When Liberty Bell High School rising junior Jadyn Mitchell was 4 or 5 years old, she saw a leather belt made by local rodeo star Aaron Hammer. “I begged my mom to get one of Aaron’s belts,” Jadyn says. “I thought a belt with my name on it would be the coolest thing.”
The Hammers and the Mitchells are longtime family friends, so Stephanie, Jadyn’s mom, arranged for Aaron to make Jadyn a custom belt. Jadyn, now on the cusp of turning 16, has been wearing the belt ever since.
“Aaron did such a great job with the belt,” Jadyn says. “It lasted for 11 years.”
Actually, the belt itself is still in fine shape; however, Jadyn is now almost 16, and the belt was created for a 5-year-old. “When I buckle it now,” says Jadyn, “my name isn’t centered anymore.”
Jadyn’s belt hasn’t fit properly for some time, but when Aaron had his accident — a serious rodeo injury sustained last September — she knew that when she next got a custom leather belt, she wanted it to be one of Aaron’s pieces.
“I’ve known Aaron since I was a baby,” Jadyn says. “He always went on the Ride to Rendezvous” (in which Jadyn’s family is longtime participants). “Aaron and his brothers were always special to me. I liked watching Aaron in rodeos.”
Last week, Jadyn’s mom surprised her with a new belt, custom-tooled by Aaron, and sized appropriately for a 16-year-old. Jadyn is probably finished growing, and Aaron’s work is high-quality, so she may not ever need another belt. “It’s long overdue,” Jadyn says of the new belt. “I was getting tired of squeezing into that old belt.”
Jadyn’s aunt suggested taking the old belt and making it into leather cuffs, but Jadyn says she wants to keep the belt intact as a memento. The belt has been with Jadyn on a lot of rides — in the arena, on the trail, out in rangeland. Jadyn says due to COVID-19 restrictions she hasn’t spent as much time in the arena this summer, but she’s getting out on trail rides, and is spending time chasing horses and cows. “It’s been great to get out,” she says.
Aaron has made a remarkable recovery since his injury and has resumed custom leatherworking, some of which can be seen on his Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/aaron.hammer.79.
Aaron also made a belt for Elizabeth Clark, another Liberty Bell junior; it was Elizabeth’s first custom leather belt. Elizabeth and Jadyn are, respectively, Methow Valley Rodeo princess and queen, and due to COVID-19 missed the opportunity to reign over our local rodeos.
“Aaron is a great guy that makes awesome belts,” says Jadyn. “I am really lucky to have someone willing to do that for me.”