The door opens with a tinkle of a bell and I step up and in. I am greeted by a man behind the counter with a plaid shirt and some sort of tool in his hand. I am unable to greet him. I have become intoxicated with the scent of leather and the warmth of a barn; a blissful catatonic state. He is just stands waiting for my reply. Is that a leather bib strapped about his waist, just like farriers wear, or am I dreaming?
I squeak out a “hello” while I shuffle along, feeling the splintering wood-plank floor under my boots. Out of the corner of my eye I see a room. The shelves on the wall are filled with various styles of western boots, cowboy hats and one-of-a-kind purses. I un-pin my feet from the floor and head over. Selecting one of the bags with a lot of bling on it, I place it in the palm of my hand and balance the weight of it. It is soft with a perfect grain pattern, made with pride and the skilled hands of a leather craftsman. I place it back and stroke another.
I can finally string a sentence together and I ask the man behind the counter ” Could I use the washroom?” The gentleman points out the direction and I slip past the counter into his leathery sanctuary. Long straps of red, black and brown dangle from everywhere, while larger pieces are splayed out on work tables. Trimming and scrap pieces are scattered about the floor.
I slowly take in his domain. The floor has a belly in the middle, a slope down and then back up. An air compressor sits on the floor and an over-sized cast iron sewing machine sits on a wooden bench. There are various glues, bindings and clasps in jars. Two horse photos on the back wall are hidden and crooked, probably forgotten from a hundred years ago. This is the oldest building in the town of Sackville, New Brunswick.
After my ladies-room break, I continue to browse the storefront. There are halters, nose-bands, headstalls with blinkers, over checks and traces. Various styles of reins are displayed, I drape them through my fingers, appreciating the quality. So many bridles, from western to dainty, and bits too. Brushes, calendars, horse-themed cards, floor mats. Bells attached to sturdy straps of leather with decorative bows to hang on the front door, for the Christmas season.
A horse-lover’s paradise. It all takes me back to riding as a child, and to my race-riding days as a pro jockey.
I see a display of belts, None of them seem to be my size or to my liking. I’d had one made many years ago at the tack shop on the Woodbine back stretch that I’d lost somewhere on my travels. I flick through the containers of buckles and pluck one out that I like. Then I select a piece of black leather and wrap it around my waist to size it. I ask the man ” Can you make me a belt?” He nods and says,”Choose your hardware.”
I walk up to the counter and present him with my choices. He turns them over, examining each piece as closely as I did, then gives me the eye – the look that means “are you sure?” I smile and retrieve the strap of leather from his hands and wrap the length around me to show him it is long enough. I assure him that they are the pieces I want.
I return to the front room while he sets about creating my belt. I touch and smell everything: brushes, and combs, soaps, liniments and shampoos. He calls me back to the counter, “It is all done.” Wow, that was quick. I look it over. Sleek steel buckle with one perfectly positioned rivet and five evenly spaced, clean-punched holes, and double imprinted lines running down each side. Exactly, as I had imagined. He says, “That will be $13 please” A bargain gift for myself. I smile and thank him. I really wanted to hug him. Not just for the belt, but for the the memories.
Please join me for part two as I look search around Sackville, New Brunswick.
Happy Travels from MaritimeMac