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Estimated price for orientation: 5 000 $

Category: Saddles

Brand: Unbranded Saddle Type: Mountain Trails and Roping
Country/Region of Manufacture: United States MPN: Does Not Apply
Color: Natural

The Story of the Man, the Horse, the Artist and the Saddle Around the turn of the most recent century, I bought a beautiful log cabin from the artist Bob Auth in Yellow Pine, Idaho. When I moved in, Bob came knocking on my door to welcome me to the little cabin he built and crafted with his unique artistic touches throughout. As time went by, we became the best of friends. I spent many evenings talking with Bob of Idaho pioneers and back county men.  I often took my horse, Chief, a Nez Perce speckled appaloosa, into the surrounding mountains for three-day trips just to get back to the real world and God’s creation. When I came back to town, my 44 pistol on my side, rifle carbine in my saddle, saddle bags and sleeping roll on Chief’s back along with a fold-up fishing rod, my first stop after grits at the local restaurant was down the hill to the second cabin Bob built in Yellow Pine. We would talk late into the day and early evening about my back country adventures. Bob loved Chief. I remember one of the first times I went down Bob’s hill to visit, dear old Chief found some barbed wire and carefully stepped over it rather than getting all caught up in it. When I told Bob, he set out the very next day to pull out all the old barbed wire so that Chief would never run into it. So now you know how much the artist and I loved Chief. Bob was also an artist of brands for Idaho ranches. When I told Bob that I had found a great saddle maker in Lewiston, Idaho, Bob offered to create the art to be tooled into the leather. In the back country you need a saddle that has a high back and a high front so that it is easier to stay seated going up and down mountain ridges all day. The Frank Church Wilderness is some of the most rugged country in the lower 48. Good back country cowboys (and cowgirls) also need protection for their feet, thus the enclosed leather over the stirrups on my “one-of-a-kind” saddle.   Artwork on Saddle Back to Bob Auth. Bob made a stamp to give to the saddle maker, Ed Earl of Canyon Saddlery in Lewiston. The artist used the image of Chief, complete with the Appaloosa polka dots, and added an Indian war bonnet. That design was stamped on the saddle at four locations – on both sides of the saddle seat and on both fenders. Bob added Indian feathers that were stamped on the rise right below the horn on both sides. Thunder Mountain ranch was the name of my little 5-acre property.  Bob designed a Thunder Mountain TM brand which he placed on the saddle in four places – on both sides at the top back of the saddle and on both leather boot protectors over the stirrups. The unique thing about the brand according to Bob, was that it was similar to the brand used by the famous 1930s Hollywood film cowboy Tom Mix. Bob laid out the exact location where each of his art work should be placed on the saddle and gave the art to me to give to the saddle maker. The art was so wonderful that I had Bob make a copy instead of the original to give to the saddle maker. To this day, I have the original hanging over my bed, reminding me of all the great times I had with Bob Auth and the adventures I had riding my Chief in the wild back country of the Frank Church wilderness. Now to the saddle maker: Ed Earl of Canyon Country Saddlery. A true artist himself, Ed recommended we design the saddle as a high back and high front, better for mountain trails as I said earlier. Ed also suggested we go with a roping style horn since it was safer for getting on and off a horse on those steep, steep mountain trails. Plus the saddle would serve as a dual purpose for roping cows or for rodeo cowboys. I did have a horse fall on me once, and I had to jump off the saddle quickly otherwise I would have been crushed. That horse, who belonged to an outfitter, rolled head over and over again down the mountain side.  Ed Earl took more than eight months to build the saddle. Handmade saddles in the USA are rare and expensive, and Ed is meticulous in his work. He took Bob Auth’s art design and stamped them into the leather. He created the Indian war bonnet and even the dots on Chief’s face - matching every detail of Bob Auth’s work. History of Why the Saddle was Never Used By the time Elk hunting season arrived, the saddle was still not complete, so I used my other saddle. Finally the beautiful saddle arrived at my cabin in Yellow Pine. However by this time I already had the old saddle set up with the supplies I needed for long rides in the back country, so I decided to leave the new saddle in my cabin and continue to use the other one for a while. Elk Hunting Accident. Lost my Horse, Almost Lost My Life I was not a novice to elk hunting nor to this section of the Idaho back country wilderness. However a local mountain man, who will forever remain nameless, had been teaching me some ways of survival on horses in the backcountry. I am a quick learner and picked it up fast and did all my solo trips for three, four, five days at a time. You have to be very comfortable with yourself and know something of the back country to do these trips. I did, and was doing so well that my former mentor mountain man was getting jealous of my experiences. I later learned, the hard way, that he wanted to be the one person known as the expert mountain man for horses and hunting. Now he spent his days drunk, but people still respected him and so did I.However in one of his drunken stupors, the mountain man gave me advice to go up a trail that he said came out the other side of the mountain. He claimed he had taken it many times and would shorten my trip for my elk hunt so I could get back to my camp the same night.  Well…….he lied……big time.   Taking this mountain man’s advice cost me the life of my horse, Chief and nearly cost me my life as well. I took the trail that he recommended, traveling along a narrow path on a high cliff, with the Little Salmon River raging 100 feet below. I had taken this before and was not worried. I did however get off my horse and walk the path. The path was so narrow that Chief brushed against the side of the mountain with the saddle and my supplies.  Once we got to the end of the trail it opened up to a large hillside that the “mountain man” had suggested was the trail.  Sure enough there was a game trail there. So Chief and I started up it. We didn’t see any elk at this time but did see some mule deer in the distance.  he mountain was steep so at times I got off Chief to rest him and walk along beside him. Chief was one of the finest horses in the true fashion of Nez Perce Appaloosa.  He was short-coupled and had a strong, broad chest, exactly what you need for mountain trails where sometimes the trees fall on the trail and there is no way around the obstruction. A short-coupled horse like Chief could simply turn around on the trail. Those lanky-legged horses from the Midwest where I grew up just don’t compare. Following the trail higher and higher, Chief and I finally got near the ridge. As we did, I noticed a large boulder that covered what looked like the den of a Grizzly bear. Chief and I steered far away and headed on up the trail.We continued on believing what my drunken mentor had told me. Now it was getting late. What to do? I knew that if we stayed on a ridge line we could get back to some place. But the trail was getting deeper and deeper into the timber, which was not making sense. We continued on, trusting my mentor, the mountain man. Now it got worse.  Evening was approaching and there was no sign of the trail that would lead me back to my base camp. We started going away from the trail and heading down the mountain. However, the brush got so thick Chief and I headed back up the mountain to the trail. We rode on for a little while looking for a place to camp for the night. We never found anything that would work. Finally we rode off the trail a little ways to a large yellow pine tree. I took the bridle off Chief and tied it to the saddle. We were both beat. I always go into the back country somewhat prepared - I had matches in a plastic bag so they would not get wet, I had some apples, but I still did not have enough knowledge of back country survival. I grew up in the Midwest where there really is no problem with getting lost or freezing to death.  Here I was, three to four feet of snow on the ground.  My experience in the backcountry to start a fire meant getting together some dry leaves and twigs to use as kindling. But with deep snow on the ground, nothing was dry. (After this experience a real mountain man, Claud Newell, showed me how to start a fire with sap from pine trees, the automatic fire starter of the back country. But at the time I did not have that knowledge.) Now it was getting dark, getting colder and I simply did not know what to do. I thought I would freeze to death if I stayed there. And I was so sure that I was just above my camp. All I had to do is go down through the thick brush and get to my camp. WRONG. I later discovered I was on the wrong side of the ridge. Mistake number one. I should have never left my horse. I now know better. I had been told that your horse would always find their way home. So I left Chief behind. Big, big mistake, for both of us. Mistake number two. If you are going to let your horse find his way back home, take the saddle off and hang it from a tree. Come back and find the saddle later. That way at least your horse has a fighting chance to survive. Remember there are wolves, cougars and grizzly bears in those mountains that kill both people and horses. I was stupid and left the saddle on Chief, thinking that he would find the trail and make it back with saddle and all. I did however take my small ax, my .44 and my hunting knife. So there I was, sitting under this yellow pine tree looking over at Chief thinking well, he will survive this cold night with all the snow on the ground and no fire to keep me warm, but I would not. WRONG. I should have just curled up under the belly of my best friend, Chief, and stay out the night, then make it back the same way we came in the light of day. Instead I left Chief alone with the saddle still on his back and bridle tied to the saddle. And now I headed down the mountain into the brush. The Rest of the Story I traveled all night, not knowing where I was, thinking the whole time that if I just keep walking down the mountain I will end up at my camp. Wrong again. I was on the wrong side of the mountain ridge!  It got so bad that one time I saw “death” coming for me. I prayed to Jesus and yes he saved me when I said his name. Believe me, it worked, and I am here today because God allowed me to be here. I spent three full days traveling without food, drinking water from mountain streams, totally lost. The first night I traveled all night long. The next day I still walked, thinking that every ridge I saw would lead me down the mountain to my camp.  The second day lead into full night. By this time, probably midnight, I gave up walking. Instead I dug a hole in the ground and buried myself up to my chest. I was wearing a long Australian duster (cowboy coat) that would keep me dry. However, my feet and hands were wet and cold from going through all the mountain streams in the middle of the night. I knew I was about to freeze to death. So I dug my hole, crawled into it, pulled my cowboy hat over my head and waited out the night with snow coming down on me. Lucky for me, it did not snow much.   The next morning I decided to head back up the mountain ridge where I had come from late the day before. There was a logging road there. I now realized I was going to die if I did not get out of this wilderness, so I struggled up the mountain ridge. I was so weak that I was now literally crawling with both hands and on my knees. I kept praying to God as I crawled up the ridge. I asked that God just get me back to the logging road. I was so delirious and frozen that I did not know if I had even seen a logging road the day before. Logging Road Found Finally I got to the logging road. Now I had to continue to convince my mind to stay on the logging road until I got to the end, whereever that might be. It was difficult because I continually wanted to take the short cut and head down the mountain. But I stayed with it. When I finally got to end of the logging road, I came to a gravel road. Now I knew if I headed east I might find somebody to help me survive. After a while a hunter picked me up. I looked so bad from all the dirt covering me in my long overcoat that he made me ride in the back of his pickup truck. I asked him to take me to the ranch of a logger I knew who lived down the road.  When we got there, they washed me off with a hose before I came in the house. Then they brought me back to life, starting with cold water for my feet and hands. I was near death. That was a medical fact, not just BS. (Later the person who saved my hands and feet went up the logging road. He told me that he saw my trail, that I had been dragging one leg and it looked like I had been straggling all over the logging road. Back at My Yellow Pine Cabin After they nursed me back with hot liquid in my body, the logger took me into town, some 15 miles away that takes about 40 minutes on the windy mountain roads. My neighbor kept an eye on my hands and feet. The next day, they were blistered so bad that I was taken to the local hospital three hours away. We were worried I lose my hands and feet. I prayed to God while I was lost that I would not lose my hands or feet to frost bite, and today I still have all my fingers, toes and feet.  I am always reminded in cold weather due to numbness in my feet and fingers, but I am still here to live on and tell this remarkable story of survival in the Idaho backcountry. Bob Auth: It’s a Wilderness Out There What did Bob say when I recovered?  “It’s a wilderness out there. A man can get lost and die. It’s like the ocean.”  Bob always had a good way with words. Until that moment, I never thought of the back country like an ocean. But since Bob and I have both sailed the seas, I understood what he meant.   Search for Chief When I got back from the hospital, I rounded up some locals with horses. They went to the area and started looking for Chief. He was nowhere to be found. The next few days, I did everything we could do. I bandaged up my feet and had my friend Claude Newell drive me to the area where the hunt for Chief was going on. I hired a hunt outfitter to look for Chief along with locals and myself. We searched and called and even thought we got close to the area where I left him, but we never found Chief. I even hired a local pilot to search from the air for Chief. But since Chief was an Appaloosa, he blended right into the wilderness. That is probably why the Nez Perce tribe could hide so well from the US Calvary.  After a few weeks and many many hours searching, we finally gave up, now knowing that with a saddle on his back Chief probably would not have survived since the saddle would have made it harder for him to fight off wild prey.   One year later: Chief’s Bones and Old Saddle Found  My story of survival was well known through that part of Idaho. I got a lot of compliments for making it out alive. However to this day, I know I did everything wrong and KILLED my horse. A year later a hunter from McCall, Idaho, contacted me. He had heard my story and on his hunting trip he had found my saddle. He said it was wrapped around bones. I met the man and of course he refused to take any money. He was just glad to get me my saddle back. The saddle was in bad shape. I took it to Yellow Pine, to Claude Newell who was a saddle repair man. All the wool was gone, eaten up by wild critters. Claude pointed out all the different teeth marks from the various animals that had chewed on the saddle. What we noticed the most were the claw marks –that of a cougar.  So we know that Chief was killed by a cougar. Claude rebuilt that old saddle and that is what I have in my home. I will always cherish it, knowing that I survived, but I will always remember my great horse Chief, who didn’t. New Saddle. Chief’s Saddle.  So if you read this far, you will now understand why I can never, ever use the new saddle I had made for Chief. This one-of a-kind saddle was designed by Bob Auth and Ed Earl for my Chief. Chief never got to have the saddle on his back. I don’t deserve this beautiful saddle because I killed my best friend, Chief, in the back country of Idaho wilderness. Some cowboy or cowgirl is more deserving than me. I can never use it.   Please give it a good home and ride it long and hard like Chief would have liked. The owner and former Idaho backcountry mountain cowboy, Keith Eisberg