It's the story of an old American hero the cowboy but it's told through the use of his trusty saddle. It's a new exhibit, "Grazin' Saddles," opening July 29 at the Rim Country Museum.
"All of these saddles come with a fabulous story about the history of the area, cattle ranching and rangers," Rim Country Museum historian Stan Brown said. "Saddles are special. Each cowboy was a drifter, and they didn't have their own horse; however, each had their own saddle, their intimate possession."
The display stars saddles from different cowboys and cowgirls and other locals, from different time periods in the Rim country's settlement.
The horse adornments range from the impractical sidesaddle to those ridden by the Rim country's more famous inhabitants like Western author, Zane Grey. From rangers to authors, each saddle served a unique purpose for its owner.
"Each saddle was usually custom made to suit the cowboy's purpose," Brown said.
Raising their children in Star Valley, the Ogilvies, parents of weatherwoman, Anna Mae Deming, utilized one of the saddles in the exhibit to teach their children to ride.
New fashion came out of the impracticality of the sidesaddle on the Rim country's rugged terrain, paving a new trail for the popular split skirt, allowing females to straddle while still looking feminine.
Fred Croxen, a Payson pioneer, rode his saddle wearing many different hats, none of which were cowboy. Croxen's hats included those of a forest ranger, chief of police on the Navajo Reservation and border patrol.
More detailed stories and pictures accompany each of the nine saddle displays, along with a booklet for the browser to peruse, revealing how each saddle was built, who each belonged to and what they did. The booklet also invites guests to look for certain marks on the saddle, clues that offer insight into the origin of the saddle and how the cowboy utilized it.
To ensure that all information in the exhibit is accurate, Stan Brown, the researcher for the display, consulted with Eldon Bowman, a retired professor from Northern Arizona University and expert horseman who, Brown said, "knows saddles."
"He can look at a saddle and tell the date it was made," Brown said.
The display, which runs through September, takes an educational approach, providing awareness of the Rim country rancher, Brown said.
"We are always trying to attract the general public," he said. "Hopefully this exhibit will spark an interest in some when they hear Old West words horse, saddle and cattle."