So Fine A Saddle

Today’s post comes from Cynthia in Mahtowa


grandadIn the mid 1970s my grandfather, my father’s father, gave me his beloved saddle that he had bought in Montana in 1913. He was in Montana to work for his uncle who had homesteaded in the Judith Basin southeast of Great Falls. My grandfather had hoped to settle there as well, but he was engaged to my grandmother, who refused to move to Montana. So he brought his saddle, he had bought from an out-of-work cowboy, back to Minnesota. The saddle was custom-made by Hamley & Company, maker of “the finest saddles man could ride.” No matter where he lived and farmed, my grandfather had horses and his saddle.

number_stampRecently, I researched the saddle. Hamley & Company is still a thriving business in Pendleton, Oregon. An identifying number is stamped on the back of the cantle, and the saddle also bears the imprint of a lost brass plate that had indicated who it was built for and by whom. With this information, I asked Hamley to search their records. They were kind and helpful, but unfortunately all records prior to 1918 had burned in a fire. They could, however, confirm by the number that it was built in or about 1913.

Mack_PattersonAttached to the back of the saddle cantle, a leather bag with a metal plate is engraved with the name, “Mack Patterson.” Mack is likely the cowboy who sold the saddle to my grandfather. Doing research on Mack, I found his draft registration from Bozeman, Montana in 1917. He died in 1944 in South Carolina, where he was born. I wonder if he ever had so fine a saddle again.On_horseback


For one of my grandfather’s birthdays in the late 1970s (he was born in 1891 and lived to 91), I gave him my ink drawing of his saddle.

What family heirloom do you treasure?

45 thoughts on “So Fine A Saddle”

  1. Rise and ride that saddle Baboons!

    Uhoh, the blog post came in my email, but it is not accessible from the web address. Cynthia, if there are few posts today, it is not due to lack of interest. The saddle and the drawing are beautiful, Cynthia. I with your Grandmother on living in frontier Montana–awe inspiring country, but what a place to live.

    I have a number of old items I truly love, one of which I did a post about long ago–the wagon box. There is a Shaker sugar box, a jug, an old Kodak camera. I think a blog post will be inspired by the ox yoke on my porch, now a frame for a piece of Mom’s counted cross stitch.

    When I think of the sacrifices those past generations made for us I am nearly reduced to tears. They wanted “A Better Life” not even knowing what that might become. Their lives were so hard.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. How wonderful you could research the provenance of that saddle. Like Jacque, i have any number of cherished items from my family. I have thought lately that i will get a ledger book and start numbering important things we have and write descriptions of them and why they are important and where they came from so that my children know these things after I am gone.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Very cool post, Cynthia. I am not a particularly sentimental person and have no such treasures. However, I do so appreciate the leather couch, oak rolltop desk and other assorted furniture and things I got after my parents passed. The closest thing I have to a sentimental item would be a beautiful floral silk top I got from my mom. It was too small and too short, so i had it made into a scarf. I love it!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I just used my favorite family heirloom this weekend. It’s an excellent English-style teapot, decorated with gold flourishes and dots of color, much like Bohemian glass painting. It undoubtedly belonged to my great-grandmother, because anything old and nice we have did, but I don’t know if it was another wedding gift or if she inherited it. If a wedding gift, it would date from about 1900-1910, otherwise, who knows?

    My mom kept it on display on a kitchen shelf for years (they drank coffee, not tea), but after she died, my dad started using it as storage for his used hearing-aid batteries before taking them in for recycling. Finally I told him I’d seen a similar teapot at an antique sale for a couple hundred dollars, and he found someplace else for the batteries. At this point I can’t remember if that was true, or if it was an exaggeration because I didn’t want him ruining the teapot.

    Perhaps I’ll bring it to Antiques Roadshow the next time they’re in town. Be fun to find out I’d been brewing my Lapsang Souchong in a pot worth as much as my student loan debt! Although I think I’d sell all the other antiques off (barring the Victorian photo album with the black and gold funeral cards in it, the china closet, and the Union Army dress sword) before I sold that teapot.

    Liked by 5 people

  5. My parents both emerged painfully from the deprivations of the Depression. Both came from families that were unsentimental about things, so there were no precious objects passed from generation to generation. Now that I think about it, both of my parents had friction with their parents, which also made it unlikely that my parents would inherit heirlooms. My dad was barely on speaking terms with his father.

    My family, in short, had no precious objects, and yet there was something my father valued far above objects. He treasured stories. His conversation was enriched with all sorts of stories. What continues to astonish and delight me is how many of his stories I recall now. The only precious object I own is the first book of memoir that my dad wrote at my request. It is decorated with his sketches. I doubt he ever knew how much I treasure that book.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yes, a true treasure. I wish my ancestors would have had the thoughtfulness to do that. My father didn’t even leave me any stories of his war experiences.


  6. Our family hasn’t kept much to be passed on to other members. We do have a small rocking chair that many of the littlest relatives use for photographs. My mom gave it to me when I had my first child. In fact, that was how we broke the news to her that my wife was pregnant. “We’ve come to claim the chair.”

    Liked by 6 people

  7. What a lovely post, Cynthia. Thanks for sharing this with us. It reminds me of how recently horses were central to farm work and transportation. My dad was a kid in the 1920s, which was the era when horses were largely replaced by internal combustion motors. Horses were still working animals into the 1940s. I have a few early memories of working horses. In the late 1940s horses were still used by the Flynn Dairy in Des Moines to pull wagons for daily milk delivery, and as a kid I was intrigued by the fact the horses knew which houses on the route were customers. The dairyman didn’t need to tell them when to stop so he could make deliveries.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My grandfather kept horses long after he started farming with tractors. I was allowed to ride them (if I could get on) and one time he allowed me to drive the horses at threshing time. I don’t remember how old I was but I must have been early grade school.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Good morning. Cynthia, I can find your blog post on the Trail Baboon page by going to the lower part of the page. It isn’t at the top where new postings are usually found. I’ve seen this happen one or more times in the past.

    I will just pick out one of the family heirloom items that I have among many. This is a cardboard cap for a milk bottle. My Dad found this when looking through some things that he was sorting that my mother had. It is a cap that was used on bottles of milk that were bottled on my Grandparent’s farm and delivered to homes in Argyle, WI by my mother when she was in high school.

    I suppose that when my mother was young the practice of bottling milk on farms was fairly wide spread. I find this very interesting because there are some dairy farmers who have started bottling and selling milk directly from their farms in recent years as part of a movement toward a more sustainable food system that puts more emphasis on local production of food.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Sandy and I just finally completed directions for disposal of our stuff when it becomes necessary–grave or institution. Everything we list starts with us, except for a dozen of my mother’s quilts, which are earmarked for daughter and son. It has taken a year to do this over a small silly issue. Sandy used to let our grand daughter at the age of 2 to 6 highlight in her Bible, in imitation of Sandy. At first it was willy-nilly marking. Later she sought out passages she had heard in church or ones Sandy read to her. But the Bible was a bit of a mess. So Sandy trashed it and purchased herself a new one. Then a year ago when we asked the grand kids what they wanted, Lily said she wanted that Bible. It has taken Sandy a year to tell Lily, and Lily being about as unflappable as any human being, said, “Oh, okay. Can I inherit your new one?”
    Like Steve and CB, our parents came through the depression trailing nothing of value, nor would they have wanted to.
    We have slowly eliminated almost all but what we use, household goods and such. Except for what children and grandchildren want, which is only a few things, it is to be sold or trashed.Carvings and art I will dispose of myself, I hope, before that moment. Mr. Tuxedo has promised to trash it if I cannot. He has his eyes on the one remaining Harry Potter wand to go with the one I gave him. I think I will give him the second one soon.
    Not that I would not wish for some treasures of value. It would be the story I would require to not sell off anything of value, or a history, or a provenance.
    Been reading “The Billionaire’s Vinegar,” which puts to shame high-end treasure seekers and dealers.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My father did not like anything old, luckily my mother and aunts did so most of my furniture is passed down from them. I did inherit my father’s leather chair which sits with furniture from before my parents divorced. I like to think of it as a way of bringing them back together though both are gone now.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Someday, in say 45 years, an art dealer will come across one of my pastels and see its deserved great vale, at say $119,000,000 (which happens to be the value of the most valuable collectible every accidentally destroyed). He will track down my grandson to seek out other art, and Mr. Tuxedo will say, “I burned a couple hundred of them 40 years ago.”

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, with apologies, a tale about that. Sandy saw it and said she wanted it framed. I asked where we would hang it. Our walls are about covered with art from two friends of hers. She Took one of those down. So, since you had not answered, it is now hung on our walls. Sorry.


  11. I envy you that saddle, Cynthia.

    I have a serving platter from each of my grandmas, and a few other dishes or trinkets. They are not heirlooms, as I know they were bought during their lifetimes – they came over by boat as teens, and wouldn’t have brought much with them.

    My mom’s dad was a carpenter, my dad a woodworker too, and there are still a few pieces (lamp, end tables) at my mom’s place built by them. Grandpa made each of his daughters and granddaughters a small dresser (maybe 7″ high) in his later years, and these are treasured. And we have a lovely painting of a river done by a cousin of Mom’s.

    My true “heirlooms” are a little journal my grandma kept when I stayed with them right after my sister was born, and a letter from grandpa later on. These are in a special box up on my closet shelf – I should go and make sure they are where I think they are.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The only heirloom in our family is a lovely table my dad made. He began as a totally amateur handyman and gradually became more and more accomplished. This is a handsome table with an inlaid parquet checkerboard top. The top includes several hundred little squares. He laid ONE square in improperly. Its grain runs the wrong way. I can’t see it when I study the table, but the error was so painful to my father he couldn’t bear looking at his table. My daughter claimed this as her one precious reminder of him after his death.

    I’m trying to remember which culture has an aesthetic that is uneasy with perfection. Zen? Wabi sabi? Artists working within that aesthetic never create a perfect object but always cleverly insert a mistake in some place that is not obvious.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. My mother. like the Amish, always made a small error in her quilts. My theory is that for her it started by accident. She did not know about the Amish when she started doing it, she says, hmmm . . . ?

        Liked by 2 people

    1. The notion of including a deliberate flaw is ascribed to numerous cultures. Persian and Oriental rugs are supposed to feature them, as well as Japanese carvings, Islamic art, Chinese ceramics, Hopi baskets, Masonic buildings, Hungarian ceiling panels, and tim’s blog posts.

      Liked by 4 people

  13. You can often find saddles in pawn shops out here. We have an actual saddlery, but I think they only repair, not make, saddles and harness. I was talking to a retired addiction counselor last weekend who has mules, and is having an Amish man who lives near Frazee, MN make harness for her mules.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. from my dad i have a couple wonderful hats. a borsalino from the late 40’s early 50’s may be the only nice thing he ever bought for himself. and then it was too nice to wear. he might mess it up so it has been out of the box 3 times since 1960. it was likely worn 3 times before that.
    he and i are not the same size so it will remain an object to look at and reflect on.
    my mom has art i cherish that has been passed down
    my kids will have a challenge deciding if the cherish any of my stuff.. the sheer quantity of it makes it a challenge to see it as other than a pile of junk. i cherish each little piece of my collection and tell them why as they shake their heads and look to the trash dumpster with longing eyes.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I do love this sort of thing, the heirloom, the research…
    One of my favorite things about the internet is the ease of tracking down some of the old everyday things I keep around me.

    Currently, my research time is taken up with the acquiring of new wheels. Old car is duly donated, have a loaner from very dear and generous friends. Just have to get the thing found, bought and paid for.

    I doubt I will ever be as attached to it as Cynthia’s granddad was to his horses.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Like Steve, I come from a family that is short on the “keeper” gene. I have just a handful of things that I rescued when my grandparents stuff was being cleaned out when I was in high school.

    I have a pretty power holder/music box from my great grandmother. I don’t use it for powder but it’s lovely. I have my grandmother’s sewing box (one of those wicker ones). I have a beautiful china cabinet that belonged to first my other grandmother and then my mom.

    Really, that’s about it!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I really have too much stuff-things that came from Germany when family immigrated, things my parents collected in their very long marriage, things we have obtained and treasure. I just read somebody’s description of our first 40 years as the time to amass things and the last 40 years as the time to get rid of it all.

    I still use my maternal grandmother’s jar lifter. She was born in 1900 and got married in 1919, so it has lifted a lot of jars out of the canner, and still works like a charm. It is a wire affair with wooden handles.

    Liked by 4 people

  18. My brother, who still lives in my growing-up house, has most things that came from the generation before my parents.
    When we split up the stuff after my mother died, I only wanted two things: a lamp whose base is made from a wallpaper printing roll and a Gauguin print.
    They had been purchased by my parents so weren’t terribly antique.

    A completely non-valuable item from that house is a jar that was kept by the stove that once held fancy mustard. It housed then and now a push pin for poking a hole in the ends of eggs before hard boiling.
    It’s nice to have a item for mundane use that quickly takes one back.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I have my mother’s ironing board. I’m doubtful that it will go on to become a family heirloom, though – few people sew these days and most fabrics are permanent press, so an ironing board is something of an anachronism, and a rather bulky one.

    But I suppose the same could be said of a saddle, so who knows?


    1. Unless you have a horse. It’s a great saddle to ride in.

      My mother used to buy old wooden ironing boards and “restore” them with varnish or polyurethane. I have three or four of them that I use as counters or for a tv, plants, sideboard. Very handy.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.