Belts, birds, and a bright red tractor

Webster County Fair continues

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Bernie Miller, of Dakota City, looks over one of the genuine cowhide leather belts he makes. Miller brought about 120 such belts to the Webster County Fair.

Bernie Miller, of Dakota City, is proud to say that not only are his leather belts made in the United States — they are also made in Iowa.

“I got tired of seeing made in China stamped on there,” Miller said as he pointed to one of his genuine cowhide belts at the Webster County Fair Friday afternoon.

In addition to belts, Miller makes wallets, purses, key fob holders, and cell phone cases.

“I sell a few belt buckles, too,” Miller said. “And leather suspenders.”

He started working with leather about a decade ago, while he still lived in Spirit Lake.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Bernie Miller, of Dakota City, is proud to say his belts are made in Iowa.

“I used to do woodworking, then furniture, and now leatherwork,” Miller said. “When my wife passed a few years back, my son wanted me to move up to Humboldt.”

In terms of why he had an interest in leatherwork, Miller recalled his childhood.

“Growing up we had horses, so I used to fool around with the harnesses,” he said.

Miller said he’s had his leather wallet about 15 years.

He keeps about 120 belts on hand at all times.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Art Moeller, of Fort Dodge, explains the history behind the bright red Farmall tractor to his left. Moeller’s grandfather bought the tractor brand-new in 1940. But it sat unused for quite a while after 1980 before Moeller restored it to its current form.

Miller enjoys working with the leather.

“I get the hide and split it out,” he said. “I measure it out, then I case it, which means to get it wet. But you don’t want too much moisture.”

Miller added, “Letters go in one at a time. I paint them. I let it dry. I varnish it to smooth it out. I bevel the edges.”

The work keeps him busy.

“Leather is fun to work with,” Miller said. “It gives me something to do.”

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Josie Matton, 14, of Harcourt, shows her horse, Colby, some affection during the Webster County Fair.

While Miller told fairgoers about his belts, Owen Pudenz, 11, of Callender, was hanging out next to his sheep in a nearby shed.

Pudenz is a member of the Elkhorn Eagles 4-H Club.

He said his sheep’s name is Mohawk Madness.

“She used to have a mohawk,” he said.

Pudenz is going into fifth grade at Southeast Valley. He said it’s his first year showing sheep.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Joe Oberton, of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, gets a high “paw” from Jaxin, a Siberian husky, at the Webster County Fair. Joe Oberton’s wife Robin, looks on at right.

He said he feeds them, walks them, and helps to keep them cool.

Pudenz was looking to cool off himself.

“I am going over to the dunk tank,” he said.

Josie Matton, 14, of Harcourt, said she was looking forward to showing four horses on Saturday.

Matton is a member of the Gowrie Groundbreakers 4-H Club.

The names of the four horses are: Colby, Coco, Khaleesi, and Tootles.

Colby is 17 years old. Coco is 10 years old. Tootles is 5 years old. And Matton isn’t quite sure how old Khaleesi is.

She rides Colbly and Coco.

“My favorite right now is Colby,” Matton said. “But I have another horse at home named Tater Tot. He will always be my favorite.”

Matton said that’s because she’s spent the most time with Tater Tot.

“I have a special bond with him,” she said.

Matton isn’t sure exactly how long she’s been around horses, but it’s been a while.

“Ever since I was really little,” she said. “I enjoy spending time with horses because everyone thinks they can be crazy, but I just think they are like big, fluffy teddy bears.”

Brylie Butrick, 13, and Breck Mills, 13, both going into eighth grade at Southeast Valley High School, were proud of their accomplishments in the poultry category.

Mills, a member of the Badger Builders 4-H Club, won a trophy for bantam waterfowl.

“I won the pair call ducks,” she said.

Mills also won a best of show.

Butrick, a member of the Dayton Tigers 4-H Club, was a champion in the waterfowl category. She also won in intermediate showmanship.

“I like the show in general,” Butrick said. “It’s fun. I like handling my birds.”

“For me, working hard and bringing them to the show — to get rewarded is very satisfying,” Mills said.

Butrick enjoys participating.

“Poultry is one of the coolest projects at the fair,” Butrick said. “You can show as many birds as you want.”

Breck added, “There’s a lot of different birds — doves, ducks, geese, chicken, pigeons, and call ducks.”

Robin Oberton, of Grand Rapids, Minnesota., was in between shows, educating others on dog sledding and fur trade.

She and her husband, Joe Oberton, brought their 6-year-old Siberian Husky, Jaxin, along.

“We used to own 42 dogs and gave rides and tours,” Robin Oberton said.

The time period of the late 1700s and early 1800s fascinates her.

“You could trade with a blacksmith for a nice knife,” she said. “Today we have debit cards and back then they had beaver furs.”

Art Moeller, of Fort Dodge, was hanging out with the guys who are members of the Des Moines River Valley Antique Tractor Club.

Moeller had a special connection to a bright red Farmall tractor that was on display.

“My grandad bought this brand new in 1940,” Moeller said. “It didn’t like this before we fixed it.”

Moeller said he and his family grew up in Somers.

“It (tractor) stayed in the family and it worked on the farm for 40 years,” he said. “Then it sat on the west side of a corn crib for many years. Then I got it and fixed it up.”

Moeller said the tractor club has about 25 members.

He’d like to see a few more younger members in the club, but everyone stays upbeat, he said.

“We do our best to make the fair a success,” Moeller said.

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