Saddles and the Heye Saddle

In addition to his spurs and rope, few items were as important to a cowboy as his saddle.  Riding for any great distance required a fine saddle that could hold up to hard use, exposure to all kinds of weather, and would not harm the horse wearing it.  The saddle was the closest this to home that a cowboy had.  It was his “workspace” throughout the day, it could serve as a shield in an emergency, and was often his pillow at night.  Particularly successful cowboys those skilled enough to earn the wages of a “top hand” might own a particularly fine saddle.  Some of the finest saddles in Texas came from makers in San Antonio.  One not far from the Briscoe Western Art Museum was the workshop of Dick Heye.

Dick Heye saddles were considered the “Cadillac” of saddles and were claimed to be identifiable from half a mile away—due to their patterning with silver conchos. On March 26, 1875 a raid of Tom Noakes’ store in Nuecestown, TX resulted in the theft of 18 Heye saddles. In response to the raid, Captain McNelly of the Texas Rangers directed his men to “Empty those saddles on sight. No palavering with the riders, empty them. Leave the men where you drop them and bring the saddles to camp.” (Durham, G.,The Taming of the Nueces Strip, p. 18-19)