The Story of The Saddle

Jake sits in the barn mending again the saddle he loved so much.  As he is doing so, his memories began to come back as to how many years he had done this.  Each seam had a memory of its own, the long path the old saddle had traveled.

Back in 1930 his Dad had given it to him and he had even used it for years, it was like yesterday.  Jake remembered his Dad had herded cattle and sheep for over 50 years and he always said  "A man is as good as the horse he rides and the saddle beneath him".  His Father had passed away and he had left the mending kit and pieces of leather to Jake, and the memory of special bits of advice as his dad called it.

Jake thought,  it's almost like notches in a gun when you mend a saddle, each time you press the needle through it leaves a mark.  Jake is Jack Leonard Kincaid after his great great Grandfather.  The ranch had been in the family for years.  The first time when he was eight  he went out to get the cattle in, he had fallen off the horse so many times he felt like he needed a really short horse to ride so he could be closer to the ground,  but Dad just left him laying, "get up",  he'd say, "start over son, do it till it feels right and once it feels right for you , stay with it. Get in the mind of that horse and know what he's thinking and then let him know that you know".  

Jake really loved his Dad and he watched every move he made, striving to be just like him. Jake never really found the perfect horse for years., but could ride anything at any time.  He always walked the horse he was going to use that day and fed and brushed and cared for it for weeks before he ever used it, then did the same with each and every horse looking for the right one.  His Dad always said "when you look him in the eye and he looks back,  you'll know he's inside your head, that's your horse son".  

It seems as if time flew by, he was renting out land for pasture and herding for other farmers and ranchers.  The first branding season was really bad, he got burned so many times he felt like he was branded him self, the rest of the guys all laughed and would just show him their scars and different brands on their arms and legs. He finally got a pair of chaps that was tough enough to take it.  Sure wish he could do that now but age seemed to have taken its toil on him,  but that's water under the bridge. 

Wow, that statement brought back some bad memories, the year of the drought and then the downpour. He had loaded wagons for days with water and took it to the pastures to feed the thirsty cattle.  They lost half their herd one year but it wasn't because he didn't work.  No such thing as sleeping or eating.  He and his dad and the rest of the hands all worked around the clock until the weather settled down. But every chance he got before he ever rested at all, he cleaned his saddle and oiled it, checked it all over for damage, it fit him like a glove and he took real good care of it. 

He smiled to himself, he remembered the day his Dad had went out looking for wild horses, that was a challenge to him, to see how many wild horses he could break.  Well this one day in particular there was one so wild the other hands on the ranch wouldn't touch it, well no one was left but Jake. They all smiled and hooted and laughed as Jake picked him self up time after time.  But every time he looked at the horse it seemed to say, don't give up, you and me are going to be very close.  Jake spent hours with the horse and then finally he went into the barn and got  his saddle and went to the horse and stared him in the face, never saying a word just staring at him, as he did the horse stared back never blinking an eye,  then he placed  the saddle upon his back. The horse never moved, just stood.  Jake waited for the jump and the turn and the snorting to start, he put his foot in the sir-up and climbed on.  About that time the horse took off and jumped the fence and galloped through the fields, Jake hung on for his life, after just a short time the horse stopped and started grazing on the grass, Jake got off and looked into his eyes, the horse again didn't even blink just stared back. Jake never said a word just got back on and rode back to the barn.

When he got inside he brushed him down and walked him till he was cool and then just took his saddle and started to clean it like he always does, he didn't even tie the horse. As he sat there the horse came over to him, sniffed the saddle and nickered.  Jake said, " you are a Kincaid boy and that's  what your name  is from now on, "Kincaid".  From then on everywhere Jake was,  there was Kincaid and no other saddle every touched his back but Jake's saddle, and no one else could ride him but Jake.  Jake was thinking about the night his Father had died, he had gone to the barn and Kincaid was standing there, he nickered and Jake went to this stall, he opened the gate and Kincaid walked out and went to where Jake kept his saddle and stood there. Jake walked over to him, "you wanna go for a ride boy, is that it?   Kincaid laid his head on Jakes shoulder and Jake put his arms around his neck and cried, it was as if Kincaid knew Jakes heart was broken,  it was a bond between horse  and man, just like his Dad had told him. 

He placed the saddle on him and they rode out into the meadow for hours and then he knew he had enough memories to last a life time.  Jake and Kincaid still ride the fields and the pastures but it's a little slower now,  they both understand each other and still each time they come back to the barn, Jake brushes Kincaid and cleans his saddle and checks for broken stitches.

By Harriett Dash 2001