Murals depict cowboy/blacksmith
When Mark Brady and wife Sheila of Rockdale walked into the Salt Grass Steakhouse in Round Rock last week, he was greeted by a wall-size image of his late father, shoeing horses as a young man.
Don Brady, a cowboy who once rode in old Wild West shows of the 1930s and 1940s and later became an in-demand blacksmith/farrier at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, is a subject in one of many murals that decorate the Salt Grass Steakhouse restaurants.
The image didn't take Mark Brady completely by surprise, because he had received a telephone call from his sister, telling him about the murals. She had seen one in the chain's Galveston restaurant.
Still, it was quite a sight for Mark. "He was visibly moved," Sheila said. Mark's father died in 1991 after an amazing career as a cowboy and blacksmith/ farrier.
The artist who did the mural of Don Brady took some liberties but it is based on a photograph Mark remembers seeing many times, a photo of his father shoeing a horse along the trail ride and talking to an obviously-curious young boy watching him work.
As a young boy growing up in Channelview east of Houston, Mark would accompany his father on the Salt Grass Trail Ride from Brenham to Houston. The father loaded up his anvil and tools in his pickup and shod horses along the way as needed.
Don Brady had a contract with the Houston rodeo to do the same, and among his clients were Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, the Cisco Kid and sidekick Poncho, singer Charlie Pride, and countless worldclass rodeo cowboys.
It didn't stop there. Mark recalls that when the circus came to Houston, his father would do the horseshoeing and also trimmed the hooves of the elephants.
For years, Don Brady hosted Sunday-afternoon rodeo events in an arena in back of the family's home in Channelview (see flyer at right).
A Houston Press article on Saturday, Nov. 2, 1963, spotlighted the International Journeymen's Union, one of the first and most colorful organizations ever to be part of the labor movement. The story ran in advance of the convention of the horseshoers of America and Canada which was to meet at the Rice Hotel in Houston.
Don Brady, 47 at the time, was president of the Houston local and was interviewed for the story. He was one of just eight horseshoers in the Houston area still making their living solely by the age-old trade.
Don's union local had the distinction of being the only "heavy horse" local. That meant its members were qualified to shoe all types of horses, not just race horses but those used for roping, show, work and even Shetlands.
In the interview, Don said there were still no shortcuts to the job. It required strength, skills to hammer and shape the bent iron to each foot, the right tools, and "being prepared to get kicked from time to time." Even for a veteran like Don Brady, completely shoeing one horse required 30 to 45 minutes, and he could do it as fast as anyone.
Mark Brady said his father learned to shoe horses as a young boy in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.
"Going with my Dad on those trail rides and with him to work the rodeos and circuses are experiences I will never forget," Mark said.
Those memories came flooding back last week, thanks to a restaurant chain with a decor theme that's all about the inception of the Salt Grass Trail.