On Dec. 13, 1969, Steve Taylor was involved in a roll-over accident near Waverly, Kansas. He broke his neck and learned he would be disabled for life.
“I went off the road on the right hand side, corrected and hit a bar ditch on the other side,” he said. “It flipped once and rolled twice.”
After a time, he accepted the reality of the situation and turned the word “disabled” into just another way to say “adapt.” He made up his mind to find a career that fit his abilities, live a normal life and never give up.
More than four decades later, he’s living out that pledge. In 1979, he opened his business, Taylor’s Saddle Shop, in Bluff Dale. It’s been in continual operation since the day the doors opened, in the same location, right around the corner from InterBank.
“When I broke my neck, it meant I couldn’t do anything that would require standing on my feet. I like to work with my hands and that’s what saddle making takes, so I got into this business,” he said. “I apprenticed under Slim Graham who was originally from Texas and still had family out here. I worked for him for a year in Scott City, Kansas. When Slim decided to move back to Texas I came with him – for one thing to get into a warmer climate.”
At first the saddle shop was in Stephenville, near Pulido’s where Cowboy Capitol western store once was, but he soon ended up in Bluff Dale.
“Slim’s wife had folks here in Bluff Dale and they got a little house here. I got a little house here, too, and married a Bluff Dale girl. We’ve been here ever since.”
That Bluff Dale girl, now Rue Taylor, is the daughter of Marionelle Frizzell, whose family helped settle Bluff Dale after the Civil War. Rue’s currently works as a registered nurse at a local hospice facility.
Times have been challenging since the recession of 2008, but Taylor’s found a way to hold on.
“The bad economy hit us real hard. The good thing is, around here you still have riders and they need repair work done, so that’s the main part of my business now. People are digging deeper and fixing up the old stuff more.”
“Most of the people I do work for are weekend riders and team ropers. Ropers tear up stuff a lot more than weekend riders and there are a lot of team ropers in this area. The ones who are serious will go rope 15 or 20 a night and with that kind of jerking and pulling on equipment, they can tear stuff up pretty fast.”
The Taylors have five grown kids and are raising three adopted grandchildren, ages 10, 11 and 13, who attend Bluff Dale Elementary.
“We’ve had the middle one since he was two weeks old and from the time he was two-and-a-half he stayed here at the shop with me until he went to kindergarten,” Taylor said. “He feels like he owns this place just as much as I do.”
Raising his grandkids takes grit and good humor, but Taylor wouldn’t have it any other way. “We just started over in life and it looks like retirement is a ways off now, but I wouldn’t change it. If somebody asked me, I’d say there’s only one day in my life I’d change – December 13, 1969.”