- Other kids had tree houses and forts. My favorite childhood hangout was my grandfather’s saddle shop: Ray Holes Saddle Company in Grangeville, Idaho.
Surrounded by the pungent aroma of leather and the rhythmic “Tap, tap-tap, tap” of Grandpa’s leather carving tools; I got my first lessons in customer service and appreciation.
Our customers liked to hang out at Grandpa’s workbench too. These ranch families and cowboys were always welcome in the saddle shop. Poised at my grandfather’s shoulder, I soaked up conversations about the pressure and uncertainty of the cattle business. Farmers and ranchers are used to hard times. Unpredictable weather, high feed costs and low cattle prices—are the cowboys’ three constant companions.
When the customers left, my grandfather would say to me “We’re so lucky, Jeri Mae.” He’d remind me what good, hardworking people our customers were. “Tap, tap-tap, tap” How little they made for their labor. “Tap, tap-tap, tap” And, what a privilege it was to serve them. “We’re so lucky.”
“Bad luck” got my grandfather into the saddle making business. As a child, his legs had been partially paralyzed by polio. His disability prevented him from being a farmer or rancher like the other men in his family. So, after school he worked for the local shoe maker learning to stitch leather by hand.
One day a customer brought him a saddle to “fix.” It required taking the old saddle apart and laying out the pieces on new leather. Essentially, he “built” his first saddle. After high school he apprenticed with saddle makers in the western United States and Canada before starting his own saddle making company in 1934.
Dorothea Lange’s riveting portrait, Migrant Mother, gave a human face to the Great Depression. Migrant Mother was taken in 1936—just two years after my grandfather started his saddle making business.
My grandfather’s business survived the Depression. Actually, he did better than survive. From his start up in the hard times of 1934, E. Ray Holes went on to become a world-famous saddle maker and pass his craftsmanship on to his son, my dad, Gerald Ray Holes. Together they created custom saddles cherished by customers all over the globe. And they created four leather care products that are now sold by over 400 retailers in 11 countries.
I'm honored to be the third generation of my family to manufacture and wholesale Ray Holes Leather Care Products.
Truly, we are so lucky to serve you.