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The Custom Buffalo Pony Saddle

The mules run off their picket from time to time, and today they visited a friend in the mountains.  On hand was an old cowboy, the kind who has a real ranch, real horses, real cattle, and a way of saying quite a bit without saying anything at all.

Mules are stubborn, but they’re curious, too – and when it was mentioned the old-timer had been working on a saddle for two years, they had to see it.  There’s not many things people work on for years – by hand – not these days, and it’s usually worth a look.

No disappointment.

The old boy had used the very best, as he’d figured this would be his last one – he’d used a number of wholly practical rigs most his life.

There were only two materials in abundance: silver and buffalo leather.  The saddle had a massive pommel of hammer-pounded silver, and aside from the seat and parts of the cantle, every last piece was hand-tooled in an elaborate, mathematical pattern, like a wild tribal tattoo you could ride.

Interlocking-shapes were sculpted into massive fenders, and there was a billet strap that had taken months to punch into a texture you’d have sworn was snake skin – except it was a quarter inch thick.  Not fond of chaps, he’d fashioned a sheathed stirrup and blevins that made chaps “part of the rig” itself.

And of course, those were also stamped and sculpted; different colors of buffalo hide sewn throughout, interlacing weaves of rawhide hanging in practical and decorative strings and straps right to the point where anything less would have been too little; anything more, gaudy.

The man in question will never sling it over a horse for a ride.  He’d been diagnosed with prostate cancer in the weeks before he’d finished.  His days of riding are done.  The mules asked him delicately about that.

The old cow man said it didn’t matter that much.  He’d ridden his entire life; he could imagine how this saddle would feel… not so very different than any other one from an assembly line saddle shop.


The mules pondered that on the winding trails home, and decided he was right, after a fashion.  It was nothing more than leather and metal, after all.  Just another saddle.

The world looks quite different in that perspective.

Taking that view, all cars drive about the same.  Pictures in frames are interchangeable.  Houses are awfully similar for all their range in price.  Any group of kids on the playground looks about the same.

Unless it’s your house, your car, your pictures – or your kids.

Just a saddle?


The things we love, they’re mostly similar to things we don’t love – but there’s all the difference in that.

Halfway down the mountain, the mules realized that old cowboy knew as much.  He wouldn’t have bothered showing his saddle to them otherwise.  That saddle was like any other, sure enough – and at the same time, it was entirely unique, an object unlike anything else on earth.

That’s a thought to consider as we enter a season of family, fraternity, and reflection.

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