Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: May 24, 1971
I was tired, driving home from Pierre that warm May afternoon in 1971, tired but happy. My second daughter, Jacqueline Kay had been born that morning. I spent most of the day holding her before I headed for home to spread the good news and do chores. It was a wonderful day, and it wasn’t over yet.
In 1969 I saw an ad in the “Western Horseman” magazine from a saddlemaker in Oregon. He made slick fork, high backed saddles common in the northwest cow country. I was intrigued by the look, so I ordered a catalogue. I learned a lot about the Franklin Saddle company, and Jerry Franklin in particular. I was impressed with his talent and skill In building the right saddle for your horse. They were works of art. Expensive too, for 1969. The top saddle was about $500, the least expensive was $265.
My dad thought I was crazy spending that much on a saddle, when he could get a great Colorado Saddlery saddle for under $200 wholesale. I had two of them before and they were great saddles, but I had set my heart on a slick fork saddle, square skirts, full double rigged with a big Mexican horn with a four inch cap on it. Corner carved, with a deep seat and high rawhide covered Cheyenne roll on the cantle. After much research, I finally placed my order early in 1971.
When I drove into the yard in Harrold, there was a large box sitting on the porch. In all the excitement of Jackie’s birth, I had forgotten about the saddle that was to arrive any day, and here it was! I changed clothes, loaded the new saddle into the pickup and headed for the barn. I swung the stiff saddle up on the back of my favorite horse, made cinch adjustments, lengthened the stirrups, and swung on. The first thing in noticed was my initials carved into that huge saddle horn; GAH. I made several circles in the arena, then unsaddled and put the new saddle on its new rack in the barn. Dad came by and was impressed with the look of the saddle, although he didn’t say much.
I spent the next couple of days in Pierre getting to know my new daughter, tickled by the shock of red hair she had and dark eyes. Such a good baby! By the time we took her home she would sleep from 10:00pm until almost 6am, never fussed unless hungry or wet, smiled all the time. Parents, sister, grandparents, friends and neighbors enjoyed that sweet baby.
I oiled that new saddle, wrapped the horn, A-Id cows that summer, riding the squeak out of the new leather, roped calves, cows and went to Highmore twice a week to team rope. I loved the saddle more each time I road it. The narrow seat made long rides easy.
Jackie grew up in my dad’s saddle shop, putting tools away, sweeping the floors, spending time watching the ‘Andy Griffith’ show with Grandpa Red, and making soup and sandwiches for lunch. They would both take a nap before going back to the shop.
All of that changed. I took a position with State Farm Insurance that required our moving to Pierre. Jackie went to high school there. We tried bringing our horses with us but we spent more time driving back and forth taking care of them than riding them, so we hauled them back to Harrold after a year. I had spent the winter building a saddle for my kids under Dad’s watchful eye, and they got to ride it a few times before the horses were back in Harrold. I sold that saddle to Carmen Cowan Magee for her grandkids. They will appreciate it.
I spent a lot of time with Jackie during her school years, playing basketball, hunting and with church activities. My saddle got used on weekends when we visited the folks in Harrold or when I had a chance to do some day work for a local rancher.
Jackie went to college in Idaho, the saddle went on display in my office, reminding me of all the good times and adventures we shared. My big concern became what I would ever do with the saddle. None of my kids had use for it, or would appreciate it, and I didn’t want to sell it to someone who would mistreat it and abuse it. My problem was solved when I talked to Shorty Jones south of Midland. I knew Shorty was a collector of saddles, so I called him up and told him about my saddle and asked if he knew anyone who might be interested in it. He said he was. That was exciting to me because he was a friend and I knew he would use it and take care of it.
So now, on the 50th anniversary of the birth of my daughter, and the purchase of my favorite saddle, I am content. Jackie is the mother of four wonderful kids, three in college already in Utah, has a supportive husband and they are heavily involved in family. My saddle is safe, and I plan on visiting it occasionally, maybe even riding it again.
I tease Jackie about remembering her birthday because it was the day my saddle arrived too. I don’t think she appreciates the comparison, but then, maybe she secretly does.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News