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Miles City leathersmith learns new trade amidst pandemic

Posted at 10:58 AM, May 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-22 12:58:18-04

MILES CITY — Hundreds of cowboys are in Miles City for the Bucking Horse sale and that means Steve Moran’s leather shop on Main Street will be busy. Because of the pandemic, he’s learned a new craft making boots.

Moran is a cowboy to his core, and he’s been that way since the day he was born.

“I started carving when I was really young, really young. Been cowboying and packing and that kind of thing my whole life so I had to learn how to do it,” said Moran.

That cowboy way of life, however, has taken its toll.

“Because, starting from here clear down to my toes, I’ve got steel in me everywhere,” Moran said.

Moran may have hung up his spurs but this cowboy-turned-leathersmith has learned to adapt. He started making saddles, belts, and now boots.

“I just wanted to learn how to build boots for myself, and now everybody’s wanting me to build them boots,” said Moran.

He opened his leather shop four years ago, and when the pandemic hit it was time to learn a new trade.

“I always told myself that I am going to learn how to do it, if I go to school to do it, then I’m going to do it,” said Moran.

Miles City Job Service through MontanaWorks allowed him to train in a new craft.

“I heard about this program they had down here at the job service, and I said, ‘Well, I’ll give it a shot,” he said.

Moran started learning how to make boots from the comfort of his own shop.

“It worked great for me too because I can’t afford to shut my shop down and disappear for two weeks and go off to a school somewhere, I just can’t do it,” said Moran.

Now he’s contributing to this nearly lost art.

“I don’t know how many bootmakers there are in Montana anymore, but they’re few and far between,” said Moran.

He gets his leather from all over the country. Moran admits he’s a bit of a perfectionist.

“If it’s not right, it gets thrown in the can and we start all over again. And that happens a lot,” Moran said.

He wants his boots to last forever.

“I build it to last a lifetime. I don’t want you coming in saying, ‘I broke this, you got to rebuild me a new one,” said Moran.

When the boots come out just right, well, Moran says that’s what it’s all about.

“Oh, it makes you feel great, sure it does. Especially when they come back in and say it’s perfect, build me another one,” said Moran.

If you'd like to learn more about Moran's leather shop, visit Moran's Custom Leather and Boot Repair | Facebook.

To learn more about Miles City Job Service, visit Job Service Montana (