Skip to Content

The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

It’s the Pitts: Proud of his Pride

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

“What is the difference between a cowboy and a buckaroo?” one might ask.

A Great Basin buckaroo drives a beat-up old pickup truck with a fully-tooled $5,000 saddle resting comfortably in the bed. He wears silver spurs made in Elko, Nev. in the vaquero tradition, meaning silver is hanging all over them. His horse is decked out with a hackamore, Santa Ynez-style reins, bosal and headstall made by Luis Ortega, hanging on to a spade bit made by Mark Dahl. 

A cowboy, on the other hand, drives a brand-new pickup truck with a $125 beat up, old saddle thrown in the back and his Chihuahua spurs have no maker’s mark. They do have wide heel bands and look like they were horseshoer rasps in a previous life. Thereʼs no silver adornment because it wouldn’t last two minutes in the brush of South Texas. 

A cowboy’s gear is built for functionality, not for beauty.

It’s been said the cowboy can gather two pastures while the buckaroo is still decorating his horse. But to be fair, the buckaroo, with all of his or her horsehair, latigo and rawhide contraptions, might just be, as a class, unrivaled in the making of a cow pony.

I’ve been collecting old bits and spurs for half a century and have learned how to craft all of the old tools of the cowboy trade by fixing up old spurs, saddles and anything else made of leather.

A restauranteur who inherited a valuable pair of old G.S. Garcia spurs came by my place several years ago and wanted to know how much I’d charge for a pair of spur leathers with silver conchas and buckles to match the engraving on the spurs. 

If I recall correctly, I quoted a price of $350, and the guy blew a gasket. One would have thought I killed his dog or had a sordid affair with his wife.

I thought he was gonna stroke out on me.

I tried to explain to make each concha I’d use a silver dollar, worth $25 apiece at the time. I’d also use a silver dollar to make each fancy buckle, which would also be heavily engraved. So, one can see before I’d even begun to pound or engrave I’d already be out $100. 

To make the actual spur leathers, I’d use only the best Herman Oak leather which would add another $50. 

I’d use a four-step process to get the new leather looking old, which requires an assortment of expensive finishes. I also had to tool and sew them, burnish the edges and solder backs to the conchas to mount on the spur leathers. 

Long story short, the guy took his business elsewhere.

Years went by and the restauranteur was back in my shop with the same old spurs, hanging on to what I presume were spur leathers. 

By committing what I think should be a felony, someone had assaulted the spurs with a wire wheel to remove all of the beautiful old patina which devalued the spurs by about 90 percent. 

It seems the restauranteur had taken his business to a guy who sharpened knives for a living and had heard from someone how a new, lucrative career awaited him in the uncrowded restoration field. 

The leathers were made with inferior leather, probably tanned in urine in Mexico. The stitches were frayed and nothing was tooled. But, the restauranteur said the knife sharpener had stressed the conchas had been made out of the finest German silver.

Now, in addition to a set of spur leathers, conchas and silver buckles, the restauranteur asked if I could restore the shiny spurs to their former glory. I told the guy it would now be $750 for everything, hoping it would scare him off. 

When he once again objected to my price, I mentioned the higher price of silver. He interrupted and asked if I could just reuse the German silver the knife sharpener had insisted was the very best.

I took great pleasure in asking him, “You do know there is actually no real silver in German silver, don’t you?”

The restauranteur looked like I’d just barfed in his Bouillabaisse. 

After he finished choking and was able to breathe again he said, “Sure. Who doesn’t know that?”

  • Posted in Columnists
  • Comments Off on It’s the Pitts: Proud of his Pride
Back to top