I have not posted much this past month because (a) I was away for a week, and (b) I have been very busy.
I was asked by the Ah-tah-thi-ki Museum / Seminole Tribe to make a long coat for FSU Seminole’s Chief Osceola. This is the FSU mascot (I hate to use the word mascot, because I don’t really think of it as such.) He rides out at the beginning of the football games and throws down the flaming spear. The tribe has supported the use of the Chief for the past 30 years to make sure that he is attired in the proper Osceola-era outfits. Granted, the flaming spear and the “tomahawk chop” are not tribal traditions, but it is a lot better than riding out as generic Plains bonneted Indian. And the outfits they have had for the past 30 years have looked really great. Osceola now has correct parts of the outfit like a beaded bandolier pouch, a finger woven sash with beads woven in, and gorgets. In the past, Pedro made the gorgets, and I think Brian made the bag. But Brian is handling three jobs right now, and Pedro’s wife just had a baby, so they presently don’t have any spare time to make a coat. So I guess I was next in line to construct this.
The FSU Chief Osceola is taken very seriously by the keepers of the tradition at FSU. Retired outfits are kept locked away in a safe, and they hold a lot of respect for the rider who takes up this role. There have been 15 people to fulfill this role in the past 30 years. They recruit the best young rodeo riders they can find. The outfit on this postcard below looks like the original outfit that they started out with in the 1970s and was given to them by tribal chairman Howard Tommie.
The past outfit used the past 4 or 5 years is a beautiful hand sewn coat made by one of the tribal members. Unfortunately there is a big difference in height between the previous rider and the new one, and the old coat only came to the hips of the new guy. So they needed another coat that was longer, and needed it fast. (So not enough time to hand sewn, but some parts are.) Here is the old coat, which is still a very beautiful piece, and I did some repair work for them. It is now back at FSU for use in the future.
I only had a month to make the new coat, which meant a lot of work in a short time. This meant that most all my free time would be taken up by the project. It takes me at least two weeks to make a coat, and I busted my buns to get this one out; and it turned out great. It took three weeks, and is now going by insured mail to Tallahassee.
So I went out to look for material to get for this project. The first two places that I went, I came out empty handed. They just didn’t have the proper colors and patterns that got my attention. Seems like there’s not much available this time of year in red or crimson & gold. So on the third place I went, I found some great fabric, and it was 100 percent cotton. If you handle flaming objects, you do not want polyester. If you are my friend on Facebook, I have a step-by-step photo album of making this coat.
The new Osceola rider is 6’4” and skinny, which is a much different size from the other coats that I have made. So it was going to be a challenge. I was scheduled to be up in Tallahassee for a trip that I arranged before the tribe asked me to make the coat, and the timing worked out perfect for me to do a fitting before the final finishings of the coat. I was surprised to find that it fit perfect with no adjustments needed.
So I came back home and it took another week to finish the rest. And I think that it worked out to be one of the best that I have made. The people who originally made these coats in the 1830s never had written instructions. They did it all by teaching each other, and by doing. So I have had to learn a lot along the way. But after a couple dozen, it seems like I am now doing things on instinct and only getting better. I have two more orders for coats.
On Labor Day for the FSU vs. Miami game, the Chief Osceola will be the final ride of the old guard, and the new coat and rider will be the game the next week on Sept. 12th., vs. Jacksonville State (Alabama).
It is ironic that the previous coat I made around March was for someone for ceremonial use, and will never been seen by anyone outside his Square Grounds. This new coat will be seen by tens of thousands of people each game!
I am so impressed Chris, well done. You sir, are a very interesting fellow, I look forward to the day when we get to talk some of this stuff face to face. I'll never look at the mascot the same again knowing it was your hand that made the coat. I have been very busy with another project and so haven't been around for a month myself. I was going to comment first about Indian Key and Chekika but this was too cool. Again, I'm impressed, well done.