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The oddest request saddle maker David Gillmore ever received was from a woman who asked him to make her a bikini out of chamois. He did it and thought it one of the loony sidebars in his years of creating custom saddles.
Born in Oklahoma and reared in Hancock, Missouri, David once traveled the rodeo circuit as a bronc and bull rider, and word got out among cowboys that David was the man to see for a saddle. His reputation for fine craftsmanship reaches from Florida to the Dakotas and a dozen states in between.
David learned the basics of his trade by hanging out at a saddle shop in North Little Rock in his early twenties when he was stationed there in the Air Force. “I worked nights as a mechanic on B-58s, so I pretty much visited the saddle shop every weekday,” David says. “The owner was a great guy. He said to me one time, ‘If you’re going to loaf here this much, I’m going to make you do something.’ So he taught me how to repair saddles.”
For the past three decades, David has worked at Jefferson City in his shop, Gillmore Saddlery & Western Store, on High Street. “I call this place an orderly form of disorder,” he says with a grin.
He’s built trophy saddles, but the steady work comes from custom saddles for ranch work or pleasure riding. David says that about half the folks who come in don’t exactly know what they want, and he guides them through the process.
David’s artistry is the intricate stamping he creates. Then, braiding and adding metal decorations and other elements of design produce saddles that weigh on average forty-five pounds.
“I set a higher standard for myself than people expect of me,” David says. “I think that’s important in this job.”
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