Florida Folklife Program
Folk Heritage Awards Recipient: Mike Wilder
Mike Wilder - 2008 Florida Folk Heritage Award
A comfortable, durable saddle is one of the most important pieces of a cowboy's equipment. Seventh-generation Floridian Mike Wilder has earned a reputation for making well-designed saddles that will last for years. Most of them are unadorned "tools of the trade" put to use by working cowboys and ranchers. He learned the basics of his craft at J.M. Saddlery in South Dakota in the 1970s, then returned to his home state where he was a full-time working cowboy for many years, as he developed his saddlery business. Today, Wilder still "day works" as a cowboy when he "just needs to get out of the shop for a few days." He feels that his cowboy experience is essential to understanding the needs of his customers. He has been selected to make prize saddles for the annual Silver Spurs Rodeo in Kissimmee, and the commemorative saddle for the Great Florida Cattle Drive of 2006, for which he also served as Cow Boss—all testimony to the high regard in which his peers hold him. Wilder has also served as a master artist in the Florida Folklife Apprenticeship Program.