Learning from the master

Lay youth gets grandfather's guidance on building his first saddle


— Here's how it started.

Garrett Buckley, 13, saw a saddle his grandfather, Doug Meacham, had made for Garrett's mother, Wendy.

"It was really nice," Garrett said. "It had flowers all the way down the fender."

The fender, he explained, is the part of the saddle where the leg rests.

Garrett then wanted a saddle of his own.


"So, I asked (Meacham) and he ordered me one," Garrett said.

Meacham ordered the tree, that is, a saddle's skeleton of sorts. Building the rest of the saddle was up to Garrett and Meacham.

It wasn't as if leather craft or saddle building was a new concept to Garrett. He's been making leather belts since he was about five years old, he said.

Meacham's hobby is making custom saddles that fetch between $1,500 and $2,000 each. Garrett has spent weekends watching him build saddles since he could walk.

But, this was Garrett's first try at building his own.

They began the project Jan. 19, Garrett said.

Garrett, who lives in Lay, spent almost every Saturday working on the project with his grandfather. The two worked at Yampa Valley Feeds, 198 E. Lincoln Ave., in Hayden, a business Meacham has owned for 16 years.

Garrett and Meacham assembled the saddle during a 16-week span. Garrett plans to enter the finished saddle in the Moffat County Fair this year, Meacham said.

Finishing the project wasn't always an easy task.

But, Meacham stepped in to help him with the most difficult parts.

"It's his first saddle," Meacham said. "There's a few things that he needs help on."

Meacham is not a new hand in the saddle-building craft.

He started building saddles about 1994, he said, adding that he started repairing saddles when he was near his grandson's age.

He took up saddle repair "mainly because we couldn't afford anything else," Meacham said.

Teaching his grandson his hobby gave him a chance to pass on a trade he believes that, while on the wane, still is needed in the area.

"It's a trade that's always going to be useful as long as there's horses around," he said.

Garrett also benefited from the deal.

While spending time in Meacham's shop, he learned firsthand how a saddle evolves from the unadorned base, or tree, to a completed piece of tack with leatherwork included.

But, he also learned something else - maturity.

"I learned how to be a nice guy," Garrett said, adding that he watched how Meacham ran his store while working on his saddle.

"He's got so many customers in here," he said. "He's never yelled at anybody.

I'm trying to learn that from him."

Garrett and Meacham finished the saddle May 10. The completed project sits on a stand near the door at Yampa Valley Feeds.

His family members help him run the store, Meacham said, but this piece of leatherwork belongs solely to him and Garrett.

He paused.

"Actually, it's Garrett's project," he said. "I just kind of directed traffic for him."


grannyrett 8 years, 10 months ago

Wht a blessing for Garrett to have such a great grandfather. This is the reason young men grow up to be responsible and caring adults. Way to go Garrett--and Grandpa!


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