Originally Published: January 27, 2015 6 a.m.
Prescott's Dusty Johnson sits tall in the saddle when it comes to producing saddles and instructing others in the intricacies of the trade. He's a detail-oriented perfectionist who has made hundreds of working and show saddles over some 50 years while teaching countless others in the art in his Pleasant Valley Saddle Shop that has included locations in Prescott (on Miller Valley Road 30 years ago) and Loveland, Colorado, for 23 years prior to settling in his current spic-and-span shop in his home off Williamson Valley Road.
Along with his hands-on instructing, though, he has written and produced a half-dozen books and DVDs (some 60,000 of which he has sold over the years) focusing not only on saddle making - including silver parade saddles, 219 of which he has restored to date - but also the making of chaps and availability of such items as "Hollywood holsters" (over 850 he has produced so far, all of which feature steel linings to facilitate gun spinning display rather than fast draw). Those fancy holsters are similar to the ones utilized by movie cowboys including Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy and Gene Autry. In addition, he designs and produces quivers for Native American flute players, along with luggage and hood straps for Porsche autos, several of which are corralled (uh, "housed") in his garage.
Dusty's "right-hand gal" in his business endeavors is his wife of 49 years, Sharon, who does all the shipping of his books and DVDs and is his chief (chieftess?) phone answerer. "She's the CEO and I'm the garbage guy," he quips.
As a fun sideline he also manufactures silver bullets that he sells for $3 each. (They're .45-caliber nickel-plated jobbies that "shine beautifully and make any holster stand out" with "no polishing necessary" and are "completely safe - no license or permit required" because they contain no gunpowder. Kemo sabe?)
Now, the reason behind my placing those bowlegged quotation marks around the silver bullet references is that they were gleaned from Dusty's website (PVsaddleshop.com), and ample background on the above subjects can be called up for those interested. And space will allow me to only touch on his multi-faceted life before telling about a local Trade Show in which he will be participating in a few weeks.
"I have worked for numerous magazines and newspapers (chief editor, advertising director, layout promotion)," he said, "and at one time I owned and operated a jewelry manufacturing concern, a musical instrument production company and a real estate agency along with other sometimes ill-fated endeavors in business. Through all of this I made saddles since the early '60s and was a professional farrier (horseshoer) for over 35 years. Outside of this checkered background I have been a professional magician since joining the International Brotherhood of Magicians in 1956, performing on nightclub stages and specializing in close-up magic. (See, I really must be 135 years old, but I just look good for my age!")
Now, about that upcoming show of Feb. 27-28 and March 1 at the Prescott Resort & Conference Center. Charil Reis and her husband Ralph Salome Jr. will be at the helm of that 15th Southwest Leather Workers Trade Show that promises to cater to "all your leather needs" including a leather carving contest in which "everyone is welcome to participate (while supplies last)" on Feb. 27. Charil is the editor and publisher of the Leather Crafters & Saddlers Journal and is "a hard-working young woman who is doing a great job with the magazine," Dusty said. (Incidentally, this Southwest Trade Show outing will be the second one to be held in Prescott; prior to 2014, Wickenburg was the host site for 13 years.)
Among the other planned events at this year's offering will be the Prescott Leather Art Exhibition & Sale of Feb. 25-28, which is open to the public and features free admission. That event will take place at the Mountain Artists Guild Gallery at 228 N. Alarcon St.
For additional information on the Trade Show, visit www.leathercraftersjournal.com - and watch The Daily Courier, which is planning advance coverage.