Back in the saddle — again and again and again
By RYAN TAYLOR
For the Capital Press
TOWNER, N.D. — Some gifts last a month, others might last a couple years, but if you buy the right kind of gift, made of durable materials, and if the person who receives it likes it so much that they take good care of it, it could last a lifetime.
Such is the case with a saddle. I like good saddles and I like to buy things made of real leather. Maybe it’s a little self-serving since I raise cattle who, along with tasty beef, produce a durable, leather cattle hide.
A horse guy
Our middle son turned 8 this month. He’s a horse guy. He loves to ride a big, old gelding we raised named Ace and he would ride every day if he could. This kid has an abundance of confidence around horses. I first realized that when he was helping me move some cows a couple years ago and I looked across the pasture to see my six-year-old boy standing on top of the saddle of the super tame, slightly sluggish 26-year-old gelding he was riding. I made note then and there that this kid had the makings of a cowboy, or maybe a Hollywood stunt man.
So when we were pondering what to get him for his birthday this summer, and he mentioned it’d sure be nice to have his own saddle, I quit thinking about anything else.
A saddle of his own
He’s been riding one of my big saddles. We put a set of those “kid stirrups” on it that fit over the saddle horn and are adjusted to the length of his second-grade legs. But the big saddle seat didn’t really fit his little blue-jeaned butt.
I did a little looking and I found a brand new youth saddle with a 13-inch seat and stirrups that fit him just right, but with some room to grow. It had a little tooling in the corners, it had that new leather smell and it fit our price range. About the same price as an iPad and bound to last a lot longer.
If he’s like me, or his grandpa that he knows only from the stories I tell him, he’ll have that saddle a long time. I still have the saddle that my parents bought me in our little hometown western store back in 1984. I still remember pining over that saddle every time I walked in that store. It was a “Hereford” brand “Crackerjack” roping saddle and it sold for $595. It was solid and it’s still in use today.
We still have the pony saddle that my dad rode clear back in the late 1920s and early 1930s. We still have the old high backed Fred Mueller saddle, made in Denver, Colo., that Dad bought with the Army pay he sent home to his mother while he was fighting in the South Pacific in the Second World War.
I ride a saddle now that was handmade in North Dakota by one of our great leather artists. I remember getting the phone call late one evening 15 years ago from a friend in the state Red Angus association who called to tell me the $10 raffle ticket I bought had yielded me a $3,000 slick fork, fully tooled saddle complete with silver conchos and horn cap.
The right gift
We like leather in this family. We use it and we take good care of it.
Our little boy had a smile as big as the seat of his new saddle when he opened his birthday present. He rode that saddle all day.
And at night, he unsaddled his horse, took off the sweaty cinch, and carried it up to his bedroom and used it for a cowboy pillow, just like he’d seen in the John Wayne movies.
The next morning, I looked at him sleeping with his head on that saddle, still smiling, and I knew that we’d bought a gift that was going to last.