Here are four products hand-selected—and often used—by our editors.
McCall saddles occupy a unique place in the market. The designers and makers behind the line, Dry Fork Saddle Co. of Vernal, Utah, refer to the McCall as a “semi-custom production saddle.” Its fans contend that, as production saddles go, the McCall comes the closest to custom-saddle quality.
Six years ago, when I was in the market for a new saddle for colt-training sessions and general riding, I purchased the McCall A-fork shown here. Since I brought it home, the saddle has fit the bill perfectly, and I suspect that it’ll last for as long as I take proper care of it.
According to Dry Fork, McCalls are built with handmade, rawhide-covered trees, and include U.S.-made hardware and Blevins buckles. The McCall line includes a variety of saddle styles, from slick forks and swell forks, to saddles made for barrel racing, cutting and competitive roping. Most fall in the $2,400–$3,000 price range.
A long list of options—seat sizes and styles, rigging choices, stirrup selections and handtooling patterns—allow a buyer to “semi-customize” a McCall.
Dutch-oven cooking is an art I have yet to master, but the learning curve hasn’t seemed so steep thanks to the cast-iron cookware I’ve been using from Lodge Manufacturing. For more than 100 years, the Tennessee-based company has produced quality cast-iron cookware that’s been handed down through generations of family cooks.
My cookware is new, but I’ve used it to put fresh spins on traditional family recipes. When the weather is unfit for grilling outside, I use the Lodge Signature Series 12-inch grill pan to prepare fish, pork, chicken, steaks and hamburgers. The raised ridges in the pan mark the meat with gorgeous grill lines, and the seasoned cast iron produces great flavor. I’ve prepared soups, stews, potpie and cobbler in the 4.5-quart Dutch oven.
The award-winning Lodge Signature Series line of cookware is pre-seasoned, so you can take it out of the box and start cooking. The cookware has all the features of traditional cast-iron, but with contemporary stainless-steel handles. The cookware’s interior finish makes cleanup a snap. Soak off dried, caked-on, bottom-of-the-pot food in warm water with a drop of mild dish soap. The Signature Series cookware can even be placed in the dishwasher.
Cookware comes and goes, but I expect my Lodge grill pan and Dutch oven to be around for years of family meals. The Signature Series includes a 10-inch skillet ($89.95), 12-inch skillet ($99.95), grill pan ($109.95), casserole dish ($129.95), 4.5-quart Dutch oven ($129.95) and 7-quart Dutch oven ($149.95).
For more information, call (423) 837-7181, or visit lodgemfg.com.
Rubber Water Tanks
My horses eat their grain from a couple of individual feed troughs made from old rubber tires turned inside out, with plywood nailed to the bottom. My dad made those more than 20 years ago, and other than replacing their wooden base, they’ve withstood the test of time. Old tires don’t rust, crack or bend. Even being lifted and tossed into the air by hungry horses hasn’t weakened their resilience.
That’s why I was drawn to Diamond 7 Bar’s Giant Rubber Water Tanks. A family-run guest ranch and outfitter business in Alva, Wyoming, the operation also manufactures about 5,000 large rubber water tanks each year. Made from discarded tires of large mining trucks, these tanks can hold up to 1,800 gallons of water.
“They’re anywhere from six to 12 feet in diameter,” says Beth Reilly. “Now we deliver them all over the United States.”
The idea came to Reilly’s father, Gerald Mahoney, about 30 years ago after taking a tour of a local coal mine. Impressed with the huge truck tires used there and frustrated with the short life-span of his water troughs, Mahoney acquired a scrap tire from the mine. He invented a hydraulic shear to cut out the sidewall, and then his new creation developed into a business.
Today, Giant Rubber Water Tanks, Inc., works with numerous mines and tire-disposal businesses and sells its unique water tanks through 50 dealers in the western United States. Tires are often shipped directly from the mine to the customer, then staff members arrive to custom cut the tire. The bottom can be sealed with concrete, bentonite, a fiberglass or metal plate, or rubber belting.
The thick, hard rubber makes tanks durable against corrosion, livestock, freezing temperatures and weather.
Tanks are typically sold by the truckload, which keeps costs down to about $300 per six-foot tank, or $600 per 12-foot tank. For more information, visit giantrubberwatertanks.com, or call (307) 467-5786.
Versatility Made Easy
I was skeptical about loping off while holding the reins of synthetic bridle. Made of beta biothane, a PVC-coated webbing, the Versa-Bridle from A&M Farms is leather-like in appearance but surprisingly more flexible than its traditional counterpart. Lightweight, easy-to-clean biothane gear is a popular alternative to leather, especially in competitive trail and endurance circles.
Disguised by what seems a plethora of buckles, rings and snaps lies a truly versatile bridle. With just a slip of a buckle or snap of a clip, I can easily convert the Versa-Bridle from a sidepull to a halter or halter/bridle combination, or attach a bit and use it as a regular browband headstall.
Maker Margaret Froelich has kept her design simple, efficient and completely adjustable, an added bonus for anyone whose herd includes growing youngsters. Though I had two bridles at my disposal—one plain and one fancy—I chose the latter for my test drive. The ornate Western-styled model, with its brass fittings, V-shaped browband, nylon-braided noseband, cheek pieces and horsehair tassels made for a traditional look, in spite of the new-age materials.
All bridles are custom-made, with multiple size, style and color options. The Western Versa-Bridle with reins, as shown, retails for $150 plus shipping and handling. A plain version with reins retails for $115. For additional information, contact A&M Farms at (620) 430-3182, or visit madtack.net.