Tools of the Trade: The Creak of Leather

Few trappings of the cowboy symbolize the American West like the saddle, conjuring images of long hours on horseback and the sound of horse and rider moving together through wide-open countryside.

Photo by Adam Jahiel

Photo by Adam Jahiel

The saddle is the key ingredient of a working cowboy's outfit and one that should be comfortable for rider and horse. A custom-made saddle is a major investment, a tool a cowboy may wait years to obtain, and is never acquired without serious consideration. A good saddlemaker must be both craftsman and artist, for a good saddle contains the best of both worlds.

It's likely that you can remember
A corral at the foot of a hill
Some mornin' along in December
When the air was so cold and so still.
When the frost lay as light as a feather
And the stars had jest blinked out and gone.
Remember the creak of the leather
As you saddled your hoss in the dawn.

— From “The Creak of the Leather” by Bruce Kiskaddon

The Artists
Meet some of the saddlemakers and leatherworkers and view their work

The Contest
View stamped leather contest entries and winners

The Know How
about saddlemaking, leather stamping, and design