You can find him nearly every weekend, at the corner of Highway 4 and Escalon-Bellota Road. It’s a well-traveled route, with motorists going to and from the mountains, and many stopping for gas or snacks at the Circle K on the corner.
For craftsman J.P. Jones, it’s a prime spot to sit and sell his hand-crafted bird houses, enjoying the interaction with folks as much as making a sale.
“It’s the greatest location in the world,” the Linden resident said of the highly traveled route.
He figures that, over the years, the birdhouses he has sold have traveled thousands of miles.
“I’ve probably got one in every state and a lot of foreign counties,” he said.
The retiree said his wife got tired of him hanging around the house after retirement and noted that she wanted to put up some bird houses so he started tinkering and initially used old fence boards to put the houses together. Decorated and in many sizes and shapes, Jones said he never has taken time to figure out how long each one takes to craft.
“I never have just sat down and made one,” he added. “I make boxes full at a time; I make 20 or 25 of them.”
A machinist by trade before retirement, Jones said he enjoys the craftsmanship of building the birdhouses and likes seeing the vision in his head turn in to a finished product. He has turned out heart-shaped birdhouses, stars, those decorated as general stores, sports-themed ones and more.
“It’s staying active, actually,” he added of what he likes about turning out the houses. “I cannot sit around, I have nervous energy.”
People call him ‘The Bird Man’ and Jones, with his easy smile, accepts the nickname with pride.
“I am here three days, then I have four days at home to make more,” he said of the birdhouses.
He brings them in to sell Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, prime time for the highway traffic.
Jones, who is 80, said he doesn’t plan to stop turning out birdhouses, as long as there is a market for them. A former storage shed on his property is where he does the bulk of the work and it serves two purposes: keeping him busy and, giving his wife a break, as he says, “it keeps me out of her hair.”