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GAYLERD THISSELL Born in Corvallis, Oregon, Gaylerd spent much of his growing years with relatives after his mother died at an early age. His dad, a heavy-duty equipment maintenance man, was gone a lot on construction projects. In 1944 his Dad moved to Shasta County in California to work on the Shasta Dam Project. Gaylerd joined his dad and attended school there. At best a reluctant student, Gaylerd graduated from Shasta High in 1948. Gaylerd was always interested in leatherworking. He started out selling belts and wallets in high school. His first job along this line was when shortly after high school in 1949 he went to work in the old Patterson Harness Shop (Butte Street in Redding). In his spare time, he followed the rodeos riding bareback, saddle bronc and bulls covering ground in Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and Washington as well as California. In 1953 he won the bull riding at Sisters, Oregon and the Red Bluff Roundup. In 1957 he was the Northern California Bull Riding Champion. Gaylerd started his own business in 1953. A Western store on Broadway in Chico. He was in business there from 1953-1957. Still keeping his hands in rodeos, he made a lot of rodeo equipment, bareback rigging, saddles, chaps and bull ropes. He acquired his first saddle building equipment from Si Elliott of the old Elliott Saddlery on South Market in Redding. Over the years Gaylerd kept busy with his own custom orders as well as wholesaling orders to older established outlets such as Visalia Saddle Company, Olson Nolte of San Carlos and the D-M of Reno, Nevada. In addition to theses orders Gaylerd has designed and put together many hand-tooled award saddles including ones for the California Cattlemen's Association (4 years), Northern Counties Quarter Horse Association, the Pacific Quarter Horse Association, the Idaho Cowboys Assoc., Nevada Cowboys Assoc., The Oregon Water for Life Organization (4 years) and a saddle for the retiring president of the Red Bluff Rodeo Association. Three of his saddles are in the Red Bluff Rodeo Museum. Gaylerd did the leather work on the bronze bases for the sculptures of Will James artist Jim Bramlett. Gaylerd specialized in saddle silver, silver mounted headstalls in addition to his custom saddles. He has displayed his work at the Trappings of American West Show in Flagstaff (1987). The Western Saddle makers Exhibition in Elko (mid 90's) the Crafter's Corner in Western Horseman, and the Californios Rodeo in 2004 in Red Bluff. In 2004 he was awarded the Saddle maker of the Year by the Academy of Western Artist out of Gutherie, Oklahoma. He received the award, a sculpture in Fort Worth, Texas in July 2004. In 2010 Gaylerd received a grant through the Alliance for California Traditional Arts Association in San Francisco to teach Grandson Lance Zazueta the leather crafting trade. Today, Lance continues to build saddles and leather goods out of his own shop. Gaylerd leaves behind his wife Meridithe, daughter Denise and husband Brian Zazueta. Grandchildren Lance and Tayler Zazueta, Guy and Paige Thissell and great grandchildren Ross Thissell. He was preceded by death of his parents and his son Ross. Gaylerd's ability extended from leather and silver working to carpentry and other western art work. Although an exact number is not known, it is safe to say Gaylerd made at least 2000 saddles during his career. A colorful, good life. Well lived. Service will be June 1, 2018, 2pm at the Elk's Lodge, Red Bluff.
Published in Daily News on May 9, 2018
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