Chireno saddle maker legacy lives on

By Donna McCollum - bio | email

CHIRENO, TX (KTRE) - A fine saddle starts with a vision, something of the sorts Gerald Mora of Chireno had. "I had a dream that we would have a saddle and leather show," Mora explains. "So I got up in the morning and talked to the boys, the local cowboys. They said, 'Let's do it.' So we all got together and decided we would show our saddles that our famous saddle maker, Mr. Jack Stubblefield built for us."

When Jack Stubblefield wasn't at a local rodeo, he was "foolin' with cattle". During the depression he couldn't afford a saddle, so he made one. It was the start of something good.

"The saddle on top is, I think maybe, about the last saddle that daddy built," George Stubblefield said while standing in front of the saddles he hauled to downtown Chireno for the Chireno Outback Saddle and Leather Show.

He's one of seven children holding onto his dad's saddles. They were made mostly for family and lucky cowboy friends. "It's just built extra heavy duty. It's got a double bull hide covered tree," Don Parmer, a stout cowboy, said while standing in front of his worn Stubblefield saddle. Parmer, Mora, Jack Stubblefield and a few other Chireno cowboys would rope together when they were a might younger.

"Most all of this stuff was built to be used," George said. The saddles don't have fancy designs carved in the leather, known as tooling. A family brand is about as fancy as it got. "He wasn't too much sold on tooling," George said. His dad didn't like it because dirt and dust would get caught in the carvings.

"He didn't care for that. He made it for ranch use only," Mora said.

Even today's cowboys can appreciate that. "Sometimes you might have to go rope a 2,000 pound bull," Drew Higginbotham, a local ranch foreman explained. "Sometimes you might be roping a 500 pound calf, so you need something that needs to take care of all of it."

George is a talented leather craftsman in his own right. Chaps of all kinds, clothing, bridles, and re-working saddles are his specialties. He's looking forward to the day to making saddles just like his dad's. "I wish I had sat down and learned a lot more of the braiding," George reflected.

Fortunately, George's grandson is a better listener. The two work together in George's 'playhouse' that's filled with all his leather making tools. The aroma of fresh cut leather is in the air.

"You go back and shorten your stitch," George demonstrated for his grandson on a new leather sewing machine. "Or you can lengthen your stitch out." The machine sets just a few feet from the antique machine his dad worked on. "It would drop a stitch on the skirt (part of the saddle) and dad would have to start all over again. It happens to me too, but I still use it from time to time," George said.

Out in a round pen George saddles up his horse with a saddle his dad made for a granddaughter. She outgrew it and now George's grandson rides it. Trouble is it had a girl's name across the back. George fixed that. He engraved his grandson's name on a piece of leather and neatly attached it.

As he watches his grandson saddle up he knows they're doing something that can ride from one generation right into the next.

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