microaustin

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I had not grasped the real chokehold that the drought has on Texas until I had the opportunity to fly over Austin and surrounding West Lake and Lake Travis areas. The landscape was like toast left to broil too long in the oven. It was almost like I could play God and scratch the burnt part off, but its going to take a lot of rain to get to that ‘good soft bread’ again. 

Well actually I found out through Mark Miller, our Transportation Services Manager, that this bus stop has been here since the 1980s. People completely forgot about it. They kept thinking it was a parking spot all these years, sticking out in the street 5 or 6 feet each time. We had to look back at the city plans to figure out what it originally was
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(Above) Ed Polasek on the new- well I guess OLD- downtown bus stop at 9th Street and Main. My Georgetown Hidden History: Blurbs I’ll share about the town or other pieces of information that get lost on the way 

(Above) Pictured at the new stop is Don Hill, director of field operations for CARTS via 

city news release. 

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MicroAUSTIN was inspired by the rolling restaurant culture here in Austin. Here’s a short video that I shot & edited of my wanderings. 

T. Don Hughes: leather master, last-standing cowboy
Cali Bock
T. Don Hughes: leather master, last-standing cowboy

Click play, close your eyes and let me take you on an audio tour of T. Don’s leather repair shop in Georgetown, Texas. T. Don Hughes is a leather master of 40 years and a cowboy for the entirety of his life. He’s a realist, ex-bull rider and he’s also really tired. I swear you can hear it in his voice.

I feel in my heart that his weariness stems not from the daily grind of physical labor, but from a world that’s ushering in a knowledge age that almost demands change from a craftsman that wouldn’t believe a tool palette could look anything like Adobe Photoshop’s. 

He doesn’t own a computer, and the last time he wound up advertised in a newspaper, he told me he had to turn a lot of people away. 

“Too much work to do,” I nodded in agreement. 

No. He said that the younger generation just buys such shoddy-made shoes that it costs more to fix them than they’re worth. 

I looked into his jaded eyes, the historical shop, and then I locked the image deep inside to ground myself for when my instant-gratification characteristic rears its materialistic head. Why do I need the IPhone 67, the IPad 104? 

But more importantly, what’s to become of the Texas cowboy? A culture that’s sand is fast-sifting through the sieve. 

You might like this as well: Click here for a photo gallery of my time with T. Don and Barbara

Click here for the full text feature. 

T Don's Saddle & Shoe Repair Shop: A lifetime of leatherwork

Pictured Above: T Don takes a break from shoe soling so that I could snap his picture. 

By: Cali Bock 

At T. Don’s Shoe & Saddle Repair Shop, Tim McGraw’s muffled, “I Guess That’s Just the Cowboy in Me” played over a cantankerous-looking radio. Each of the shop’s three walls display snippets of its history including aged rodeo action shots, an autographed picture of Muhammad Ali and tools that have saved hundreds of boots.

Guarding it all is a life-size Navajo scout named Jim Charlie. 

The comfortable decibel level inside shattered when 58-year-old owner T. Don Hughes pounded fresh leather onto the sole of a customer’s scuffed pair of Western boots.

Hughes bought the business in Georgetown, located at 2803 Williams Drive, more than three years ago. However, he’s worked there for 16 years alongside the former owner, W.M. West, who opened the original saddle shop in 1986.

After West died in April 2002, Hughes said he convinced West’s son, Terry Don West, to keep the business open.

 “We agreed that I would run the shop and [younger] West would receive a percentage of the profits,” he said

Today Hughes continues to make knife scabbards, but the shop offers repairs including jackets, wallets, boots, saddles, purses and other shoes.

In addition to repairs, they also purchase used saddles and boots to resell in the store.  

Barbara Rodriguez, who’s worked at the shop for more than 8 months, said that Hughes is now teaching her how to stitch elastic on high heels, but the process is slow.

“I mean it’s the miracles that he does on the stuff he’s repaired,” said Rodriguez. “I wish I could do that.”

Hughes said, “It takes about five years to get confident.”

Although he’s worked at the store in Georgetown for more than 16 years, his lifetime of leatherwork is a family trade. Hughes began learning the craft from his father in Kempner, Texas more than 40 years ago.

“The last thing I ever wanted to be was a shoe repair man,” he said. “But I could work for my dad, I could rodeo and go to livestock sales.”

His work allowed him to compete in bull riding from 1968 to 1980. He walked away from the sport with a belt buckle from Mason, Texas and no serious injuries.  

“I was knocked out a few times, but that’s about it,” he said.

The store doesn’t advertise, Tweet or even house a computer. Business is based on reputation and spread by word of mouth.

“Our business is better than it’s ever been,” said Hughes. “Repair businesses are always good when the economy’s bad.”

In the future, he is looking to pass the business on to a younger man.

“I‘m just waiting for retirement, I don’t know.” He said. “When I get to be 62 I’ll figure it out, but I’ll probably never close.”   

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Angie Adams, Austin’s Lomo gallery go-to girl, is pictured here with one of many camera boxes that feature her planting a smooch on her poodle Max at Lomography Gallery Austin. On Twitter she describes herself as “artist. lomographer. mother to one badass poodle” Listen to the short quip I recorded as she told me about Mr. Max. You can Tweet at her @helloang.