Shelley Hansen - Lady of Lines

Poem of the Month

November 2019

This month's poem celebrates the life and work of my great uncle Ludwig (Mick) Jesse - whose consummate skill as a saddler was well known in the Maryborough District. Peter Allen may have made the Tenterfield Saddler famous in song, but Uncle Mick's skills were no less noteworthy, despite his being "Not the Tenterfield Saddler"!

Not the Tenterfield Saddler
© Shelley Hansen 2019

They have sung of the Tenterfield Saddler
and the artisan skills he displayed.
They have welcomed a tide of observers
to inspect leather saddles he made.
But I tell of another fine craftsman
whose establishment graced my home town.
Though he wasn't the Tenterfield Saddler
he developed a name of renown.

He was known as the Saddler of Kent Street
but to me he was Great Uncle Mick,
for my Mum's Aunty Ann was his lady -
and the tether that bound them was thick!
They belonged to an age we've forgotten
when the locals kept townships alive,
staying loyal to shops and to tradesmen
so community spirit would thrive.

I remember the scent of the workroom
and the feeling of leather, brand new.
He would lift me up onto his counter
while I watched as his deft fingers flew.
He made saddles for stockmen and farmers
and for Forestry men on the go,
for the kids to ride ponies for practice
and for dressage events at the Show.

All his saddles would last for a lifetime!
Aunty Ann would lament now and then,
"Mick, you make them too good, that's your trouble -
people don't need to come back again!"
Still, he sought nothing less than perfection
and each hide bore the print of his heart.
His reward was the smile of his clients,
and the cost was surpassed by the art.

I grew up, and the saddlery business
passed from Great Uncle Mick to his son,
who had learned at the feet of his father
how the craft of the saddler was done.
He continued the trade till retirement
when a changing world bolted his doors.
After decades of quiet achievement
it was ended with little applause.

Now I'm older - but still, along Kent Street
when I see the familiar shop door,
I look past the new business behind it
for my fancy recalls so much more.
Then the leather scent tickles my nostrils,
and I see shining saddles, arrayed.
Though he wasn't the Tenterfield Saddler,
Uncle Mick was the cream of his trade!

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