Panhandle Spirit: Old world craftsmanship still found in Clarendon

Back when pioneers first settled this area, if you needed a horse shoe or a piece of iron molded into a tool, either you or the blacksmith had to make it or wait weeks for something to be shipped out.

In that tradition everything from bits to spurs are still being made down in Clarendon.

Just about every guy has a shop or a workbench where he can tinker. If you go down the road to Clarendon you can find just such a place where pieces of steel, silver, iron or just about any metal is being transformed through the artist's hands of Kevin Johnson.

He started trying his hand almost ten years ago. Most bit and spur makers at the time didn't share too many secrets but he spoke with craftsman Bill Homer who helped him out.

"It's a hard road, trying to learn to do that and get the respect of the cowboys but more so for the masters, they're the critical guys. But I'm proud of the fact that its made right here by me and it's made here and nobody else is working on it and you really have to explain it to some of them," said Kevin.

Now he starts out each day after lunch, working into the early morning hours creating or etching just about anything out of metal from bits and spurs to baby gifts and badges.

"Well, there are several thousand know, a collar for a cow dog, to a set of spurs for President Bush, bits, spurs, watch tips, key fobs, silver spoons for babies..."

Everything is custom made, one of a kind...and Kevin says he wouldn't have it any other way.

"I'd rather make on item and get 500.00 than make 10 and get the same money. Heck, I probably donate more than I sell or make in the course of a year...and I'm proud that everything here is made by me. No one else is working here and doing this but me."

His three kids occasionally come by and tinker with him and says his youngest son is showing some real talent. The bar is already being set pretty high as his work is known worldwide and as one former client refers to him...

"You're the Orange County chopper guy of the spur world."

14 hour days, muscles, fingers and mind numbing work at times...this isn't a job for everyone...

"It's a challenge."

But it seems to have been forged for Kevin..

"I think it's the toughest work I've ever done.

Kevin is now working on a prototype of a cross that can be placed as a marker at the gravesites of Texas Rangers. if approved, the first one would be placed on the grave of Charles Goodnight.