Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Military History Fest, the Shopping

 We didn't actually do much shopping. We looked around, but there wasn't much interesting. I didn't even find anything that grabbed me in the way of books.  

Notice that I said there much.  

Friday afternoon Ron and Xap came back from a wander, and Ron took me to see something he knew I'd be interested in.  

Two cavalry saddles. Kinda mangy, kinda decrepit. Chewed on by mice. They'd been sitting in a barn in Wisconsin.  I asked the price.

$50 for the top one, $10 for the worse one, or both for $50.  I looked at the bottom (worse) one. Oh my, the leather was completely split at the cantle, and coming off more elsewhere and may have a crack in the tree (frame). But . . . but . . . MCCLELLAN SADDLES I COULD AFFORD!  

I went back to our space, and Ron asked if I could get a McClellan (original or reproduction) tree. I googled. I found somebody selling trees for $150-ish, and the picture was a stack of saddles with the leather still on them - ie: what I was already looking at, albeit appearing to be in at least prettier condition.

Ron and Xap were off wandering the room some more (Fridays are slow). I grabbed cash out of the cash box, wantonly abandoned our booth, and bought the saddles.  

Ron met me coming back to the booth, and was unsurprised.

I'm told I was grinning like an idiot. I can't argue.

Here they are, in all their awful, mangy glory: 

I've started calling them Sad:

and Tragic:
as in "that dog is a sad and tragic creature", not so much that what has happened to them is sad/tragic.

They leave black smudges on your hands, and a pile of dust/hay/Ghu-knows-what where they were sitting (hopefully mostly detritus from the barn they were in), and the seller said they smell of tractor oil (I couldn't tell, with diesel fumes from moving the half-track in and out of the hall Friday and Sunday). Yes, I am . . . amused in a strange way by their condition. The good thing about is that I can't make the any worse.  

Saturday morning I grabbed a couple garbage bags to bring them home in. On Ron's advice I didn't put them in the bags until we were packing up so they wouldn't be mistaken for actual garbage (they were sitting in our booth, but only a few feet from a garbage Last night I took them to the storage locker, where they can stay until I can strip the leather off the trees - outdoors.  

My SWAG is that they're about WWI vintage, which means they're probably technically "Universal Pattern" saddles and not true McClellan saddles, but it isn't uncommon to call cavalry saddles in general McClellans. 

Once I strip the leather off, I'll see how bad the trees are, and possibly take them for diagnosis by the saddler at the local tack shop.  I don't expect them to be rideable, in part because vintage trees just don't fit modern horses.  But if one or both aren't hopeless, I might consider having tree repair done by an expert.  If I'm lucky, the mouse stopped after chewing through the leather and the rawhide the tree should be wrapped in, and didn't do much damage to the tree. But even if it did, wood filler/repair should be possible, as the edge of the cantle is not structurally critical. The possible crack in Tragic's tree is a bigger potential problem.   

My plan is to re-do them with completely new leather. Which means deciding on officer or trooper styling, color, hardware (for instance, one has metal stirrups, one has only one remaining wooden stirrup), etc. Some of which will depend on if I can figure out what they started out as. AFAIK trooper and officer saddles were built on the same trees, but I'm not sure.  I already know where to get most of the hardware (reproductions, which is fine with me), which is a plus.

I really really want to look at them closer, but I also don't want decaying leather and Ghu-knows-what else in the house. I will wait for warmer dry weather. I will wait for warmer dry weather. I will I will I will. Dammit. 

In the meantime, I can figure out how to identify the age, style, etc. 

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