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Book spurs memories of ol' saddle houses

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

Recently while reading an old Western paperback, a chapter described an old Western saddle house. This certainly brought back a lot of pleasant memories for me as I recalled each of our saddle houses down through the years.

One of the first additions to our Ochiltree County farm after the first good wheat crop was sold was building a small wooden, tin-roofed barn in which to milk our cows and store our saddles. It had two stanchions in one end for milking and saddle racks and feed barrels in the other for our horses. We used metal feed barrels with lids on account of mice and rats.

As our operation grew in employees, Dad built another saddle rack mounted on a truck wheel that turned allowing six saddles in up and down fashion to be stored. Just spin the rack to reach the saddle you needed. It was pretty fancy for the times but did the job quite well.

Down on the Parsell Ranch on the Canadian River we had a large wooden barn with a hallway running between stalls, feed bins and milk stanchions. We hung our saddles from ropes tied to the rafters and our saddle blankets rested over a long pipe held up by barbed wire to keep the rats from chewing on the gear. We were constantly hunting cats, especially mamas with kittens, to help with the rats. The local coyotes seemed to appreciate our cat-hunting efforts.

My favorite saddle house was on the ranch in New Mexico. It had a concrete floor, was built of rocks, had a low tin roof and a tin-clad tight door. The feed bins were located on the other end of the long shed so we had few mice problems. We learned to feed the barn cats inside the saddle house and leave them shut inside until the next morning.

There were eight wooden saddle racks, and many had the initials of old previous cowboys who had worked on the ranch once owned by Jules Bivins. There was a coal oil lantern hanging by the door if you left that early in the morning. You could smell leather when the door was open, and a work bench held all the tools for replacing horse shoes and trimming horse's feet. An exposed two-by-four overhead held a rusty collection of worn-out horseshoes of every size and design.

Here at the Trew Ranch, our wooden saddle racks are 60 years old as I built them myself right after we bought the place. Originally the room was built for harness with large two-by-four hooks to hang the horse collars, hames and leather strapping. Though the old saddle house has not been used since I retired in 1985, you can still smell the screw worm medicines we used in the 1950s and see the oily shelves where the Neatsfoot oil cans stood. We believe the original barns were built in the early 1920s when cattle prices were much better than normal. If those old walls could talk, wouldn't it make an interesting article for the newspaper?

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" October 12, 2010column
Delbert Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164, by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by e-mail at trewblue@centramedia.net. For books see DelbertTrew.com. His column appears weekly.

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This page last modified: October 12, 2010