In Memoriam: Don King, 1923 – 2007
Don King, renowed saddlemakerr, died July 28, 2007, in Sheridan, Wyoming. In his youth, Don found himself cowboying and wrangling around Phoenix, Arizona, and he hung out at Porter’s Saddle Shop, where Cliff Ketchum encouraged him to try his hand at working with leather. King discovered in himself a natural talent, and he fashioned a handful of crude tools. He began stamping belts, billfolds, and headstalls for a few friends. During World War II, he served in the armed forces, but immediately afterward returned to Wyoming, to make saddles in a friend’s shop.
Before long, he was able to buy his own place outside Sheridan. During the long, northwest Winters, he continued to make saddles, and before long, the demand was so great he opened a shop in town.
In 1963, he took up rope-making, and soon the rope part of his business housed 20,000 lariats coiled neatly on floor-to- ceiling racks. There were 400 varieties of rope, giving customers a broad choice of weights, sizes, lengths, stiffs, and materials. In addition, King stretched, tied, and made a hondo that was guaranteed to stay straight.
He remains one of the West’s best leather carvers, and is credited with being a creator of the Sheridan style saddle. Besides carving out saddles, and a reputation for himself among his customers, he has made a number of trophy saddles for the Rodeo Cowboys Association, now the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
By 1991, he was semi-retired and decided to open a museum. Connected to the rope shop, the museum has an extensive collection of cowboy and western memorabilia, guns, and Native American artifacts.