A memoir of a friendship: Chapter 3

Chapter 2 of this series ended when Lynn and I rode our bicycles together from Santa Fe to some town near Kansas City. Lynn was traveling to St. Louis and I was traveling to Minneapolis. We had been classmates at St. John’s College and, for different reasons, had decided to drop out after our first year.

We had grown closer on the ride, which is not a surprise since we were with each other for about 10 hours of riding each day, followed by camping and eating. Even though we had been in every class together the preceding year, we did not know each other well before the ride.

When our paths diverged, I’m fairly certain that neither of us planned on returning to Santa Fe. At least from my perspective, it was unlikely that we’d see each other again. While I don’t remember the details, our goodbye was typical of 19-20 year old guys: “well, I guess I’ll see ya” or something similar.

Lynn made me the stitch horse and rubbing sticks. We saved a block of lignum vitae for more sticks in the future.

I took a year off, during which time I played in Minnesota, took another bicycle tour in Nova Scotia with another St. John’s friend, and landed back in Salt Lake City as a shoe repairman in Tip Top Shoe Repair and Moccasin Shop. During this time, I met my sweetie Katherine (we are celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary this August!). I loved shoe repair but also found myself wanting a bit more, so I talked Katherine into moving with me back to Santa Fe for my second year at St. John’s.

I don’t remember how long we were there before I ran into Lynn. Unlike me, he had not re-enrolled in St. John’s. I believe that he was still trespassed from campus. But we both felt the allure of Santa Fe and friends that we had made the previous year.

The first words that we said to each other were “how far did you get?” It was then that we discovered that we had each taken a bus the rest of the way to our destinations! I consider this moment the real start of our lifelong friendship.

I had caught the bug of working with my hands in a craft while I was at Tip Top, and I got a job in Square Deal Shoe Shop, another shoe repair and boot making shop in Santa Fe. It was then that I discovered that Lynn had spent much of the past year working with his Dad, Norm, in his woodworking shop. During this return year to St. John’s I saw just how much Lynn loved woodworking and craft in general. When he learned that I was a shoe repairman, our bond was set! Lynn introduced me to many things during those years: fine hand tools (we would read the Garrett Wade catalogue together), the love of a great dove-tail joint cut by hand, and his admiration for the finest craftsmen.

Needless to say, this was a distraction for me from studying Ancient Greek and reading Shakespeare and the bible. While I certainly don’t blame Lynn, he definitely reinforced my decision to become a saddle maker’s apprentice at the end of my second year of St. John’s.

Hand sewing using Lynn’s stitch horse

Saddle making requires many tools, and the most important tool in my shop has always been my stitch horse, where I sit while I hand stitch my work. My teacher/mentor, Mr. Ginder, had made himself a beautiful and very functional stitch horse, and he let Lynn make a copy of it. He made the clamps out of hard maple, the legs out of oak, and the seat a softer pine. This is my most cherished and important part of my shop. Every time that I sit down to stitch something, I think of Lynn.

Layout and rubbing into shape with Lynn’s rubbing sticks

Lynn also was fascinated by many of Mr. Ginder’s tools, especially his rubbing sticks. Saddle makers have a variety of objects that are used to form leather while it is wet. The best wood for these is (not cool to get these days…) iron wood or lignum vitae. I found a source and bought a big chunk, and Lynn turned me a few gorgeous rubbing sticks. He was upset with a crack in the bottom of the round mallet, but I also smile when I see it and think of him every time I use it.

I made myself a glasses case a few weeks ago, because with my aging eyes, I rotate 3 pairs of glasses (regular, sun, and computer). It is a pain to juggle these, so I finally made myself a case that I’ve made for many friends and people over the past 30 years. Making things like this by hand always remind me of Mr. Ginder and Lynn, and it is probably why I love doing it so much.

Author: edisonleatherworks

I'm a biochemistry professor and leatherworker who likes bicycles, travel, art, education, and music. Walking is my favorite form of transportation, and I regularly practice Tai Chi.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s