Home on the Range

Between travel, grant writing, and teaching, I haven’t updated this blog for months. I’ve hardly had time to do any leatherwork either, but I’ve got a bit more time these days and am dusting off my tools.

Riding my horse, Logan (aka Psycho) with the saddle I made in Apache Canyon while working as a caretaker.

Riding my horse, Logan (aka Psycho) with the saddle I made in Apache Canyon while working as a caretaker.

One of the (currently very neglected) themes of this blog is to document the path I took from shoe repairman to saddle maker to biochemistry professor. I feel very fortunate to have been born during the “hippy days” and on the tail end of the baby boom. Even though the 60s were long-gone by the time I entered young adulthood, I think that there was much more of an acceptance for “self discovery” than I see today. Perhaps it was just me, but I had no interest when I was 20 years old in establishing a career and achieving stability in my life.

Today, many of the students that I see have never considered alternatives to finishing a their undergraduate degree in 4 years and going to medical, graduate, or law school. This model certainly works for some people but not everyone…

In my last update about my path, I told some stories about my time as a saddle maker at Cerrillos Saddlery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. During this time, my wife and I were living in our house in the woods without electricity, running water, or sewer that we built with our own two hands. It is more romanic now than it was then, but it does provide many wonderful memories.

While we were enjoying life off the grid and in the saddle shop, we decided to have our first baby. For many reasons, this was a real turning point for me, but I didn’t realize it until later. Shortly after Katherine got pregnant, we met Bill and Ginny Cowles, a nice couple with significant resources who had just purchased several hundred acres of land a mile or so away from our little house in the woods. They wanted a caretaker and offered me a job with a salary that was higher than anything I’d earned up to that point. More importantly, they were building a caretaker house, complete with electricity, running water, and septic. And the house was overlooking Apache Canyon, one of the most beautiful places near Santa Fe. And my job was to ride horses, build fences, fix odds and ends, and generally take care of the place. They gave me a brand new 1 ton pickup truck, a used backhoe, and a place to keep my horse.

Overnight, I became a cowboy!

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