I should have measured how many miniscule stitches to the inch. Today, a week from when I visited the exhibit, I can’t begin to describe the braiding.
Armando Deferrari and Pablo Lozano are Argentine master rawhide braiders. They and the Brazilians were guests of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering this year, and some of their gear was on display as part of the “Cowboy of the Americas” exhibit in the Western Folklife Center.
Armando, older of the two, is a big man, probably over six feet tall, bearded, strong face, direct gaze. Pablo is younger with classic, fine features. Both were eager to show us their work. Headstalls, bridles, whips, and refurbished classical artifacts. They both work in silver and rawhide, and Armando, retired from veterinary medicine, maintains a silversmithing workshop.
They turn heads when they stride into a room with easy, welcoming smiles. Pablo wears a rakish beret, red dotted scarf, and short jacket; Armando, a black fedora hat, scarf, and brightly colored poncho with white geometric design.
Around the waists of loose-fitting dark or white gaucho pants, wide, embroidered cloth belts in rich colors glitter with coins, aged silverwork, and lush beading. According to Pablo such belts are handed down through the family; his is several generations old. The gaucho’s friend, the indispensable knife, is tucked in the belt at his back. With a shy smile he assured us, through the translator, the knife would never be used while they visited America.
Cowboy John took them touring Saturday, to the Van Norman ranch, north of Elko. Armando was excited to see the horses. Van Norman registered quarter horses are the West’s finest. Generations of Van Normans have ranched this valley.
Saturday it was snowing as they drove north out of Elko toward Tuscarora. It’s remote open country and that day everything was white, the sky, surrounding hills, and the backs of the horses.
Cowboy John: “Bill and Troy Van Norman fed the yearling colts oats, and they bunched around us. Snowing like crazy the whole time, it was perfectly quiet. The only sound was our talking, and the snow muffled that.”
We saw the idyllic ranch house and barn, and the working end of the ranch, the tack room. Two-year old colts they’ll sell this spring were in the next field, brood mares farther down. Veterinarian Argentine Armando wanted to see a horse ranch; he visited one of the best.
Neither Armando nor Palbo is a professional musician like the Brazilians who also visited, but they did sing for us at one performance and Friday night at Sarah’s.
For Cowboy John
PS: I’ll tell you about Sarah’s. It deserves another post. What a night that was!