Harley Parlin has died…

Harley Parlin has died.

Harley Parlin, Boot Hill Gun Cases
Harley Parlin, Boot Hill Gun Cases

Harley owned Boot Hill Case Company. He was a kind, generous man, a meticulous craftsman and all around great guy.

I wish I had known him well. We met several years ago when one of my cases needed work and friends suggested him. Instead of shipping the case, I drove it up to his house. I’m glad I did.

Harley and his wife Kit lived in a farmhouse in western Maine. It was winter and especially cold when I arrived. Handshakes were reserved for once I was inside and the door shut. Harley looked like a page out of an old L.L Bean catalog, dressed in khaki pants and a faded green chamois shirt. Trim and enthusiastic, I would have guessed he was 52 or 53. Actually, he was around 60.

His shop was in the basement. There were big machines on the floor–a table saw, a sander, a drill press. Rolls of leather were stacked on shelves in a corner. Punches, awls and dozens of wooden-handled tools filled racks around a table. The shop looked ready for inspection and  I had a feeling it always looked this way.

Harley spent years in Maine’s shoe-making industry and used this knowledge of leather craft to start Boot Hill. What he didn’t know about vintage cases he figured out through ingenuity, intelligence and perseverance.

Thanks to his superb work, he thrived. My case was typical. A oak gun case made in Britain around 1866, it was lined with red wool baize and the original maker’s label was glued in the lid. All it needed was a little fixing up and some stabilizing. A lot of people could have done the work. Harley was going to do it because he would do it right.

Harley was proud of his work and as we talked, he showed me pictures of his other projects. The motor-style case he made from scratch for this Purdey 3-barrel set was impressive. The skill and craftsmanship that went into making it were as stunning as the gun.

I headed up to Harley’s shop a few more times over the next few years. Harley always took the time to show me what went into his trade – from how an oak-and-leather gun case is made to the basics of stitching and tooling. I appreciated it a great deal.

One evening we went fly-fishing on a boulder clogged river near his home. I forgot my glasses back in my truck and I remember squinting hard to spot rises near my bobbing fly. I fumbled, tangled a bunch of casts, missed some strikes. Harley caught some brook trout, mostly small ones, none longer than a revolver. We had a good time.

I saw Harley one more time. I don’t remember why I headed back to his shop. Whatever the reason, it was really just an excuse to spend some time with Harley and his craft.

Goodbye my friend. You’re missed a great deal.

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5 thoughts on “Harley Parlin has died…

  1. Gregg we are neigbours of Harley & kit,acually the farm where they
    live was the Hall farm,Louise was origanaly a Hall she was born
    and raised there,Harley restored the barn,he gave us a tour,fine
    work,If we were outside he alway,s stopped,and chatted with us.
    Your right he was a wonderfull person.
    Louise & Richard

  2. Harley was my uncle, he was a great man, and will be sadly missed. It is nice to hear some stories from other people whose lives he has touched in some way. Thank you for sharing this! It brought a smile to my face!

  3. Harley is my eldest brother of seven. A best friend, father figure and teacher of life, love and the importance of our history. He had a wonderful sense of the outdoors and I learned how to stop and observe all that is around me. He never missed the details in his life or his craftmanship.
    His love for his wife Kit, family and friends is rarely matched by anyone. I so loved to spend time with him and will treasure each and every moment we shared.
    A very proud sister.

  4. Harley was my grandfather. He was the most down to earth and crafty person i have ever met.I am only thirteen and i wish i could have had even half of the experiences you did. I live in Michigan so I did not get the pleasure of seeing him as much as i would have liked. He was supposed to teach me his craft this summer before our family reunion but our plans have changed. And like my aunt melinda says, i loved to spend time with him and will never forget him.
    R.I.P
    Harley Parlin

  5. I lived on Hall Hill for the first 15 years of my life, and when I was about 13, 14 years old, I rode my bike all the way to the end of road, as I was prone to do. Harley was outside, taking a break from mowing the lawn, and introduced himself to me. Was very nice, and much like the writer said, you’d find yourself headed to the end of Hall Hill Rd just BS with Harley. At the time, he was doing a comic strip for a weekly newspaper, and I still have a bunch of the ones he did put away. great guy, sad to see he’s gone. My thoughts to his family and friends.

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