Oshonto Custom Boots
Published: 01/20/2010 by By Tom VanDusen - AgriNews Staff Writer
The long and the short of it
By Tom VanDusen - AgriNews Staff Writer
You might want to back a few paces away from this column, lads.
I know I suddenly felt a little twitchy the first time I heard about Lynn Macnab’s penis collection.
It was during a Christmas party among polite Ottawa society. Guests were gathered around for seasonal chit-chat. Glengarry County’s Ms. Macnab was among them. I don’t recall how the subject popped up but suddenly, things veered dramatically way from the usual chatter.
"I collect penises," she stated matter-of-factly.
It’s not that there was a collective gasp. And male members of the group didn’t rearrange their hands protectively... but they did look somewhat askance.
A woman, probably my sister Julie, piped up almost gleefully: "You collect what?"
"Penises," Lynn repeated as if her particular interest was no more unusual than stamps or butterflies.
The long and the short of it is that she came by her collection honestly. Of course they’re not human appendages, she laughed... and not at all maniacally.
I began to feel my tension subside. Other men around me looked relieved, if not totally convinced.
With no website, no retailing, and hardly any advertising, for the past 15 years Lynn has operated Oshonto Custom Boots, now out of a restored log building behind the 1852 former magistrate’s house near Dalkeith where she resides with horses, dogs, cats and sometimes with one or more of three visiting adult children.
Years ago, she took a leather crafting course in Alberta where she got her start repairing harness before graduating to making custom boots of all shapes and sizes, but mostly in cowboy and heritage styles. One of her elite customers was da liddle guy himself, Jean Chretien, who picked up a pair of Oshontos from staff as a permanent going away present.
The former Upper Canada Village vintage bootmaker is one of only a few people practicing the fine art in this part of the world. As a woman, she’s almost alone in the field.
At prices ranging anywhere from $1,300 to $5,000 depending on intricacy of the inlays and choice of materials, Lynn has sold boots across North America and into Europe, each pair an individual order made very precisely using a wooden or plastic "last", or mold, to take in all the quirks of a specific foot. The bootmaker’s credo: The last always come first.
If the boots don’t come out just so - which they almost always do - she’ll reshape them. She has even built special boots for satisfied Argentinian polo players.
That’s the high end of Oshonto’s business. Around home, she often barters repair work and leather goods for straw, hay, firewood, meat and other farm products.
Leather that she works with includes cow and calf hide, pig, deer, buffalo, seal, ostrich, alligator, kangaroo and elephant. Surprisingly, culled elephant hide can be legally purchased through Lynn’s suppliers.
She makes her boots from scratch, including selecting, cleaning and tanning many of the skins herself using a traditional aboriginal method rather than harsh chemicals.
You won’t tense up quite as much as you did for the penis thing but the tanning method is also a bit disconcerting: She mashes the animal’s brain in a blender and rubs the results on every square inch of a hide, beating and manipulating it until she has it where she wants it. "Almost every animal has enough brain to tan its own hide."
Lynn is a dedicated animal lover and conservationist who believes that, if a creature is going to be slaughtered for its meat, then every part - and she means every part - should be put to use.
It disgusts her that beefed up health standards and low-priced chemically-treated competition from China have knocked the bottom out of the Ontario market for livestock hides, resulting in most being scrapped.
As for those penises... Lynn de-fleshes and preserves them reduced, depending on variety, to hide, bone or cartilage, buffalo being among the most imposing, applying them in the creation of such conversation pieces as lamps, plant stands and wall hangings.
Almost all orders come from women who, amazingly, think their menfolk might get a kick out of a processed penis hanging on the wall... something which undoubtedly helps keep them on the straight and narrow.
At one point during a recent visit to her workshop, Lynn handed me a bony little curlicue: "Somebody asked for a name spelled in deer penises and we had an "s" left over."
Happily, she didn’t need a "t" for Tom.
Op / Ed January, 2010 Vol. 34, No. 1 Spacer advertisement click to zoom in Or browse
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