By Dana Delgado
Six years ago, hell-raising and defiant but desperate Bob Pena slowly smoked one last joint after having a soul-searching phone conversation with his mother and mounted his Harley motorcycle in Georgetown for what he believed was likely his last ride.
He didn’t know where else to turn.
His fabled reputation as a self-taught, uniquely talented leather craftsman and upholsterer was destined to end tragically.
“I was either going to be in prison or in a graveyard,” he recalls.
Pena could no longer escape all the harm and hurt his wild, drug-filled, defiant biker ways had caused.
His wife had left him and he had not been able to see his children anymore as a result. Drugs, booze and his biker buddies increasingly consumed his day. When he finally lost his job, his world completely collapsed under the weight of his plight.
Drugs, which once filled his veins for pleasure and pain, no longer offered any relief.
His fateful ride took him west on State Highway 29 toward Liberty Hill. In deep despair, his mind and heart raced through a range of emotions seeking some glimmer of hope as he rode on only his mother’s prayer that someday he would find faith.
There, at the intersection of SH 29 and US Highway 183 in Liberty Hill, Pena’s ride came to an end. His mother’s prayers were answered.
“I was a bad dude,” he said, “but when I looked up at the intersection I saw a sign.”
The sign was a billboard for the Williamson County Cowboy Church in Liberty Hill.
“God must have sent me here,” he said, although he says he had never believed in God and hadn’t been in a church for over three decades.
That day he rode a final ride and started a new one.
“I walked right into Bible studies and they had me reading the Bible, which I had never done,” he said.
Within a few days he was baptized in a horse trough as a host of new-found Cowboy Church worshipers cheered him on.
“I felt wanted in that church and on that day I gave my life to God,” Pena said. “When I called to tell my mother, she cried.”
He says that he has been drug-free ever since and now has many friends. The diploma that he walked away from early on in his life was recovered through a correspondence course.
“I just wanted that piece of paper,” he said. “It means a lot to me.”
Once branded as an outlaw cowboy, Pena is now known as “SteelHorse Cowboy Bob” who holds his own regal court for Jesus in his shop in Liberty Hill. It has been his business home for the last four months since relocating from Georgetown.
“I have Bible studies here and have led 39 people to the Lord,” he said.
His fabled reputation as a noted leather craftsman has developed into Texas Steelhorse Saddles, Central Texas’ exclusive maker of motorcycle customized seats and seat pans using a variety of leather and exotic skins including elephant, rattlesnake, alligator and ostrich as well as vinyl.
“God’s given me this gift,” said Pena, now in his 34th year as a craftsman. “I give all the glory to God.”
His shop is also an authorized dealer for seat heaters and pro pads. He also repairs chaps. Pena says he’s seen a real surge in the interest of his work by women and has begun to address their needs.
“There didn’t use to be as many women riders as today,” he said. “I’ve been getting a lot of women wanting pink, purple or yellow motorcycle seats.”
Pena got his start in the business in his native Corpus Christi in 1977. He completely customized the interior of his own van, a 1966 Chevrolet. When asked by a local upholstery company as to whom had done the work, Pena responded that he had done the work. He says he was hired on the spot. He would subsequently move to and work in Georgetown before moving to Liberty Hill.
Things are far simpler but much richer for the once hell-bent biker. These days, his dog Axle Rose, his horse, his cowboy hat, and his faith are all he needs.
Texas Steelhorse Saddles is located at 1011-C US Hwy 183 in Liberty Hill. For more information, visit www.texassteelhorsesaddles.com or on Facebook at Steelhorse Bob Pena.