Oregon Folklife Network

Len Babb III

2015-2016 TAAP AWARDEE

Traditional Skill/Art Craft: Saddlemaking

Apprentice: Jody Cooper

Describe your traditional skill/craft/art, when and why it is done, and your history with it.

Tooling leather and building custom made saddles. Cowboys are in need of saddles for their livelihood. I cowboyed for over 40 years so I know how a good saddle should feel.

How and from whom was the tradition learned?

Learned this great tradition from my father. By watching, and practicing while in high school.

Why is this cultural tradition important to your community?

I want to pass on this tradition because it would be a shame to lose a beautiful craft and skill as saddle making. There is a lot of cowboy pride and tradition in buckaroo culture. People like having their own specific saddle made for them and their needs. People can buy factory saddles that are made fast and cheap so people can afford them but they don’t hold up under the work that a cowboy, a range cowboy, would put them through. They’re not built for comfort and endurance. Saddle making is important because it is a longstanding tradition that people make a living off of. It’s convenient and available to cowboys who don’t have to shop out for saddles.

Artist Biography

Len Babb III is a traditional western saddlemaker, hand making traditional saddles for cowboys throughout the West. Born in Wyoming, Len moved to Oregon in the third grade after his father got a job at the ZX Ranch in Paisley, OR. Len learned how to make saddles from his father, taking over his father’s saddle shop after he retired. Len also takes pride in the over 40 years he spent in the saddle as a cowboy, and uses that experience to make his saddles. In his own words, “There is a lot of cowboy pride and tradition in buckaroo culture. People like having their own specific saddle made for them and their needs.”

Experience/Honors

I’ve done a few workshops with grade school children at Paisley High School. I show them how to work leather and put seminars on at the school.