Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Book chronicles Montana saddleries - and much more

By Ed Kemmick 

Thirty-some years ago, Jay C. Lyndes received an unusual package in the mail. The package, with a return address from the Lame Deer Trading Post, was literally oozing with black, oily gunk. Lyndes wondered whether he should even open it. But he’d done some business with the trading post before, and curiosity prevailed. Inside was a pair of leather chaps, coal-black and dripping with used motor oil. Then Lyndes noticed that the chaps bore the stamp of “Al. Furstnow,” of Miles City, one of the most famous saddle makers in the history of Montana. By “pure luck,” he said, he next decided to look at the inside of the belt attached to the chaps. After cleaning away oil and grime he saw, roughly carved into the leather, the name “Curley” and the year “1915.” He called the Lame Deer Trading Post and was informed that “one of the Curley boys” had sold the chaps for gas money to get to a rodeo. The “Curley boys” were grandchildren of the Crow Indian scout Curley, who had served with Lt. Col. George A. Custer, survived the Battle of the Little Bighorn and died in 1923. The chaps are rather plain, compared with some of magnificent specimens in Lyndes’ collection, but that pair remains one of the more interesting pieces in his possession.The story of Curley’s chaps also helps explain why Lyndes’ new book, “Saddleries of Montana: Montana Makers from Territorial Times to 1940,” will be of interest not just to collectors or specialists, but to anyone who cares about the history of Montana...more

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