There’s a saddle in the barn that is no longer rode, but if leather could talk, I would be there to listen. The old saddle shows signs of a life of work and wear, the latigo even shows laces where someone once repaired a tear. The leather is dark and stained with horse sweat. The saddle strings are dry and cracked, a stark contrast from the time they used to tie on a slicker to shield the rider from the rain. The saddle horn has some rope burns from where a renegade steer pulled hard, and the sheepskin is fading from years of long miles.
The old saddle shows some battle scars, like the rowel tracks from where the rider lost his seat while trotting the big circle on a green broke colt. I can only imagine the words that were spoke as the cowboy had to walk back to the corrals as he watched his mount buck over the hill towards home. The fenders are stained with years of sweat and neat’s-foot oil from where chaps hung and protected legs from brush and trees. I can just picture all the country that the saddle has covered. Snow capped mountains that stand in the distance, and cows grazing on lush summer grass.
All those miles that saddle packed a man, he made a living with a rope and turned colts into solid using ranch horses. Those horses rode miles and miles of fence. They led a pack mule loaded with fence and camping supplies and covered country that only God and very few men have ever seen. Horse after horse that saddle fit them all. The billet and latigo show use of multiple holes, from horses both big and small. I’m sure they came in many colors and had a personality to match them all.
While the latigo has many holes, the stirrup leathers do not, for this saddle was built for one man and he sure rode it a lot. The horn cap is ripped, and I can only imagine the wild story that comes from that. I know that old hand still had all his fingers so I’m sure that he won that cow fight. On the cantle the leather is not quite as faded, saddle bags filled with medicine and syringes used to ride back there. The tree is still solid, no cracks can be seen, that old cowboy was pretty good at keeping his tack good and clean.
I don’t think the saddle ever made it to town in its long and hard life. The cowboy who rode it did his job in the pasture and not under the arena lights. The old man is cowboying for the big outfits in heaven now, riding through stirrup deep grass and counting the stars at night. His saddle is left behind and with it the memories and stories that we have of him. It’s our own little museum piece and reminds us of days gone by.
One of these days I’ll oil that old saddle. I might change the strings and add some new sheepskin, but on second thought I might just hang it in the house in the shape that its in. I’ll walk by it and think of memories, I’ll dream of green pastures and ranges where there are no fences. That’s all for this time, take care of those old family treasures and hold the memories that they bring you close. Keep tabs on your side of the barbed wire and God bless.
Meinzer is a fourth-generation rancher raised on the southeastern plains of Colorado. He and his family live and ranch in Oshkosh, Neb.