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RF Ford

Birth place or City of origin: Alpine
State of origin: TX
Last known City:
Last known State:
Start/Birth date: 1944
Death/End date: 2011

Born in Alpine, Texas in 1944, R.F. Grew up on ranches in West Texas working as a horseshoer for twenty-two years before making his first pair of spurs out of an old metal bed frame in 1972 in Odessa, Texas. Re-occurring back problems led Ford to quit the farrier biz altogether and by the 1980s he was making spurs full time. R.F. Earliest spurs are maker-marked with the Kermit, Tex address and his post 1985 production with the San Angelo, Texas stamp



There are times. I suppose, when adversity comes as disguised blessings. For instance, if RF Ford's back hadn't begun giving him problems, he would not have abandoned his farrier practice which led to his illustrious career as bit and spur maker. And had he not made those first pair of spurs, we would not have one of the premier bit and spur makers around today.

It all began in 1972 in Odessa, Texas. RF had been breaking horses along with his farrier work when he went to town to buy a pair of spurs. After looking at what he found in stores, he decided that he could make spurs himself and make them better that what he could buy at the time. His first pair was made from an old metal bed frame. As he had some welding experience, he quickly fashioned a pair from the metal frame, strapped them to a pair of boots and off he went. It wasn't very long before he was offered money for those, which he promptly sold. Then, back to the bed frame metal and another pair was built, perhaps a little better designed than the first pair. Those too, were sold before long. By 1983, the spur business was looking decent and the horseshoeing business was wiping out his back. He made the decision to go into bit and spur making full time and, as he said, he never looked back.

One thing that helped confirm the fact that this was the route to go was the NCHA Futurity in Fort Worth, Texas in 1983. RF managed to build a dozen spurs to take to his show. He had decided that this would either make or break him. After all, this was a long show that was expensive for a cowboy and would-be spur maker. A long week it was with no sales the first few days. But by the end of show, RF had sold all his spurs and had orders to make several more pair. By the tune he got back home, he had a handful of orders, considered him behind and has never caught up to this day.

Those first few pair were relatively simple. They were made of black iron, straightforward shanks and a few brass or copper overlays. The only engraving was a screwdriver -based tool that RF fashioned to do wriggle engraving around the outside of the overlays. The maker mark was made with a vibrator engraver on the inside of the heel band. It was simply, “ RF Ford Kermit, Tex”. These are extremely rare, as I have only seen two pair that could be positively identified. The vibrator engraving, being not very deep and on the inside of the spur was quick to be worn away if the spur was worn. Collectors of Ford Spurs will be hard pressed to find a pair of these for their collection.

It didn't take long for RF to realize that the spur business was a income producer for his family and he immediately set to work and produce more and better spurs and bits for the cowboy trade. He realized that he needed to improve the quality and wear ability of his product. He changed to a thicker and stronger metal he could buy in bar stock and cut the bands himself. He also changed metals for the shanks, designed his own patterns and cut his own. At a gun show he saw a man doing some engraving and decided he could teach himself to do that, and he did. With the popularity growing in the west Texas area, he decided that if he was to make a name for himself, he would need to start making his spurs with a permanent stamp. His first stamped spurs were stamped, “RF FORD KERMIT TEX”. When collectors speak about 'KERMIT” spurs, these are the ones they are referring to.

Ford began numbering this spurs in 1985. He was stamping the inside of the heel band with “ RF FORD SAN ANGELO TEXAS”, followed by the number. At this time, he was utilizing separate metal letter stamps for his marking, in a single line across the inside of the heel bands. He later had a custom stamp made that had RF FORD in a semi circle with San Angelo TX in a single straight line and NO. XXXX following. I have seen d a few pair with the RF Ford semi circle under the hanger on the outside of the heelband with the number. This is the system he still utilizes today.

RF is a self taught maker and his spurs have a unique look to them, recognizable by most any Ford spur collector. He has developed his own style of the Texas spur and that is in demand today. He has quite a long waiting list and has decided to slow down a bit resulting in a decreased productivity. But certainly not in demand. His recent project, just announced at the Abilene Show, was a limited edition set of spurs limited to 20 pair and so numbered. He immediately took orders for the first 15 pair the first day. Another sign that this maker will be collected by both cowboy and collector for years to come, they are truly, “Handmade Like You ' um”

Courtesy of Charlie Richardson (Life Member of NBSSCA)


 

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