It's only a piece of wood. But, what a story it could tell!!
I received an email back in August from a good friend in Coos Bay, OR. He knew a fellow that was selling some old Decoys that he has owned for quite a few years. There was several that he was interested in. Most of them were too expensive for his budget, and mine too for that matter. One of these decoys was supposed to have been made by Madison Mitchell. There was no signature, just that the fellow who owned it, said he had purchased it in the midwest some years before, he was told then that it was made by Mr. Mitchell.
Being from the West Coast and, although not unfamiliar with the name, he really didn't know for sure to look at it if it was authentic. I said I was going down to Havre de Grace soon, if he was to send it to me, I would see if I could get it identified for him. "I was hoping you would say that", he said and sent it to me.
I went down to Havre de Grace as planned.
Next stop, Captain Bob Jobes. Cap'n Harry's oldest son whom also had worked for Madison Mitchell and is very knowledgeable in decoys from the area. Bobby looked at it while painting some Canvasback Drake lead decoy paperweights. "Nope, this decoy is not a Mitchell, the body is a Mitchell, the head is a Mitchell, but it is not a Mitchell" and continued to paint. After a few minutes, he put the paint brush down and asked to see the decoy again. This time a look came over him. "I know who made this decoy!!!"
Here is the story as it was told to me by Capt. Bob:
Us kids would make these decoys for ourselves, hunt with them, and then after hunting season we would trade them to "Mitchell's Sporting Goods Store", not the same Mitchell. They would line them up on the floor and sell them to customers. We could trade them for a couple of dollars and get anything we wanted, Knives and stuff. It was a great way to buy stuff at the Sporting Goods Store and we learned to paint decoys. I always wondered what happened to all those ducks."
So here in the picture above, is a decoy that was made 27 years ago by then, 13 year old, Bob Jobes, in the back of Madison Mitchells Decoy shop, in Havre de Grace, MD. It was hunted over in the area of the present location of the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum. Traded for merchandise in the now closed Mitchells Sporting Goods Store, nearly across the street from Bob's current home. Was purchased from a customer of the store and somehow ended up in the midwest of the country. Then was purchased by the fellow in Coos Bay, OR, who sold it to my friend Howard, in Coos Bay, OR, who sent it to me to take back to Havre de Grace, MD and it found it's way back to its original maker, Captain Bob Jobes. A journey of at least 7,000 miles and now is in PA.
Click on this decoy above, and you will be taken to a picture of Captain Bob holding this decoy that he made so long ago. You can see the pride in his face, he was quite pleased to see this decoy. It was going back to Oregon, but arrangements are being made and it will soon belong again to it's maker, Captain Bob Jobes. Back home in Havre de Grace, the Decoy Capital of the World.
Specializing in Miniature Decoys!!
Clarence Bauer passed away May 23rd, 2006 at the age of 81
Clarence Bauer is one of the "Old Time Carvers" A Classic "Susquehanna Flats decoy maker."
I talked to Titbird, as he is known, on the 11th of September at the Duck Fair in Havre de Grace, MD. He say's this is going to be the last year for carving. He is going to slow down now to pursue some other things. This show will be one on his last shows, he told me.
Titbird started in the Decoy business as a young kid of 6 or 7 years old. He started out helping in Jim Curriers Decoy Shop. Jim's shop was real close to where Clarence lived as a youngster growing up in the coastal village of Havre de Grace. "I hand sanded heads and fooled around like that", Titbird said. He played around the shop and helped out some, learning to make stuff nice. Although not as a real job, there was much to be seen and you can't help but to learn some tricks and different ways to work with wood. Every carver does some different things and Jim was no exception.
Titbird then went on to work for Madison Mitchell and except for a 4 year stint in the Army worked with him for 32 years. He started working there when he was 13, and continued to work at the shop until it closed in 1979. All the while he worked full time at the Edgewood Arsenal which is part of Aberdeen Proving Grounds, in Edgewood Md. Titbird was able to sand and carve while on this job at the military site. He would take a couple of baskets of heads and work on them for Mitchell. "I would carve them for 15 cents apiece." Payday for Titbird from Madison Mitchell was only once a year, between hunting season and Christmas. Titbird began making miniature decoys. "I would use the piece of wood that comes from under the bill and neck to make the bodies, this piece just got thrown out anyway." Then I made up the heads from any piece of scrap that laid around. These I could sell at anytime.
In 1972, Titbird retired from the military job and then went on to work for Madison Mitchell full time for the next 6 years. Still making his miniatures and helping other decoy carvers with making, finishing and painting their decoys until 1989. It was then that Titbird and his wife moved to Florida. "Florida was tough, nobody wanted to buy my miniatures. I didn't like Florida and Florida didn't like me!! I told the wife I was moving back home and she could stay in Florida if she wanted to." That's what happened, she stayed in Florida and Titbird moved back home in 1995. "Been here ever since and haven't regretted it once."
"Back in Havre de Grace is where I belong and I am the happiest. I love it here, my life is here." Titbird now works off an on, helping paint decoys for Captain Bob Jobes with his successful Decoy business. Titbird still makes his miniatures and has a small selection available at Captain Bob's Decoy Shop. A complete set of Tibirds miniatures contains 68 different ducks with the drake and the hen of each species.
This past year,1998, Titbird has started making some half and half birds. From one side they look like a Drake, from the other side they look like a hen. These are fun and painted and detailed as well as any of the big decoys. Pictured below is a Pintail half and half. 5 1/2 inches long from the tip of the tail to the end of its bill. I picked up several and they really look nice. If you hold them fully sideways, you don't see any of the opposite side.
Clarence is very well known in the area. His influence and little decoy miniatures are in many collections all over the area. He has worked for some of the best and Decoys have been his life. Everyone has their little specialty and Titbird has his miniatures. I asked how he got his nickname of "Titbird" and I got this reply. "There is only one person that knows where the name came from and this person is not around anymore. No one else will ever know. Several people think they know, but they don't." That's the way it is, and we will never know. But, no collection is complete without a few miniatures made and signed by Clarence "Titbird" Bauer.
Click on the picture above, you will see a larger picture of Titbird along with other Classic Susquehanna Flats decoy makers: Captain Harry Jobes, Paul Gibson, Madison Mitchell, and Jimmy Pierce. This photo is from the May 1988 book of the Havre de Grace Decoy Festival.
Clarence Bauer is one of the "Old Time Carvers" A Classic "Susquehanna Flats decoy maker.
Clarence Bauer's decoys & name has grown since his passing summer of 206 and he is held in the same regard as other Classic Susquehanna Flats decoy makers: Captain Harry Jobes, Paul Gibson, Madison Mitchell, and Jimmy Pierce.
Clarence had 7 children.