My favorite grandfather was a swaggering old son-of-a-bitch right up until the day he died at the age of 86. I loved and admired him more than any other man I have ever known.
He had a right to swagger. He grew up tough on the South Dakota frontier and was one of the last of the real cowboys. His uncle was a famous buffalo hunter who fought in one of the greatest of all the Indian Wars, ‘The Second Battle of Adobe Walls.’
Besides the swagger, there were a couple of other characteristics about my grandfather that made him unique. First, his hands. He had the most beautiful hands. Long fingers, elegantly shaped, yet strong. And he had this tremendous sense of style. He wore trousers in a style we’d call khaki today with nice well worn leather boots and typically a western style shirt and sometimes a felt brimmed hat – not a true cowboy hat per se – but something that wouldn’t look out of place on John Wayne.
In fact he had that same rugged style as John Wayne. And he wore it well. And every man in the county not just knew him but I could sense were a little intimidated by him. He was a man’s man. And his two son’s turned out to be even greater versions of himself. One fought in the Battle of the Bulge (and is still alive and well at 92) and the other flew planes in WWII. They were both big men: 6′-2″/6′-3″ also with big beautiful strong hands just like their father.
Okay, that’s enough of an introduction. Today’s story is about a belt buckle I bought just a few days ago at an outdoor swap meet where people sell all kinds of things.
It was so pitifully old, dirty and worn (the metal is literally rubbed away in places on the back) that the asking price of 20 pesos ($1) was a predictable sum. Everybody these days, especially down here in Mexico, wants shinny new crap with designer logos and whatnot so stuff like this isn’t in great demand.
Me, I saw the intrinsic beauty in the thing and moreover it reminded me so much of grandfather that I bought immediately. It’s not too wide nor too long where it stands out like one of those giant rodeo rider’s belt buckles. Proportionally it’s just perfect and it’s in a style you just don’t see anymore. It’s old school and I positively love the design and it is as it turns out the buckle I’ve been searching for a long time.
Some months back I bought a beautiful handmade leather belt from a saddleshop over in nearby Valle De Juarez. The belt is awesome; far better than the one I spent 10X the price on for one in Italy just a few years ago, which I gave away when I moved from Washington, DC to here. My only argument with this new one was the ordinary new modern chrome plated (over brass) buckle. Yet while quality and appropriate it was still just another soulless buckle and I told my friend, Clemente that it to go.
He said, ‘No. No. That buckle is fine.’ He was right but I knew in my heart there was another buckle that would fit me and my new belt much better.
And I was right. I bought that old dirty buckle and cleaned it up and quite amazingly the size and design fits my new leather belt perfectly. I am debating about replacing the slightly rusty clasp piece on the back before I use it or then again maybe I’ll just put it on the belt and go with it as it is.
I think the buckle itself is made of pewter. It’s definitely not silver so I’m guessing it’s some old casting of pewter.
I can just imagine the old charro who wore it before me. And I hope he is honored rather than offended that this old gringo will wear it proudly till the day he too passes on to the other side.