Rural Missouri - June 2012 - (Page 36)
NE I G H B O R S
Charities beneﬁt from Jerry Reavis’ unique birdhouses
three fountains with water bubbling down their sides. Then there’s the monumental house mounted on an old tree stump. This one currently houses two nesting squirrels instead of birds. Inside his home, the creations continue. When Jerry built the house with the help of his brother, he gave his Crane wife a pool room to • balance out the trophy room upstairs that houses his collection of hunting mounts. The pool room is lined with birdhouses and replicas of old barns. Upstairs there’s even more, sharing space with a full-body Kodiak bear and dozens of other critters the avid hunter shot from Africa to Alaska. Jerry points to a prairiestyle barn fashioned from Above: The beautiful farm where Jerry Reavis and his wife, Vida, live is dotoak. It’s a replica of a barn he ted with the creative designs he builds. This giant-size house is home to two saw on a trip to Wyoming. “I nesting squirrels. Below: Builders save scrap pieces of wood and moulding bet I’ve made at least 10 of for Jerry to use in creations, such as this vine-covered birdhouse. He never those,” he says. sells his work but instead donates them to charity auctions. On display is an old log cabin modeled in exacting detail, right down to the tin roof, rock chimney by Jim McCarty and wire under the porch to keep the hogs out. email@example.com The original is in War Eagle, Ark., and was owned by Jerry’s aunt. hen Jerry Reavis builds a birdhouse, “A lot of his really neat ones we don’t even there’s a good chance no birds will have because he gave them away,” Vida says. ever take up residence inside. These aren’t ordinary birdhouses. Jerry’s proud of the fact that he never sells Some resemble massive apartment complexes. his creations. “I couldn’t think about buildOthers look more like old barns, churches or ing them to sell,” he says. “I don’t have any deadlines or obligations. I try to keep a few schoolhouses. “I started out real rough,” says Jerry, a built ahead because people are pretty good member of Ozark Electric Cooperative about not demanding a certain kind.” who still calls his electric co-op the REA. Most are donated to charity auctions, ranging from Project Graduation at “I put out a lot of bluebird houses and just kind of cobbled them together. area schools to fundraisers to preserve Then people got to wanting them.” churches and one-room schools. For Small wonder — despite the many years, Jerry has served on the Mars Hill Cemetery Board. The group 75-year-old’s claims to the contrary, he’s a true artist. A retired home hosts an auction and pie supper every year to raise funds for the cemetery, and Jerry has builder and still a farmer, he brings the love of a donated more than 16 pieces over the years. challenge and a unique perspective to everything Jerry’s work has become the most sought-after he creates. auction items at these events. Most pieces sell Visitors to the home Jerry built for his wife, for around $400, although one brought $700. Vida, marvel at the creations in the yard located “People know they are for a good cause and that between Aurora and Crane. Next to neatly makes a lot of difference,” Jerry says. trimmed fencerows are giant birdhouses capable It’s hard for Jerry to say how long it takes him of housing 15 nests. Nestled under shade trees are to craft one of these little buildings. Often, he quaint churches, a Japanese pagoda feeder and stops work for long periods of time, only to return when he’s more in the mood. He does love a challenge, including working with complicated angles and cutting out tiny shingles. What Jerry is doing is preserving a little piece of the vanishing landscape. The little towns he knew so well as a kid are all dying off. Places such as Osa, Clio, Leann, Sage Hill and Scholton once were thriving communities with stores, schools and churches. Now only the foundations remain, if that. “You know, if I were to say Mars Hill or White Oak, the younger generation wouldn’t know what I was talking about,” Jerry laments. “And it’s understandable why they don’t. It’s falling by the wayside.” In the garage where Jerry works are models of several old schools, including the one at Osa where he went for eight years. Osa had a two-room school, unusual for the area. “It was a little bigger school,” Jerry says with a wink to his wife, who attended a one-room school at Scholton. “It had a room for a high school, but I barely got through eighth grade. We were dumber and stayed in longer. Someone asked me about one of my buddies. I said they drafted him right out of grade school into the Army.” Often Jerry works from photographs since many of the structures are no longer standing. It’s not unusual for them to go on display instead of being sold. That was the case at Wooley Creek School, a beautiful giraffe-stone building that was restored and is now used for bluegrass concerts. “They called me and wanted to know, ‘If we buy it ourselves, can we keep it?’” he says. “That’s when I told them there ain’t no strings attached.” A humble man who clearly appreciates all the blessings life has brought to him, Jerry is happy to help out those in need in his unique way. “I’d like to go back,” Jerry says of the simple times when the buildings he recreates were still in use. “It would be so simple compared to today. Of course, you can’t do that.” You can write to Jerry at 23664 Farm Road 2012, Crane, MO 65633.
Jerry built this model of the little school he attended at Osa from memory, since the school is long gone.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - June 2012
Rural Missouri - June 2012
Table of Contents
The power of purple
The little town that could
Out of the Way Eats
Missouri snapshots contest
Stocked with adventure
Hearth and Home
Rural Missouri - June 2012