind of Dude,” someone wrote. “I’m totally smitten,” wrote another. “I love this guy already!” “We were just talking about this house.”
People kept talking about that house. The story made its way around the internet and onto Reddit.
When I talked to Clyne two days later, he was surprised by all the fuss.
“I had no idea the story would be seen by so many people.”
* * *
Before we get to the story behind the hillbilly house on Pine Lake Road, there is the story of Patrick Clyne, the millionaire who owns it.
Clyne is 62. He grew up in Lincoln, one of nine siblings. His dad delivered babies. His mom was a concert pianist who stayed home to raise the Clyne kids.
Clyne lost his dad when he was 15. He graduated from Lincoln East High School in 1976. He didn’t see himself going to college.
So he got a job painting grain elevators instead, Clyne said Friday.
One day, he was painting a grain elevator in Kansas and fell 20 feet. He broke his back and ended up in the hospital for a month, recovering.
It changed his life.
“Workman’s comp paid for me to go to college,” he said. “I took advantage of it.”
He enrolled in classes at Southeast Community College, intending to study business, but there was another class that intrigued him: computer programming.
And it turned out he was pretty good at it. The college lost its instructor partway through the quarter.
“As crazy as it sounds, I even taught a few classes.”
He never got his business degree.
Instead, in 1981, he started a software company in his mom’s basement. He called it Cider System Software. He developed a chip called Master Key, that could unprotect protected software and hardware. Big companies such as Honeywell and IBM bought it.
That was the start.
A few years later, he sold the company and opened PC Consulting in Havelock. PC did not stand for personal computers. It stood for Patrick Clyne.
“There weren’t PCs back then,” he says.
Next came a computer learning center, a storefront that folded. Then, inspired by a dentist brother-in-law, he helped start DentalMac, developing software for dental offices — computerizing billing and patient data.
“I hired two kids and we worked three eight-hour shifts because we only had one computer.”
He left that company and started another. He moved to Georgia, burnt out on the computer business. He owned a coffee shop for a few years, but software kept calling him, and after 10 years he came home to a new century and a world filled with computers.
He got married and Patrick and Kristin Clyne and her four kids set up their household in a brick ranch with an attached garage at the corner of 56th Street and Pine Lake Road.
They had nearly 2.5 acres surrounded by pine trees and a tree-lined creek. The intersection didn’t bustle back then.
Clyne was hired by WebMD, heading to the basement of that house, enhancing the software he’d developed for doctors and dentists.
In April 2004, he got laid off.
“I’d never worked for anybody else, so I didn’t know how to do that, so I started my own company.”
Two weeks later, Clyne and his business partner were up and running.
MacPractice had its roots in the basement of that brick ranch, but the business started to grow and there wasn’t room for a family and a company, so the family moved out and the company moved in.
Someone complained to the city.
“I got a letter telling me I can’t run a business out of this property.”
And that’s the first chapter of the hillbilly house story.
He moved his employees out. Clyne quit wearing Hawaiian shirts to work and dressed in sports coats and dress slacks, instead.
Over time, MacPractice grew to 135 employees and an office in the Haymarket above Buzzard Billy’s.
The brick house was sitting empty now and falling into disrepair. He didn’t want to fix it up and rent it and he didn’t want to sell the land, so he had it bulldozed.
A big metal outbuilding stayed and so did the heated garage, because Clyne’s a car guy, and he wanted a place to park them.
For seven years, all was well.
“Then I got another letter from the city telling me I can’t have land with a garage and no house.”
The letter he got gave him five days to do something about it, Clyne says.
And you already know what he did.
* * *
Clyne meets me on the long driveway that leads to a wide field of plowed dirt.
He’s putting up a row of construction cones along the entrance, to keep lookers from getting too close.
He has cameras on the house that let him know just who is looking, even when he’s not around.
The teenager who sprinted to the windows and peered in and ran back to his car.
The man who studied the house for 20 minutes — counting the pine planks, measuring them, pondering.
Even with the cautionary cones, people park and walk down. Like the man in the red pickup who stopped by Friday to offer advice on what Clyne might want to plant in all that dirt. (Side-oats grama would work well.) Clyne listens. He’s always open to suggestions, he tells him.
He has a plan already — a field of wildflowers on all sides.
He’s spent the last year getting rid of grass and weeds, anything that might still germinate. He sprays and tills, sprays and tills. By next spring, all the old vegetation should be gone and the seeds can scatter.
He’s already planted a wide circle of pampas grass, with plans to gather friends inside the ring, the tall grass forming a privacy fence from the traffic.
The weathered pine outhouse is really a tool shed with a single plank shelf low enough to sit on. Just in case a guy wanted to play a joke on someone pulling into the driveway, letting the door swing open.
That sounds like fun.
Clyne is easy-going, happy to give a reporter a tour of the 160-square-foot house. The house that took a year to build, up to code with an HVAC system and a septic tank.
It’s not a tiny house like the ones you see on TV, he says. It’s not on wheels. The city only allows those in mobile home parks.
This is a high-end tiny home, planted in the earth to stay.
“I wanted a hillbilly house because I was trying to get a point across,” he says. “But I also wanted it to be a fashion statement.”
He hired an architect named John Finnell, and asked H&H Drywall to build the place. (The drywall company happened to be working on his office door at MacPractice the day he got the letter from the city.)
The software designer picked out all the furnishings. His biggest and perhaps only bargain, the burlap coffee sack curtains he found on eBay for $4.
He opens the drawers in the kitchen, stocked with toiletries for out-of-town guests, bedding and a pair of pillows. “Small pillows,” he says. He doesn’t have to say more.
There’s a stuffed squirrel on the wall, a white faux bear skin rug on the polished concrete floor, clear bulbs hanging on rusted chains from the corrugated metal ceiling.
His wife contributed a trio of cast iron pots (small, also) that he displays on a shelf. Another open shelf holds his juggling balls, a rainbow of color.
Next to the sink, stuck to the wall with push pins, is a stock certificate from the founding days of MacPractice.
“To remind me why I can do this.”
His straw hat hangs on a hook next to the front door.
Sometimes he wears overalls to his little house. “When the weather gets colder.”
Sometimes he sits on the front porch drinking coffee or practicing the ukulele.
Today he is wearing a ball cap and running shorts and a green T-shirt that says Pine Lake Gardens. That’s his name for this 2-acre corner of hillbilly paradise in Lincoln.
He’s working on a website. And when the Parade of Homes rolls around next year, he plans to open up his house, too, for anyone who wants to come see what a guy can do with a 10-foot-by-16-foot space and a nudge from the Municipal Code.
He’s grateful to the city, he said.
Without its rules, he wouldn’t have built his house at all. Or created the oasis around it. Or piqued the interest of commuters who pass by wondering like Matt Steinhausen did: What is that all about?
It’s about a guy with determination. And a vision.
He’s cleaning out the big shed on the property now, a full dumpster parked nearby.
When strangers stop, he shows them around.
But much of the day, he’s alone.
He sees wild turkeys — mamas and babies. He sees deer. The camera catches foxes out on the prowl.
It’s an oasis for the software man.
He sold his company March 1 to a Canadian firm that buys small software companies such as his.
Perfect timing, he says.
He spends time at the hillbilly house nearly every day, parking one of his nice cars in the driveway.
He has his iPad and Wi-Fi. He listens to music, everything from Boogie Woogie to the Grateful Dead.
He practices his juggling skills; a family hobby. He flies drones.
He dreams up ways to make the little house better. He has a few ideas.
“The only thing I can’t find is an old rusted pickup that works, to park outside.”
Photos: The tiny home at 56th and Pine Lake
Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @TheRealCLK