Livelihood v. Hobby
By Susie Sims
||Flintknapper Tim Baker uses an elk antler to put the finishing touches on a flint arrowhead.
Morgan county resident Tim Baker has spent his entire life living off the land—literally.
As a child, he helped his grandfather, Jackie Baker, truck farm vegetables.
"My grandfather always had a large garden and sold his produce locally," said Baker. "My family still has a large garden every year."
Baker recalled many trips to the local Co-op store in Hartselle with his grandfather to purchase seed and plants for the garden.
"I can still remember that smell of sweet feed when I walked in the store," said Baker. "Every time I smell it now it takes me back."
Tim Baker displays the art of flintknapping. Here, he demonstrates the steps necessary to transform a piece of flint into an arrowhead. His arrowheads are constructed from stockpiles of rocks he collects from around the world.
|As a young man, he helped his father, Tim, Sr., in his construction business, but he preferred the outdoors.
His love for being outside led him to Darrell Sharp’s farm where he worked in the cotton fields.
While working in the fields, Baker found arrowheads—some in good shape, some not so good.
His grandfather took him and his buddies around to look for more arrowheads along the river banks and in other fields.
"The craftsmanship intrigued me," said Baker. "The colors were beautiful."
From that point on, Baker was hooked. He began to ask questions about the history of the arrowheads he had found and inquired about how they were made by the local Native Americans.
"I became interested in the Indian culture and lore," said Baker. "I began to do research and became more interested."
His flintknapping—or arrowhead making—started when he took broken arrowheads and tried to make new tips with a nail or an antler. From that point, he began trying to fashion the weapons from scratch.
Since it takes certain kinds of rocks to fashion arrowheads, Baker was limited by what he could find locally. Nowadays, he uses the information superhighway to locate rocks from all over the world.
Baker said many of the authentic arrowheads were made out of whatever kind of rock the local natives had to use. He has a supply of flint he likes to use.
Recalling his younger years, Baker said he made part of his living during his first 10 years out of high school selling arrowheads.
He ships his works of art to customers in dozens of countries.
"I have many overseas customers," said Baker. "I can ship as many as I can make to Japan."
While making arrowheads used to be his livelihood, Baker said the art has now become his hobby.
His favorite place to make the collectible pieces is in a small workshop next to his house.
Sitting in an old chair in the corner of the workshop, Baker said he can turn out a reproduction of a centuries-old weapon in as little as 45 minutes.
Not only does he sell his creations, but Baker also uses them to hunt.
"I have harvested 30 deer with flint tip arrowheads," said Baker. "I love hunting with the same tools the Indians did."
When he graduated from Brewer High School in the mid 1980s, Baker had scholarship offers to play baseball at the college level. But the avid outdoorsman had other plans.
"I wanted to spend my time outdoors," said Baker. "I wanted to be in the woods or on the river."
Even though it might have been expected that he go to college, he has no regrets about choosing to not attend college and play baseball.
His father, Tim, Sr., was a captain of the 1957 Auburn football team that won the National Championship.
Baker is proud of his father’s accomplishments as a student and an athlete, but said that road is not for everyone.
Concerning baseball and other organized sports, Baker believes they are a good way for youngsters to get outside and play but he wants them to know there are more options.
"I spent my evenings and weekends on the river banks looking for arrowheads and in the woods hunting wildlife," recalled Baker. "I want kids today to know there are more activities available to them other than what is offered at school."
Baker has worked with local Boy Scouts troops and schools to show students that having a career does not mean you have to work in an office.
While still in high school he took his love for the great outdoors and created another business venture for himself.
When he was 14, he began guiding local professionals on duck and goose hunts around the Tennessee River.
|Displayed are some of the arrowheads made by Tim Baker.
"I guided for $20 per group back then," recalled Baker. "Of course, $20 was a lot of money to a 14-year-old."
Baker said he usually took two groups on hunts each weekend during the season.
Once he graduated high school, he expanded his guiding business to include weekday trips. He began charging $100 per group and taking on more clients.
Baker began to look for property to lease that was suitable for hunting. That way he always had private places for his clients to hunt.
His stint as a guide was set when he set up a hunt for a large corporation, which he still guides for annually.
Of course, Baker wasn’t content just to stay the course—he had to tweak his business plan.
Some business professionals he knew owned property in the Tennessee Valley area and inquired about building proper wildlife habitats on the property.
Baker designed a wildlife plan for them and built the habitat with his own equipment.
Today, he has a full-service company that provides wildlife management package plans for landowners.
He develops a plan for each piece of property individually and plants suitable attractants, such as green fields or corn, to help build the proper habitats for turkey, deer or quail.
With his heavy equipment, Baker can construct ponds to attract waterfowl.
Baker purchases most of his supplies through the Morgan Farmers Co-op in Hartselle.
"(Manager) Phil Phillips has been very helpful," said Baker. "He keeps up with the gear I need to run my business."
Baker relies on the Co-op for salts, and plot mixes for his green fields as well as fertilizer.
When in South Alabama, Baker said Tim Wood, manager of the Central Alabama Farmers Co-op in Selma, has the products he needs to build wildlife habitats on his clients’ property in the area.
Baker also said AFC’s President/CEO Tommy Paulk and Executive Vice-President/COO Roger Pangle provide the structure for the Co-op to assist him in running his business.
He still has many irons in the fire. Baker does lots of wildlife management work for Wheeler Wildlife Refuge. Besides Alabama, he also guides hunting parties in Texas and Arkansas.
The development of his wildlife management and consulting company put him in contact with many landowners—some of whom were ready to trade in their property for cash.
Baker entered into another business venture that has proven to be one of his most successful yet.
About seven years ago, Baker bought a piece of property and since he had the equipment and the know-how, he fixed up the property for waterfowl hunting and then sold it.
He then partnered with local real estate agent David Duke and the Duke-Baker Land Company was born.
Now the company provides market analysis for timber, develops wildlife management packages and locates investment properties for its clients.
The company deals in recreational, commercial and industrial properties. The only houses they handle sit on larger pieces of land.
Baker said he doesn’t show houses, he shows land.
One of the simple pleasures Baker gets from his real estate business is when he is able to help people.
He recalled he has helped numerous clients who were older and in need of additional income. One way he helps these clients is by developing a wildlife management plan for their property and then pairing them with other clients who want to lease or purchase property for hunting purposes.
"That way, I get to help them all," said Baker. "That makes it all worthwhile, when everybody is happy at the end of the day."
Baker and his wife of 16 years, Tammy, live with their daughter, Audrey, near the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge in Decatur.
Persons interested in contacting Baker about his real estate business may call him at (256) 353-8153. Persons interested in speaking with Baker about his other interests may call him at (256) 345-1898.
Baker has two websites: farmlakeandbeach.com
Susie Sims is a freelance writer from Haleyville.