by Karah Hawkinson
The loss of a beloved animal is heartbreaking. People go to great lengths to deal with the loss of their pets, from fishy funerals in the bathroom to the pet taxidermy portrayed in Animal Planet’s “American Stuffers.”
About 100 years ago, one Anoka County family, the Ruffcorns, faced that dilemma when their horse, Dewey, died.
Douglas Ruffcorn (1866-1943) and his wife Mary Ann (1867-1934) raised a large family on their farm in Linwood Township.
When Dewey died, they had his hide tanned and turned it into a sleigh blanket and several pair of mittens. This “waste not, want not” approach meant that Dewey continued to serve his family with warmth for many years.
Horsehide leather is not a novel idea. As long as people have been using horses for labor, they have also used them for leather, and so, for decades horsehide was the preferred material for the covering of baseballs.
Leather jackets, gun holsters and shoes are other items that are often made of horsehide. Since the 1980’s, the cost of horsehide has become prohibitive.
The Ruffcorn’s horsehide blanket and mittens are now in the care of the Anoka County Historical Society and will be on display with other winter clothing as a part of the ongoing “Clothing the County” exhibit.
The exhibit will also feature a bison fur coat, as well as more traditional coats, hats mittens, and cold weather gear from the 1880’s to the present.
The historical society is headquartered in the Anoka County History Center and Library at 2135 Third Ave. N., Anoka.