Photographed by Luisa Porter.

For the Birds

Story Shannon Bardwell | Photographs Luisa Porter

Alvin Bobo slides his hand over the cedar, feeling its smoothness. Behind him his wife Alice whispers, “He’s checking to make sure it’s perfect. He won’t be satisfied until it is.”

Alvin stands at his cutting wheel designing his bee traps. Some time ago, after retiring from Kmart and while continuing to serve as a Lowndes County bailiff, he became a carpenter. 

He was making bluebird houses, bird feeders, dust pans, bat houses and E-911 road markers. He even toyed around with a backscratcher made from a wooden dowel and a dried corn cob. He chuckles about that one, “It was just for fun,” he says.

One day Don Hudson told him about a carpenter bee trap he had seen at the feed store. Seeing as in the spring carpenter bees are a big nuisance, Don thought Alvin could make some bee traps.

Carpenter bees bore into wood, especially walls and eaves of houses. The bees can quickly make Swiss cheese of a wooden structure. So Alvin went to the feed store to take a look. He bought the bee trap, examined it, and then expanded on the design and made his own.

“Cedar’s the wood you need to use,” Alvin says. “Carpenter bees love cedar.”

Photographed by Luisa Porter.

Photographed by Luisa Porter.

He continues to point out the features of his bee trap. “You see the entrance hole needs to be at an angle. There are four holes, one on each side of the bee trap, for the bees to enter,” Alvin says.

“Below the box here’s a glass jelly jar. The bee enters the cedar box and, looking for light, it eventually finds its way down to the jelly jar. It won’t be able to find its way back out. It’s not uncommon to find 16 or so carpenter bees in the jar,” he says.

Leaving nothing undone, Alvin drops a little gold hanging hook inside the jelly jar.

He sells his traps here and there, mostly from the back of his pickup truck, by word of mouth or down at Potter’s Drive In on Jess Lyons Road in Columbus. 

Alvin’s shop takes in part of the carport and storage room at the same house Alvin and Alice bought in 1959, a year or so after they were married. The house sits 65 steps from the back door of Bethel Baptist Church.

When asked if he attends the church, Alvin bows his head and snickers, as he does frequently.

“Yes, it would seem sort of bad if we drove right past the church to go somewhere else. Alice and I settled that years ago. She was Baptist and I was Methodist.”

Before most every church service, day or night, hot or cold, Alvin walks the 65 steps to the church and unlocks the door, turns on the lights and gets the heat or air conditioning going, depending on the season. That’s just the kind of guy Alvin is. Every job he’s ever had, and he’s had more than a few, Alvin’s been helping people in all kinds of ways, and at 81 years old, he has no plans to slow down.