Monday, February 17, 2014

Harness Shop

 There is nothing like walking into an Amish harness shop.  As soon as you walk in, a rich smell of leather mixed with harness oils and a scent of horses greets you.

If you are a horse person I promise you will be in paradise.  Most shops, like the one pictured above, sell items from saddles to horse wormer, brushes, hoof picks, blankets, bits and a million other such things. Even if your not a horse person, I believe you will enjoy the experience.  Go in and ask if they would be willing to make a custom leather belt, most will.

There are at least three harness shops in the Kalona, Iowa area alone.  I make a point of going to all three even though I have my favorite. (I won't say which one) The shop east of Kalona a few miles and then south on a gravel road has mostly bio-harness.  A nylon covered with a very durable synthetic coating. They also specialize in show harness.

 The shop pictured above is in town, straight north of the Casey's General Store. That is a mostly leather harness shop and happens to be the first place I did business with, when I first bought a team of horses.

A third harness shop specializes in nylon harness, and is located north of the leather harness shop, several miles on a gravel road (the road jogs west a little at one point.)

My two favorite harness makers are now deceased. One of them had a shop a few miles from my home and was one of the kindest men I have ever met.  He was full of horse wisdom and told great stories, many of which appear in my novel, Under the Heavens.  
I am saving his best story for my sequel, about an amazing pony.

My other favorite harness maker told me that he went to grade school with my wife's grandfather.  He was a nylon harness man and also was a very kind, wise horseman, with great stories.  Both of these men I used as examples for my Grandpa character in my novel, so if you read my book, know that there really are men like him out there in Amish communities.
I took a single harness in to this last man mentioned one time, to be repaired.  He told me that it may take a while to fix it and wondered if I had any other errands to run while he worked on it.  I did, so after spending an hour and a half in Kalona, I came back to check on his progress.  He was just finishing up when I got there and then spent what seemed like 5 minutes figuring before he gave me my total bill.  I was getting nervous about the price!  He finally looked up at me and asked, "Does $1.75 sound alright?"  I told him that it sounded awful cheep.  He replied, "Well, I didn't use much material, it was mostly labor."  Don't let me lead you astray, I doubt it will be that cheep when you go in to get a leather belt these days.

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