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January 26, 2013

From shoes and soot to stitches, traditional vocations thrive

Local practitioners talk about their careers

Many ancient trades are still practiced today. Humans have tilled the soil and raised animals for thousands of years. But the early farmers of Mesopotamia most likely would be awestruck by the system of agribusiness, with its genetically modified crops and computerized combine harvesters, which feeds hundreds of millions of people in our time. 

Likewise, there are millions of folks who work in such long-lived professions as cleaning lady, cook, barber, doctor and builder, almost all of whom practice their professions with the benefit of immense developments in technology, knowledge and marketing methods.

But there are those whose occupations are old, traditional and in many ways unchanged from how they were practiced centuries ago. Such workers are few in number, and they all have their own compelling reasons why they do the work they do. 

Mark Tessier, 42, is a blacksmith farrier and owner of Multi-Equine Farrier Service in Sharon Springs, where he was raised.

A blacksmith farrier trims horses’ hooves, fashions horseshoes and shoes horses.

Acccording to Tessier, a farrier’s mission is to “make (a horse’s) movement as fluid and comfortable as possible.” 

“A wise farrier will attempt to promote healthy foot flight (the arc of a horse’s feet up from the ground and back again) without the use of a shoe,” Tessier said. “My job is to make your horse happy so he can do his job for you.”

Tessier worked for 17 years as a self-employed contractor, doing home restorations, the last of which was his work on the famous Beekman House.

“I liked being allowed to experience living history and artistic craft,” he said.

But when a textile mill in Schoharie County relocated operations to Mexico, Tessier said he found himself overwhelmed by competition in the form of newly unemployed men seeking work as handymen and carpenters. “I had to compete with cheaper labor,” he said.

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