Vintage saddle fetches $5,500 at Memories in the Making Art Auction |

Vintage saddle fetches $5,500 at Memories in the Making Art Auction

Story by Robyn Scherer, M.AgR.
Photos Courtesy of Alzheimer's Association of Colorado

Raising money for a charity event can be one of the most rewarding experiences for an auctioneer. The money is raised for a good cause, and those in attendance are eager to spend.

The Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado Memories in the Making Art Auction raised $55,000 this year. The theme, Classic Western, featured items from Colorado’s Western heritage, along with the musical entertainment and pieces in the auction.

The western experience package, which was the signature auction item at the event, included a watercolor named Sunset Over Oklahoma, as well as a handmade vintage saddle donated by Ralph Shimon, of Torrington, Wyo.

This H.H. Heiser saddle was originally sold in the late 1940s or early ’50s through Daniels and Fisher. The saddle featured stunning tool work throughout and was stamped with the words Denver and HHHeiser. The saddle and watercolor painting brought $5,500 at the live auction.

Shimon, who is now 80-years-old, still builds saddles, and has for more than 60 years. Raised in Platteville, Colo., Shimon started his career in the leather industry by braiding and selling bull ropes. He got his start in rodeo, and would sell the ropes at the rodeos he attended.

Once at a rodeo in Idaho, Shimon went into a local saddle shop to have a buckle on his chaps fixed. He saw a Cadillac in the parking lot, and determined it was the owner’s car. He then knew he wanted to go into saddle making.

He never had any formal training, and learned the craft through trial and error. After an injury to his shoulder in 1960 after getting hung up on a horse, he decided to go full time into making saddles. He started off making bronc saddles, and as the guys he was selling to got older, they wanted working ranch saddles.

He married his wife, Doris, in 1972, and she made chaps and was responsible for keeping the books on the business. Although they no longer make chaps, she still does the books.

A special part of his design is his patented three-way rigging. The rigging is square instead of round, and the rider can adjust the rigging into three positions: the full-double, seven-eights or three-fourths position.

The shop is still located in Torrington, Wyo., and has been for nearly 30 years. However, it has been at several locations in Colorado and Wyoming. He has shipped saddles throughout North America, into Australia and into Europe. He still makes saddles.

During the rest of the auction, a total of 71 other watercolors painted by those with Alzheimer’s were also auctioned off. Of those, 35 were paired with professional art and were auctioned together.

“There is an amazing connection between the professional artists who donate their work to pair with the watercolors created by those with dementia,” said Gwen Ippen, Alzheimer’s Association MIM art program coordinator. “Each professional picks a watercolor created by someone with dementia and then they create their own special piece matched somehow to the color, design or the overall theme.”

An additional 60 original art palettes were auctioned off during a silent auction that were donated by local professional artists. The palettes that were sold varied from soft, whimsical nature scenes to contemporary bold designs and 3-D creations. The palettes offer the opportunity to start collecting the work of a favorite artist at an affordable price, according to Sara Spaulding, VP of Communications for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Chuck and Bryson Miller of Auctioneers Miller and Associates, provided their services to the event. “It was so much fun to see guests of all ages kicking up their heels in unison to the Boot Scootin’ Boogie as we moved into the live auction,” said Joanne Fisher, Alzheimer’s Association MIM Art Auction coordinator.

She continued, “Chuck and Bryson brought their A game as they do every year and engaged our guests in pretty competitive bidding. We are so grateful to them and for the generosity shown throughout the evening by our sponsors and guests to help raise significant funds for the Association.”

The money that was raised will be used for programs and services provided to families throughout the state at no cost, as well as research to find better treatments and a cure for this fatal disease.

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