When I got back from a family trip to Disney World last month, I had a package sitting on my desk.
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It had come from Tennessee, from a man named Jerry. The letter in the box read:
"In July 2019, I was told that I developed cancer which had taken great toll on my health, and I am now in the process of moving into an assisted living home.
"Through the years, I have always cherished my show equipment and have always been an avid collector of quality bits, bridles, spurs and especially quality raw-hide royal reins and other equipment. I have no family or close friends that are in need of my equipment and no one that are collectors of what to me is fine and beautiful 'stuff'.
"In about 1970 or early 1980, I saw Ed Connell was living in Red Rock, Arizona (If memory is correct) and had a mail-order business. I ordered the enclosed book and bit from him at that time.
"I saw your article 'My Collection' in the 2019 summer edition of H&R and I said this sounds like my people. Since the bit is by the old bit maker Al Tietjen, and I think it may be a collector item, I want you and your husband to have it with my best wishes, and if nothing else you can hang it on the wall."
[Related: My Collection: Custom Bits]
I wasn't alone with tears in my eyes as we passed the bit and the letter around the office, and we all quickly agreed that the bridle deserved an esteemed spot on the office wall, after we gave it a try, of course.
I brought it home and put it on my good one— a 13-year-old gelding named Four J PR Punch or "Clyde Dale" as we call him—and told my husband I felt ready for the ranch rodeos or the ranch riding or both. Some bits just feel like butter, and this one sure did on my big, broke, bay.
Plus, Jerry enclosed "Reinsman of the West: Bridles and Bits", such a valuable resource in riding a horse in the bridle that I've loved diving into.
Purchase the book "Reinsman of the West: Bridles and Bits" on Amazon!
I also mentioned the gift to Trevor Brazile in passing while working on his column for The Team Roping Journal, and as the ultimate bit man, he of course knew the story behind the maker and the bit.
"It's probably got a cover over the rollers, right?" Brazile guessed—spot on, of course. "It's a great bit. Roy Cooper won the world on Topper in that bit."
Mr. Jerry—I'm beyond honored to be the recipient of this cherished bit, and we'll hang it on the wall in the Horse&Rider office when we can get back there. Please stay well, sir, and know that your gift has left quite the mark on our team. H&R