Christoval craftsman to be featured on PBS

CHRISTOVAL, Texas — Wilson Capron’s bit and spur shop was flooded with lighting equipment and camera gear for several days in March as a crew of seven people filmed for an episode of “A Craftsman Legacy.”

Capron, 43, will be featured in the fourth season of the PBS television series, which showcases individuals in various fields of craftsmanship from across America.

“I’m all the time wanting to share my story and share the story of the West. It’s very important to me to share my culture with people,” Capron said. “So when they called me and asked me to do this, I just looked at it as a huge opportunity and hope that they felt like that was fit for their show.”

Capron had worked alongside his father, Mike Capron, a cowboy artist, on ranches in West Texas before spending some time on the competitive roping circuit as a young man.

He then went to work for Greg Darnall, a noted bit and spur maker, to help fund his roping expenses.

“I went to work for my mentor, just as a job. I didn’t care anything about it,” Capron said. “About a year into it he introduced me to engraving, and it was just like like my roping. It was very, very fun and addicting to me, so away I went.”

Capron lived with Darnall’s family in Lone Oak for a couple of years while he learned the finer points of metalwork and engraving beginning at age 23.

Wilson Capron said he enjoys being a craftsman. “I get to stay in my Western culture and tell that story, and that’s important to me.” (Photo: Standard-Times)

Capron said he had discovered a new passion and has been refining his craft since venturing out on his own in 1999 at age 25.

“I loved it, but I never dreamt I would be able to make a living doing it,” Capron said. “This craft is an education. It’s not a destination. It’s a journey. You’re all the time trying to get better.”

Capron cited both his father and mentor as his biggest inspirations and said the two men have helped lead him down the path to success in the art of bit and spur craftsmanship.

Capron moved to Christoval about five years ago and set up shop next to his home on a ranch. The magic happens in his shop from dawn to dusk, Capron said, where he designs and creates personalized pieces of work.

Capron said he wants to help tell the story of the cowboy and display the elegance of the West through his work, so he was ecstatic when PBS reached out to him.

“I just shared who I was and what I was doing and was very willing for these guys to come in here and help me tell the story and for me to help them tell their story of the craftsperson,” Capron said. “I worked hard and put a lot of work in beforehand to be sure I was prepared. I’m very thankful they came, honored.”

The production crew drove from Detroit and arrived in late March at Capron’s shop, which was their last stop on a trip that included two shoots in Oklahoma and another elsewhere in Texas.

“I think there are amazing stories out there to be told about these wonderful people that really have very unique lives and those stories need to be told,” said show host Eric Gorges. “Other people need to understand that craftsmen are a dying breed. Not only are the crafts that they’re doing a dying breed, but themselves. It’s a dying breed for sure. So we need more of them.”

Gorges, a metal shaper and motorcycle builder, is on a quest to discover true craftspeople in today’s modern world.

“There’s still this belief of working with your hands and what you get out of that,” Gorges said. “That’s one thing we’re still missing today in society.”

Capron said he showed Gorges the shortcut version of making bits and spurs. A basic piece could take a week, and an ornate piece could take several months, Capron said. He said it’s an extensive process because everything is crafted by hand.

“The cool thing about it is you still use a lot of the tools that the old original caveman used: hammers and chisels, files and stones,” Capron said. “I mean, those are basic, basic tools, but that’s what we use to do the really, really nice stuff.”

Capron said his clientele comes from across the spectrum, including cowboys who work hard and save to make a purchase as well as high-end collectors and business people who can easily afford nice things.

“I treat them all the same. It’s the story of the West and I can’t wait to tell their story and what I do, because we’re all a part of the same culture,” Capron said. “We all want to be a part of it.”

Capron said he was excited to be able to share the story of the Western way of life.

“This is a very exciting moment. I don’t do a very good job of showing it, but I was excited” when PBS called, Capron said with a chuckle. “I try not to get too high with the highs or too lows with the lows — just kind of keep an even keel and do the best possible job I can.”

“A Craftsman Legacy” is a national, weekly television series on PBS, Suddenlink channel 13. Its third season is airing now, and the broadcast date for Capron’s fourth-season episode has not yet been set.

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Monks pour time, heart into baked goods

CHRISTOVAL, Texas — Tucked in the West Texas countryside and purposefully secluded from the rest of the world, Mount Carmel Hermitage has sat overlooking Christoval for almost 25 years.

The monastery, which was founded by Father Fabian Maria Rosette, began as a humble hut in 1991. Today it has a gift shop, a renovated chapel, several buildings and is home to Father Fabian and several brothers of his Carmelite order — as well as an unexpectedly professional, restaurant-style kitchen,

Inside the kitchen, three monks worked studiously in silence this week, peeling apples and stirring flour with aromatic spices, preparing for their annual bake sale at this weekend’s Christmas at Old Fort Concho.

“It’s a tradition to the early ages for monks to support themselves by the work that they do with their hands, so that’s how we started the bakery,” Brother John David said. “Here we all work for the same pay: Our reward is in heaven. We have great rewards in heaven.”

The sprawling kitchen is filled with professional-grade stainless steel appliances, has its own brick-fired pizza oven and would be well-suited for a restaurant — let alone for a few monks baking bread and making jam and jellies several months out of the year. The kitchen cost an estimated $250,000, donated by a woman from Christoval, Father Fabian said.

Credit: Kimberley Meyer Brother John David slides rolls of baked biscotti onto cooling racks in 2012 at the Mount Carmel Hermitage in Christoval. In addition to their regular daily prayer commitments, the monks spend much of their time preparing baked goods to sell at Christmas at Old Fort Concho and elsewhere to support the hermitage.

The hermits wake up about 3 a.m. every day and during the holiday season spend much of their day in the kitchen, baking sweets to sell in their gift shop, at local events and online.

“We feel as though this is becoming our income for our budget throughout the year,” said Brother David, who shadows the younger monks during the baking process. “All our products are so good that they just sell by themselves.”

Brother David said one of the first baked goods the monks sold was an apple walnut bread whose recipe was given to Father Fabian by some nuns. Their most popular bread, however, is the pumpkin pecan. Brother David said even though he gives out the recipe for it, people want the bread to come from the hermitage because it is blessed.

“The recipe is right there, but people say, ‘We want y’all to do it,’ ” Brother David said, chuckling loudly.

The hermits try to cook up something new each year to expand their products, and this year they have a pomegranate jelly, Brother David said. He said he also tries to follow trends, catering to people’s interests.

“Everybody likes it hot with heat,” Brother David said. “So we started doing a habanero apricot jam. Everybody loves it. And we also have jalapeño honey, and people are going crazy with that.”

Profits generated through sales are divided across 12 months to cover bills, unexpected expenses and sometimes construction.

The money might help Father Fabian get closer to his current goal: building a church in the center of the hermitage, where there is now just open space.

In the hermitage’s humble beginnings, Father Fabian built the original hut with just the help of Brother David.

“He talked about having a house of prayers,” Brother David said. “I didn’t know much about what he was talking about because this was foreign to me. But since I was a good friend of his, I would come out and help him because I used to be a carpenter.”

Three years later, Brother David, 55, said he liked the lifestyle at the hermitage so much he left modernity and joined the sanctuary permanently.

Father Fabian said after serving as a priest for 10 years, he felt a calling to create a place of worship.

“I really wanted to go into the desert and be alone with God,” he said.

Creating the hermitage was his dream, but it was not easy for him to build it, Father Fabian said. He faced misunderstandings and persecution and struggled to make it the way it is today, he said.

“I can die today, I am happy,” Father Fabian said. “This is my dream come true. I can die at peace and say at least I did what I was called to do.

“Everything else is in the hands of God.”

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