I have never really had much of a plan or a driving sense of direction for my life. I guess I knew that there was a plan, it just wasn’t mine and I was content to hitch a ride along, go with the flow, see where the tides took me. In 1982 I was 31 years old and at a crossroads, not sure what to do or where to go next. I had done stints as a student, arctic explorer, waitress, bartender, fiber artist, draftsman, spiritual seeker, water system sales person. I visited a friend in Santa Fe, NM and fell in love with the place, the light, the architecture. Two weeks later I was driving eastward from LA across the desert with everything I owned in the back of a little tiny Honda Civic, car body dragging on the wheels.
Over the years, I have developed a varied skill-set, including the willingness to do whatever is necessary to support myself (a trait I feel is sorely lacking in most young people today, but I digress). When I arrived in Santa Fe I got a job cleaning vacation condos, and then developed a private client list. Cleaning other people’s homes can be surprisingly lucrative, and doesn’t require a lot of vision or a long-term commitment to a career path. I went on from there to manage a medical office. One night at a party I met a saddle maker. During our conversation, I found out that he was a craftsman of some renown and that he had orders backed up out the door. When I visited his shop the next day I saw lots of saddle trees hanging from the ceiling, presumably orders to be completed, and a fascinating array of tools and toys.
Reality of the situation was that all those saddle orders had been paid for in advance and the money was spent. My saddle maker was afflicted with depression and alcoholism, and was in an untenable financial mess. Undaunted, and still imbued with the false narrative that I could change people, I determinedly hitched my wagon to his star and set out to save him and his business. I contributed a huge dose of hope and optimism as well as some common-sense business acumen (don’t know where that came from, but it has served me well through the years), and my new partner shared his knowledge and skills as well as the lure and romanticism of the old west.
Back in those days practically everybody who visited Santa Fe purchased a silver buckle or buckle set. These people would cross our threshold, buckles in hand, seeking a way to hold up their pants with expensive jewelry. Sensing an opportunity, I took what I had learned from the saddle maker and started my own custom leather belt business on Canyon Road in Santa Fe.
Flash forward over thirty years to today, the last day of Caballo Belts. The business has been very good to me, as well as fulfilling my need to be doing something creative to support myself. I have made a good living, made good friends, and have had many customers tell me that when they put on one of my belts in the morning they have a better day. Maybe in some small way I have made the world a better and more beautiful place.
Over the last couple of days, as I was making plans with the gentleman who is buying all of my tools and equipment to come and clean out my shop, I have been thinking I should be more impacted by the passing of this momentous landmark, I should feel something, sadness at the ending of such a big part of my life, relief over the end of the physical stress, something. I don’t go in for regret, and I am grateful that I have had this opportunity. Maybe it’s another kind of purging, the letting go of emotional attachments to the jobs and activities that have formed and shaped our lives.
When I look back from here, the end of 2016, coming to the end of yet another purge, and as I look forward to the beginning of another adventure, I can see the pattern. Maybe the recurring habit of shedding all of my earthly possessions and taking off to parts unknown is not such an unusual thing for me.