(Every town has something that makes it unique, something that makes it a grand place to live. Elsberry is no different. There are things that make this small town rise above all others, whether it’s Elsberry’s Patriotism, its history, its ability to unite when times get hard, the craftsmanship of the community or Elsberry’s award winning educational programs. Over the next few weeks, The Elsberry Democrat would like to focus on five areas that we believe make Elsberry shine.)
Elsberry is known for a lot of things, some good some bad. But what truly seems to set this small town apart from so many others is the level of craftsmanship and dedication its residents put into it.
With a plethora of people that have an uncanny ability to create, mold, build and cook with nothing more than an idea and some patience, Elsberry could well be known as the little city that could. In fact, some of the residents here have spent years trying to perfect their craft, whether it be building bird houses, restoring bikes or even mashing through the tedious acts of making homemade apple butter.
One such resident, who prides himself on such crafts, is James “Duke” Bufford, who specializes in making wooden toys.
“This has been a passion of mine for years,” Bufford said. “I decided I wanted to do something that would benefit Elsberry and I saw that there were a lot of people throughout the community who have done so much, the unseen heroes are what I call them, but I decided to start making them these wooden toys.”
Bufford has made several pieces that can be seen throughout town, such as a fire truck, which he made for Elsberry Alderman and Assistant Fire Chief Bob Kindred and a spreader, which he made for Donnie Kinsler.
“These are people that are not afraid to step up to the plate,” Bufford said. “There is a lot of good will in this town and I wanted to create something that really showed my appreciation for what these men and woman do for the town of Elsberry.”
According to Bufford, he can spend up to a few weeks creating one piece and at times it can be a real test of patience, something Don
Bowers said he couldn’t handle.
Bowers, a long time resident of Elsberry, specializes in making custom bird houses and specialized gavels, which have received national recognition throughout the Masonic Organization.
“I just started doing this shortly after I retired and I have always enjoyed wood working,” Bowers said. “Usually I either give these items away or donate them to various places.”
A lot of Bowers handy work can be seen outside the Joseph Palmer Library, where he has donated several customized bird houses and are currently hanging on the trees just outside the front doors.
“I like to put as much ‘Ginger Bread’ to my crafts as possible but still have them remain feasible to operate.” Bowers said. “I enjoy doing this. I enjoy giving them to people I know will appreciate and take care of them.”
Bowers said although he does enjoy making his bird houses, he is spending more time these days making gavels. One gavel he made can be seen on the podiums of high ranking Masonic members all across the country. According to Bowers, many of the gavels have three kinds of wood in them that range from Red Oak, Cedar and a variety of other “fine quality” woods.
“There is a lot of craftsmanship throughout this community,” Bowers said. “There are a lot of people that paint, build furniture or even make wooden toys. It’s just a wonderful thing to see.”
However, wood hobbyists are not the only craftsman in Elsberry. There are even craftsman that have seemingly revolutionized the way people shoot, as well as the guns they use. Liberty Arms of Missouri Owner, Andrew Dodd, said they have made a gun that is lighter and more durable than any other AR-15 on the market and with former owner and gunsmith Matt McBride, have received national recognition.
“The Pit Viper Tactical gun was the brainchild of Matt,” Dodd said. “Over the last two years he has been able to put together a fire arm that is unlike any other.”
According to Dodd, their redesigned AR-15 is super light weight, so light that even people with shoulder problems could use it and not feel the strains like they typically would with another shoulder mounted gun.
However, it’s not just the make of the gun itself that makes Dodd and McBride craftsman but even some of the more intricate pieces of the gun stand out, such as the McBride Match Trigger (MMT).
The MMT is a concept that McBride came up with at 3 a.m. one day, according to Dodd.
“He shot up out of bed one day and thought to himself, ‘this would work,’ and immediately began putting it together,” Dodd said. “The MMT has been called one of the best triggers on the market because of its ‘pull and pop’ feature and what’s even better about all this is that we are based right here in Elsberry.”
Dodd said he truly thinks Elsberry is filled with some of the most creative and inspirational people.
“As these men and women gain notoriety of their craft so does Elsberry,” Dodd said. “Anytime you have a company or person that produces a quality product the community gains from it as well.”
Some other quality craftsmanship in the community can be seen on the beds of residents and in the United Methodist Church
basement. Carol Mayes and Margaret Lagemann have been producing fine quilts for the better part of 40-years, along with several other women throughout the community. According to them, their passion for making quilts is something that was passed down from their parents.
“Many woman throughout the community loved to quilt and would come together to do so,” Lagemann said. “Eventually, they began doing it in the church and would use the quilts for picnics and other events.”
Lagemann said being the daughter of a quilter made it a natural thing for her. Although Mayes and Lagemann said they do a good amount of quilting for themselves, they also do a great deal for the church. In fact, they have made it a point that every Thursday, the woman’s quilting group can be found at church in the basement doing so.
Mayes and Lagemann said it’s not so much the passion of quilting they enjoy, although they do, but also the sense of friendship and togetherness they feel when doing so.
“It’s a good friendship thing to do,” Mayes said. “Anyone that wants to quilt can come and do so.”
According to Mayes, the quilts are also used for fundraising, which goes to help the church and although they are seeing a decline of quilters in the younger generation they are still glad to see a few younger people getting involved in the craft.
Mayes said it can take up to 60 hours to produce one quilt. Lagemann said she timed herself once and even went as far as to try and rate how much each quilt is worth per hour.
“I’m worth $.25 an hour,” Lagemann said in a joking tone. “My husband said he would hire me for $.25 an hour but I told him I’d have to be able to sit and watch my T.V while doing everything.”
Mayes said another enjoyment they have found in these quilts is what has meant to seemingly so many people, including friends and family. One example Lagemann gave was how once a month a group of approximately 100 woman will get together, wherever the event is assigned, and make quilts for service men and woman.
“Being able to do this for these men and woman and family is probably one of the greatest rewards for me,” Lagemann said. “It is a pure enjoyment and with so many other people in the community that make crafts I’m just glad we can do our part as well.”
But the level of craftsmanship in Elsberry doesn’t stop at quilts and wood crafts, there are even those in the community that pride themselves on restoring and fabricating things that others would see as long forgotten, such as Joe Intravia, owner of Fine Tune Works, on Broadway.
Intravia specializes in a wide variety of projects ranging from old time tractor mowers to soft tail Harley’s, something he said he has had a passion for since he was a much younger man.
“Bringing old stuff back to its original form is something I really enjoy doing,” Intravia said. “Being able to put something together from a broken state or isn’t working properly and modifying it or fixing it is extremely prideful and meaningful to me.”
Intravia said he believes there are a lot of people throughout the community that do their part to make Elsberry a great place to live. According to him they use their set skills to create something from nothing and beautiful pieces of art.
“Seeing something you have created or fixed go out the door and knowing you put all of yourself into it is just a remarkable feeling,” Intravia said. “Whether it’s a bike totally decked out or commercial grade equipment, I know when it leaves my shop its working for somebody and they are enjoying riding it. It’s a good feeling.”
Elsberry is full of men and woman that enjoy creating, that enjoy building and making things from scratch. One thing all of these people seem to agree on is that only in a small town is it possible to feel so good about how a handmade toy, bird house, gavel, motorcycle or even gun can make another person feel.
“The people in Elsberry are some of the most creative I have seen,” Dodd said. “I have lived a lot of places and I truly admire this community for what they can do with just a little imagination.”