Watch CBS News

How a blind leatherworker in Fort Worth revives old cowboy boots entirely by touch

Blind leather worker in Fort Worth creates his work entirely by touch
Blind leather worker in Fort Worth creates his work entirely by touch 04:25

FORT WORTH, Texas – Stories are often hidden in plain sight, and in an unassuming shopping center in west Fort Worth, there's a saddle and boot repair shop where the boots lining the wall all have a story – and so do the hands that give them new life.

CBS News Texas

When you step inside Cowboy Boot and Saddlery off Camp Bowie West, you're greeted by the smell of leather, lacquer and  a friendly welcome from Tommy Ruddy.

His shop repairs boots, saddles and everything leather. 

But what makes this shop special are the stories hidden in plain sight. 

In addition to repairing boots and leather goods for customers, Ruddy purchases boots from estate sales then conditions them and repairs them for resale at his shop. 

"When you get a chance to buy a pair of [boots], it is something to be proud of because you know they had a history in boot making all their life, building boots and now you own a piece of their history...their life," he said.

Each of the boots he acquires has a story that he knows by heart that he wants to pass on to the next owner. Ruddy knows each of the stories by heart.

Across the shop, there's Karl Mott, an expert leatherworker. 

"It keeps me busy, keeps my mind working, thinking of the next project," Mott said.

His works of art are crafted entirely by touch. He's been blind for nearly 30 years. The skills he learned when he could see.

Karl Mott CBS News Texas

 "I was addicted to the smell and the idea that I could put something together and hopefully make it look good," Mott said. "I made a lot of mistakes by finally figuring out I can actually line up the tool, line it up correctly with my fingers instead of the eyes."

A blind leatherworker and collector of old boots has found purpose in a dying art.

"I've been treated like sighted people and just one of the guys, and that's a blessing too," Mott said.

If home is where the heart is, you'll find no shortage of it here. 

"A lot of people say what difference does it make…it makes a lot of difference to me. I've been on those old ranches, I've worked on them I love a good cow heard...seeing calves born in the spring and then ween them in the know if you've never been there and never worked it you don't know where Im coming from but I'll tell you exactly, it comes from your heart."

Cowboy Boot and Saddlery is located at 3510 Williams Rd., Fort Worth, TX 76116.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.