My Love of Buckskin

My love for buckskin began as a little girl. I remember hiding in the closet playing a game of hide and seek. As I pushed to the back my nose brushed up against my grand mothers traditionally made buckskin coat. The deeply smoked leather conjured up images in my mind of living in the woods, slaying a deer, eating it's warm flesh and tanning it's leather.

When the playing was done and my grand mother put me to bed, I asked about her buckskin coat and if one day I could have one of my own. "Little Bird", she said with all the wisdom her long life gave her. "The coat is very special to me, the leather was tanned by the Shawnee people and beaded by my grand mother. Those traditions now rest with very few tribes. The answer to your question remains in the future and the sooner you get to sleep the faster you will get there." 

The future did come and I now own a beautifully beaded buckskin coat. From that night onwards, I dreamt  of hunting a deer, learning the art of tanning, beading and partaking in traditional foods and stews made from the meat. After visiting and befriending long lost cousins for many years, they did take me into their long houses to craft my own coat. It was an incredible experience as I spent two months with these genuinely warm people.

In that time I took down my first buck using a crossbow. I sat up in a tree for a week, before I had my kill. It was an exhilarating experience as I excitedly climbed down the tree followed the blood and tracks into the woods where the deer finally succumbed to it's injury. It was only a minute or two before my teacher, Crying Bear found us and  said, " You shoot like a girl", with a big  proud grin. 

Later that evening everyone was having a grand laugh at my expense and I asked why. Crying Bear,while laughing his ass off told me, "Rosebud was hiding all week along the path changing the run of the deer so you would be stuck up the tree all week." Now rolling on his side barely able to speak,  "If she hadn't done that you would have had your deer the first day." 

At first I was furious at Rosebud, a thirteen year old girl who was known for her dirty tricks, but then realized, she did it because I was now one of the family. I gave her the evil eye with a big toothy grin and her eyes lit up the room with her delight. That night I ate the tenderloin with a glass of blueberry wine.

Cleaning and smoking  a hide is no easy task and  takes patience, skill and an experienced eye. Auntie, a very old but expert tanner, helped me with mine. She lost her voice, so she only speaks with her eyes and body language. And she can give out orders and direction better than any army sergeant at role call when it came to her craft. She'd give me little kicks on my ankles if I took my attention off of the hide as I tried to keep the fire smouldering. 

With my newly acquired buckskin I hired a local woman to make me a coat. She did an incredible job and the fit and comfort level could be compared to any high priced coat. I took a few lessons from the women on beading.  Before I left Crying Bear gave me a pair of finely crafted buckskin gloves beautifully preserved under glass and framed. " They were my grand mother's", he said. " She would give them to you herself if she wasn't in heaven."

I spent many long hours at home finishing the beading. When it was done I hung it in the closet, climbed inside, closed the door and put my nose up against my very own buckskin coat! What will I dream of now? That answer is in the future.

Uploaded 08/11/2012
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