Treasures That Can't Be Sold
If you needed a specially sized buckle for your harness, Jimmy had it. If you left your harness in a trunk and it ended up molding beyond your ability to clean it, Jimmy could restore it to its former glory (if you threw in a few tears and pleaded with him to help you).
And then he would give you a speech about how you should never store harness in a trunk.
If you needed a hacking jacket and you didn't want to spend a fortune on it, Jimmy usually had a selection upstairs in the consignment room. The upstairs area was really supposed to be reserved for pony clubbers but we all snuck up there looking for deals.
I remember the first time I met Jimmy. Some friends brought me over to the Turf Shop at the harness track and introduced me to him. They warned me that you had to have time to talk if you were going to shop at Schmelzer's.
On that first visit, which was probably about 18 years ago, I was scrounging around in the attic and came upon a bit that caught my eye. The items on consignment always had the name of the owner and the price. The name on the bit was Otto Heuckeroth. I went running downstairs to tell my friends about the treasure I had discovered in the attic and bought the bit. It was a rather large thick O ring snaffle that didn't fit my small horse at the time. However, I eventually got a 17-hand horse that it fit and although the horse didn't go the best in it, I didn't care. It was more important that I had a piece of history. Being from the Northeast, I knew that Otto Heuckeroth was a legendary horseman who had managed the Ox Ridge Hunt Club in Darien for many years, and was Patty Heuckeroth's father.
If it was history you liked to talk about, Jimmy always had an interesting story. Many years later, I bought a brass brow band for my young mare. Jimmy told me all about the person who had owned it and the history of the brow band. It's still on my horse's bridle.
It was true that you couldn't be in a hurry when you went to Schmelzer's. The conversations were rather lengthy, but I always learned something and it was always fun.
When I walked into the Turf Shop last Monday before the auction to sell off the contents of the tack shop, I pictured Jimmy sitting at his long work table that held tools that Jimmy's grandfather and father had used before him to fashion leather and repair countless pieces of tack .
I'm not privy to the details of why the shop's contents were auctioned. But whatever the circumstances, I felt a stab in the history of my heart to see all Jimmy's tools laid out on his work table, ready to go to the highest bidder -- tools that had been passed down through three generations.
It marks the end of an era. We horse people have lost a little bit of our history and one of the keepers of our history.
Gone are the boxes of bits and buckles, the sheets of leather, the rolls of webbing, the used saddles, the bridles, the girths, the tools, the work table and the sewing machines. They are someone's good auction deal now. All that is left at Schmelzer's Turf Shop is the echo of treasured conversations.
Patricia Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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