Devin Santana has a contagious smile, but he was struggling to find it while rolling down the countryside on his motorcycle and thinking about the horse he had lost when he moved into town.
He and his wife Sarah started Nebraska City Iron Works in 1993, but their recent move from a rural acreage meant new homes had to be found for their horses.
Santana earned his living erecting steel rebar for the concrete construction industry, but says he enjoyed a lot of life on the back of his white quarterhorse named Dude.
Somewhere between recalling the lyrics of Bon Jovi's song, "on a steel horse I ride," and a love for Harley Davidson stretching as far as America's roadways can take him, Santana turned his predicament into an invention.
"I saw my foot on the peg going down the highway and the idea came to me. People calle Harley Davidson motorcycles hogs for some reason, I've never understood it, but that's not what they are.
They're iron horses, the songwriter says they're steel horses," he said.
The moment he arrived back the Iron Works shop on Sixth Street he called to his son Dylan and started work to design his first "motorcycle stirrup."
"I've been tying steel since I was 16, it's all I have ever known, but I have also been riding motorcycles since I was 16," he said.
A few years ago he custom built a motorcycle with handle bars made of rebar, the steel rods used to strengthen concrete, but the stirrups would need stainless steel and a way to attach them to the bikes.
Santana got a stirrup from the Fort Western Store in Nebraska City, drilled space to fit the mount on a motorcycle crash bar and within two hours had his first motorcycle stirrup.
On his first ride with the new invention, Santana said he found they were more than just a novelty, but actually a safety improvement.
He said motorcycle riders have to keep their legs somewhat tense as their feet rest on the pegs. Over long distances, riders need to stretch their legs, but Santana said it poses a risk because a bump in the rode could cause their foot to slip. It cold be disastrous, he said, if their foot makes contact with the roadway below.
With the stirrup, he said, the foot has more support and the rider can stretch out with confidence and style.
He took his motorcycle and stirrups to Dillon Brothers Harley Davidson in Omaha and said he was thrilled with the reaction.
"They all came out and sat on the bike and put their feet in the stirrups. They said you have a million dollar idea here, you need to patent it," he said.
Page 2 of 2 - You can't patent the stirrup, which has been made since the domestication of the horse and used widely in medieval times, but Santana's invention has a locking mechanism so it can be adjusted to the rider's liking.
He said manufacturing the stirrups posed a new set of obstacles, primarily the discovering that stirrup manufacturing is usually done overseas.
Santana found a metal worker in Pickrell, Neb., Twisted Metal Works, and said he was relieved to achieve a product made entirely in America.
Santana is hoping his Motorycle Stirrups Inc. will have sales all around the world, but he has his smile beaming just to have them on the shelves at the Harley Davidson store.
"It's amazing to have something I made, something that comes right here from Nebraska City on the shelves at Harley Davidson," he said. "People are going to love these. They belong on a Harley," he said.