A blog about Cowboy Music, Western Swing and Cowboy Poetry. 2014 WMA Radio DJ/Radio Program of the Year

An old leather glove. If it could talk, it might tell you a story of a time when men put on gloves as often as they put on their hat.

 For some, it was part of a morning ritual, first thing. And once on, they didn’t come off, even for the portrait of him and his bride. 

The antiquity of gloves goes back to prehistoric times when they were worn by cavemen to protect their hands and took the form of bags, a primitive type of mitten. 

In England after the Norman Conquest, royalty and dignitaries wore gloves as a badge of distinction. The glove became a token when it was thrown to the ground at the feet of the adversary as a challenge of integrity and an invitation to duel.

It was in the 12th century that gloves became part of fashionable dress. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, no well-dressed woman would appear in public without them. 

Working folk have spent a small fortune in gloves in a lifetime.  Heavy leather gloves — mule skin or something tough, elk or deerskin gloves for comfort and dress, lined gloves for warmth, cotton gloves to work in the summertime. 

Any kind of glove will wear out when working. The favorites, or maybe just the most necessary at the time, will receive repair with something as functional as duct tape. 

Whether tucked in a back pocket for safekeeping, laid on the dash of the pickup or in the pocket in the door, a coat pocket, wherever –there is an unwritten law that the good ones will get lost first, at least one of them. 

Wearing a pair of mismatched gloves only means there is another pair just like them somewhere, usually to be found when you aren’t looking. They can be buried in corral dirt, under the seat of the pickup, or tucked in fence wire behind a post where you last needed to take them off for a project. 

In the early 1800s, a French Master Glover began making gloves in sizes and a consistent shape establishing a reliable fit. I’m not sure I ever owned a pair that fit right but part of wearing gloves is learning to function with them, even awkwardly. 

Memories of the gloves worn by fathers and grandfathers can be found in the recesses of most of our minds. Those special times as a child when we would proudly slip on those big old worn out gloves and think it made us all grown up and ready to work by their side. 

With the advent of the ball point pen, the glove became not just hand protection, but a notepad for recording cattle counts, dates to remember and a place to do a little math to figure feed prices or cattle weights. 

Ranch records are sometimes written on a leather glove. In an effort to dignify his bookkeeping practices, one old timer would drop his gloves in a briefcase when he was headed to the accountants. 

Today gloves are a specialty item for work and recreation – hundreds of different kinds for the doctor, nurse, hunter, skier, golfer, roper and more. 

And yet, nothing is more sentimental than that old worn leather glove that held a set of reins, drove a tractor over the country side, or built the fences that stand yet today on homesteads across the country. 

We can look at an old glove and know that in every crease, every worn out spot, every dark stain, there is a story to be recalled. 

Julie can be reached for comment at jcarternm@gmail.com.


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