By Pamela Lamica
The first thing you notice when you walk into Boulder Creek Saddle Shop is the scent of new leather. It’s a warm and inviting aroma that reminds one of a time before the invention of injection-molded plastics and high-speed electric motors. It says, “Slow down. Relax. Let’s step away from the 21st century for a little while.”
The second thing you’ll find in Boulder Creek Saddle Shop is Annie. Annie is a little flop-mop of a dog with the job title of “Official Greeter.” She takes her job seriously. No one comes into the shop without being greeted by this cute canine and no business can be discussed until Annie gives the customer her seal-of-approval.
Welcome to Boulder Creek Saddle Shop, an old fashioned mom-and-pop-kind-of-place where saddles, equestrian tack, and outdoor gear are made and repaired.
Boulder Creek Saddle Shop was the long-time dream of retired Alaska State Trooper Charles Lamica. Charles served as a trooper in “The Last Frontier” from 1981 to 2003. During that time his assignments included working as a patrol trooper in Fairbanks, a “Bush Trooper” in a remote Indian village, an instructor at a training academy, and the state-wide search and rescue coordinator. He also was a member of AST’s Special Emergency Response Team and the Tactical Dive Unit.
Charles’ career as an Alaska State Trooper was both exciting and rewarding, but after 22 years of doing the most unique and challenging law enforcement in the nation he decided to retire and move to northeast Washington. His father and brothers lived there and he felt it was time to get closer to his family. He bought a log home on Boulder Creek, near the little town of Orient, and settled down to enjoy his retirement.
One of his favorite pastimes was riding his horses into the backcountry of the Colville National Forest. Solo horse packing trips into the Boulder Creek drainage became his passion. Of course, horseback riding involves the use of saddles and tack. Charles, like many horse owners, experimented with a variety of halters, reins, and saddles but he was never entirely happy with the equipment he bought. The fact that good leather tack was becoming more and more expensive didn’t make him any happier. So, in an effort to save a few dollars and, hopefully, end up with some gear that he really liked, Charles began teaching himself how to work leather.
In time, Charles was making halters, breast collars, saddle bags, and gun holsters in his basement workshop. Friends and family admired his work and it wasn’t long before he was being asked to produce custom-made leather goods. He enjoyed making these things, but he wanted to learn more. He wanted to learn how to make saddles!
One day in 2007 Charles was visiting with Jack Ashbaugh, the owner of DJ’s Second Hand Shop when he mentioned his desire to find someone to teach him to make saddles. Jack replied he knew a saddle maker named Bill Bacon who lived down near Inchelium. Jack made a phone call to Bill’s house to discuss the matter and a couple days later Jack and Charles were driving down the Inchelium Road to the log house that was the home of Bill and Betty Bacon. Jack handled the introductions and that’s how Charles met the man who would eventually have a huge impact on his life and ultimately lead to the creation of Boulder Creek Saddle Shop.
(In the next issue of the Huckleberry Press we’ll find what happens next!)