McCONNELLS -- When Doug Kidd comes to town, he wants people to feel like they've entered the Twilight Zone -- a scene where nothing seems modern. As a Civil War re-enactor, he said, that's his job.
Each of his boots is made from one piece of leather with a seam in the back -- not cowboy boots, he explains, but rare, 19th century-style footwear. He tucks his pure cotton pants inside the top of his boots and buttons his vest.
Kidd removed his watch and modern glasses Monday before entering the horse barn at Historic Brattonsville, a pitstop on his 23-hour drive from Gettysburg, Pa., where he was in a re-enactment, to his hometown of "Springdale, Arkansas, ma'am."
The living historian has worked with leather for 43 years and horses since he can remember. He travels the nation as owner of Border States Leather, training saddlers and working with period tools, sometimes by the light of a lantern.
He's had some high-profile clients. His harnesses were used at the funeral of Ronald Reagan in 2004.
Historic Brattonsville's staff wanted Kidd's leather to replace the modern harnesses on their workhorses, Jake and Roy, each more than 20 years old. So, Kidd stopped in for a custom fitting.
The design of Kidd's harnesses dates to the early 1800s, with no undercarriage and less leather. The design is without buckles. Chains replace leather tugs.
Everything comes off the horse in one swoop, pulled from the back.
"It's utilitarian," Kidd says. "Nothing show about it."
Jake was fitted first. Seemingly nothing but a few leather crosses on the horse's back. Kidd said the same harness will be perfect for Roy. He checks, not bothering with the wasps, flies or horse manure.
Swoop. It was off.
Kidd stands with one hand on the horse, inching around the animal closely so there are no surprises.
"A horse can kill you at this distance," Kidd said, standing 6 feet away with hands stretched toward the horse's tail. He moved closer to the hip. "I'd rather get a cow kick than a double-barrel shotgun 6 feet away."
Jonathan Failor, a living history farm interpreter, stood nearby, wearing civilian re-enactment clothes: hemp pants, a straw hat and a necktie to wipe the sweat off his face.
"Roy's gotta wear his, too," Failor says about his workhorse, now wearing a harness that is truer to the 1800s.
Kidd leaves Brattonsville today for Arkansas.