Crafting a big, bright future
Kaycee Hanson recently designed and fashioned a pair of chinks for herself and another for “Buttercup.” That’s her Rhode Island Red hen.
A modest, albeit unique, accomplishment for a leatherworker who’s been crafting leather goods since she was 3-years-old? Perhaps, but consider that tender age represents a third of her life. Because Kaycee Hanson is just 9.
The fourth grader began her toddlerhood fascination with leather working watching her mother, Lacey Clark, create items such as chaps, belts and spur straps. So, as playmates dawdled in conventional sandbox and dollhouse pastimes, little Kaycee eagerly turned out leather key rings.
At age 8 she began sewing on her mom’s commercial Cobra leather machine. The serious mechanical device that might jangle other novices’ nerves didn’t intimidate Kaycee one bit.
“I like everything about working with leather,” she declared. “All of it.”
Clark pointed out that her young daughter is extremely independent and has a mind of her own.
“I’ve only ever picked out one outfit for her since she was a baby,” she laughingly recalled.
So when Kaycee announced this past summer that she would make her own chinks, it wasn’t surprising that a second pair for her 4-H project chicken was also in the planning stage. Except that Kaycee’s are brown and turquoise, whereas Buttercup’s additionally sport touches of pink, a lovely, happy hue for a dainty Western hen.
The talented girl said she first sketched a design for each pair. Next, she online-ordered the appropriate cowhide chaps leather from a tannery. After cutting out the pieces, she glued them together before sewing. Finally, she riveted the chinks with a mallet for extra security. Done.
As for the hen’s mini-chinks, Buttercup was not available for comment. However, it took about five hours for Kaycee to assemble her own pair, which she enjoys wearing while riding around on her pretty pinto mare.
Kaycee’s been riding that talented, trustworthy, tri-color gal, called “Pippi Longstocking,” since Hanson was born. Clark noted the horse joined the family as a lucky slaughter rescue. Now 20-plus, the Paint/Quarter pony mare is adept at running barrels at kids’ rodeos; trail and pleasure riding; helping Kaycee check her cows.
Her cows? That’s right. The youngster has her own 25-head herd, consisting of black Angus, red Angus, and one Hereford. Kaycee’s grandmother, Melody Clark, bought most of them as 2-year-olds for her newborn granddaughter. Those individuals are now 11-year-olds.
Before she and her mother recently moved to Lander, Wyo., Kaycee was a one-year member of the Madison Wranglers 4-H club in Montana. At fair, she showed her hen. Now that she’s old enough, Kaycee intends to use a 2020 red Angus heifer for a 4-H cattle breeding project beginning this winter and then show her at fair in 2021.
Clark proudly affirmed that Kaycee is into cattle; really into cattle.
“She sold some calves in 2019 all on her own at the Montana Livestock Auction. The sale’s owners somehow found out and came up into the stands to talk to her directly, just like they would to an adult,” Clark said.
That Butte, Mont., auction produced some nice profits. All went into Kaycee’s savings account to purchase more cattle and to buy a longtime, big dream in a short, fuzzy package.
“For four years, I’ve been saving up for a Corgi (dog). I know two people who have them,” she brightly advised. “I just think they’re nice and loyal. Most of them are $1,000-$1,500 for a puppy. I have enough money now, but I just have to find the right one.”
Her mom is also hunting for just the right one, but for her that’s a property. All the animals — cattle, chickens, and pony Pippi Longstocking — are back at Clark’s mother’s place in Ennis, Mont. Even Kaycee’s thriving egg business there, with its lengthy customer waiting list is, you might say, on the back burner until an appropriate Lander area property can be found.
Explained Clark, “It’s all about logistics. I’m looking for someone here in Wyoming to run the cows on shares for a year or two until I can buy or lease a place.”
Kaycee’s “when I grow up” career aspirations are both diverse and attainable.
“I want to be an artist and a geologist,” she declared. “In science, we’re learning about fossils and rock layers. I have a rock collection, mostly ones I found at the river or in the mountains.”
Kaycee began collecting about five years ago and has roughly 30 fine specimens, primarily from Montana, including a quartz and — her favorites — several heart-shaped ones.
The art part of her occupational plans stems from her delight in drawing animals, which she often paints in watercolors and acrylics. When she and her mom relocated to Wyoming, Kaycee left some of her best work behind. In more ways than one.
When just 2 years old, she began accompanying her Grandma Clark on visits to the nursing home where Clark worked. For six years, the little girl was a big part of that facility, bringing lots of light, joy and inspiration into residents’ otherwise often isolated lives.
“I liked going and I made some friends there,” said Kaycee. “I did a lot of drawings for them.”
Those elderly friends will cherish her lovely sketches, particularly on especially lonely days, even as Kaycee excitedly pursues her bright future filled with promise and possibilities. There are eggs to sell, chickens and cattle to breed/show, interesting rocks to find and display, art to create, beloved pinto pony Pippi to ride, and…
Kaycee Hanson just might make herself a pair of pierced earrings. Leather ones, of course.
To contact Lacey Clark about her custom leatherwork, or to inquire about possibly running her cows on shares, call her at (406) 579-4328. ❖
— Metzger is a freelance writer from Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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It’s time for Colorado meat producers to throw down the gauntlet.