Cooperstown Crier - Your Source for Hometown News - Cooperstown, Baseball Hall of Fame

October 31, 2013

Glory in wood: Veteran handcrafting flags in Fly Creek

By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
Cooperstown Crier

---- — The American flags made at Fly Creek Flags are unique.

Made by David K. Butler, a decorated Vietnam veteran and resident of the town of Otsego, these flags are handcrafted from wood, not cloth.

“Each one is individually made,” said Butler.

Butler started crafting his wooden flags last winter, after his daughter-in-law asked him to make one.

“She asked me if I could make a wooden American Flag to give to my son, her husband.”

Butler then got requests from friends for their own wooden flags. But it was after a friend took one of Butler’s flags to his office in New York City that interest really began to peak.

“The next thing I had 11 people call who wanted these flags,” said Butler.

This inspired Butler to begin making the flags commercially. He now rents a workshop in Fly Creek and, with the assistance of his friend Ben Anderson, makes the flags. Fly Creek Flags has recently been incorporated as an LLC.

For the flags, native fir is planed into the proper sizes for the stripes of each. The stripes are then painted with one coat of primer and two coats of paint, and assembled with back supports, glue and a pneumatic stapler. The grid for the stars is then laid out on the field, and each metal star is applied to an individual staple with an adhesive. The stars and grid are also primed and painted twice.

Butler says that he puts a great effort into making the flags weather resistant, as they are designed to be able to be hung outside

“I always had a sense of wanting to do things right,” said Butler. “If you don’t do it right you do it over.”

Fly Creek Flags offers three models of flag. They are: “Standard Style,” meant to be displayed horizontally; “Banner Style,” meant to be displayed vertically; and “Betsy Ross,” which has 13 stars and can be made horizontally or vertically. Butler has also made Italian and Irish flags.

The flags are offered in two sizes: Large, 29 inches by 47 inches and small, 19 inches by 29 inches. Large flags are $200 while small flags are $150.

An effort is made to use American made and originating materials.

Butler estimates that he’s made and sold 65 to 70 flags. He says around 30 to 40 have been sold locally, and that they can be seen displayed on a number of area Businesses. They include New York Pizzeria and Green Circle Accounting in Cooperstown and Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard in Fly Creek.

He said he has also sent flags as far away as Texas and Kansas.

Butler says the reactions to his flags have been good, and that most of his business comes from word of mouth.

“The word Americana is used a lot.”

Displaying the flag is important to Butler, who would like to see more open expressions of patriotism.

“Some people made a big sacrifice to fly that flag,” said Butler.

Butler enlisted in the United States Navy when he was 17 years old and served for eight years. Volunteering for service in Vietnam, he was wounded in an ambush, which resulted in him being sent home.

“I was so lucky to come home and still be able to walk,” said Butler, who described his injuries as being a million-dollar wound. He said he still has shrapnel in his body and received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service.

Butler also has Parkinson’s disease, which the Pentagon considers a “presumptive disease.” This means that if you served in Vietnam during time periods and in areas where Agent Orange was used, it is presumed that exposure to Agent Orange, a defoliant deployed by the U.S. Military, caused the disease.

Because of his experiences in the service, Butler is very active in veterans organizations and charities. He said that he would certainly consider donating flags to benefit his fellow veterans, and says he has already donated some of his flags to veteran and non-veteran related causes.

Butler is also opposed to the wars that the U.S. is currently engaged in, seeing no reason why American servicemen should lose their lives in Afghanistan.

Butler said his family has lived in Otsego County for easily 100 years. He spent the first 13 years of his life in the town of Otsego, before moving back to Otsego County when he was in his 30s.

“It’s a beautiful area,” said Butler.

Butler served for 10 years as a police officer, a profession that his three sons followed him into. Butler also worked as a contractor for 25 years, before retiring in 2011.

In addition to three sons and a stepdaughter, Butler has six grandchildren. He lives with his wife Mary in the town of Otsego.

As for the future of his business, Butler has no plans for expansion. “I want to keep it just like it is,” said Butler, who nonetheless would like to be getting enough orders to make 10 flags a week.

“I get lots and lots of positive feedback every time one goes out,” said Butler.