Charles Jr. and Leon Faulk spend their days occupied with a centuries-old trade: as farriers and blacksmiths. It is what their father did before them and their grandfather before him. And, it is the tradition that Charles Jr. hopes will be carried on by his son Christian.
The Faulk brothers assert that they are “full-fledged blacksmiths,” not just farriers. For the Faulk brothers, blacksmithing is their family narrative. Their grandfather, the Rev. John Edward Faulk, brought the craft into their family back in the early 1900s; he learned it in Kentucky and then returned to South Carolina, his native home. He worked until he died in 1962. Already trained and ready to carry on with hammer and forge was his son, the Rev. Charles Faulk Sr., who also spent his lifetime as a blacksmith. From an early age, Charles Jr. and Leon were fascinated by their father and grandfather’s occupation and admitted to sometimes lying about school being closed so that they could tag along to watch. Now, Christian, at age 18, is the tag-along. The fourth generation blacksmith family shoes horses at some of the same farms and stables originally serviced years ago by John Edward.
“Leon and I took to it like a duck to water,” says Charles Jr. “We just want to continue that tradition.”
The hard part was living up to the quality reputation of their grandfather and father. “They were really popular,” says Charles Jr. “People would tell me, ‘You hold that hammer like your grandfather.’ Or, they would tease Leon and me and say, ‘You ain’t no man. Your granddaddy was a man!’ My grandfather left big shoes for my dad to fill and for us to fill.”
They have trimmed and shod as many as 24 horses in a single day. An average number is seven to eight. The blacksmiths have a rapport with most of the horses, yet there have been a few that they have refused to handle due to their unruliness as well as their owners’ inability or unwillingness to restrain them. “And if an owner doesn’t pay, well then that’s a reason not to go back,” says Charles Jr.
Charles Jr. remembers going along with his father to Georgia once to shoe a mean little pony that had to be sedated. His father told him that horses can sometimes react more aggressively even under sedation. “As he was telling me this, that little pony locked onto me between the shoulder blades with his teeth and wouldn’t let go.”
The Faulks are proud to carry on the family tradition of blacksmithing. They are intent on taking an art, a craft, a specialized skill and a way of life into future generations.
“Blacksmithing is in our blood, and it has kept us close as a family,” maintains Charles Jr. The two brothers think their grandfather, and their father, would be proud.