Author employs horses to pull a ‘Mythbusters’ on Levi’s jeans


Last weekend, author Lee Nelson challenged a 142-year-old trademark at a Mapleton roping arena.

The challenge? To see if he could rip apart a pair of Levi jeans with his team of horses.

Levi’s jeans carry a leather patch on the back showing a pair of pants being pulled apart by two horses, which Nelson said he always interpreted as saying that two horses can’t pull apart a pair of Levi’s.

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A pair of jeans are torn apart on Saturday in a private roping arena in Mapleton, Utah. The myth that Levi’s jeans can withstand being pulled apart by two horses was proved wrong.

“I’m sure millions of people felt the same way I did,” Nelson said.

Nelson, who is the author of the “Storm Testament” series, is no stranger to the myth of the Levi jeans. In fact, he first performed this experiment in Montana in the 1970s. However, this time was a bit different. This time he did it with more varieties of jeans. Nelson says he came up with the idea when informed that he needed to come up with an event to launch his new book “Hoofbeats,” which is his personal history.

“I don’t want to just invite friends over for Kool-aid and cookies and try to sell them books,” Nelson said.

When he first pulled Levi’s apart in Montana, he said there was no publicity and almost nobody came.  Because of this, and since the story of the original jean pull is in his book, Nelson decided to try the experiment again.

“The big thing is we’re going to film a YouTube video and put that on the internet, and I think jean-wearers will be interested in that,” Nelson said.

At the most recent jean pull, held at the Carnesecca roping arena in Mapleton, Nelson’s own saddle horses, driven by arena owner Paul Carnesecca, pulled apart four pairs of Levi 501’s, a pair of Wrangler jeans, a pair of Old Navy jeans and a pair of Carhartt jeans.

“He was over talking to me, telling me he wanted me to do it, and he asked me if I’d help him out because I had experience driving horses, and I said I would,” said Carnesecca, a friend of Nelson’s  who says he met the author team roping.

The event was heavily attended by friends and acquaintances of Nelson’s, like Mac Bills. Bills has already read the story of the original jean pull in Nelson’s book.

“I figured the outcome was gonna be exactly what it was,” Bills said.

Nelson said he had high hopes for the Carhartts, which were the last pair pulled.

“What’s happening is, the horses are learning how to do it, it isn’t really a challenge for them anymore,” Nelson said.

Nelson’s horses were not trained before the event, but managed to pull all jeans apart with relative ease.

Before the jean pull, Nelson said he went on the internet and found several pages of arguments on a blog about whether or not the jeans could, in fact, be pulled apart by two horses. One entry Nelson described, by a retired Levi Strauss executive, described a special cable meant to be put inside the jeans at a photo shoot during a Levi Strauss sales convention so that flattering photos of the pants between two horses could be taken. The cable wasn’t actually used, according to the former executive.

“But they were willing to deceive the public on their trademark, and they have for 140 years,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he wasn’t trying to prove anything about the jeans themselves, only about the Levi’s trademark.

“Jeans aren’t designed to hold thousand pound horses, they’re designed for people to wear,” Nelson said.

Nelson said that many of his friends worry that Levi’s will eventually sue him.

“I think he proved a good point, and I think it’ll help promote his book. Hopefully he doesn’t get sued,” Carnesecca said.

Levi’s corporation was sent a release both times Nelson staged a Levi’s pull, and he has never heard anything from them, but he thinks that if the YouTube video gets popular, they might be more likely to.

“If they sue me over this, I’m going to make a YouTube video with miniature horses pulling the Levis apart, and that will really embarrass them, if they think this is bad,” Nelson said.

Nelson is currently working on a near-death experience book and said he plans to write more historical novels.

“I have some historical novels set aroun the world and some going back into the old testament,” Nelson said.

However, Nelson said that he spends more time researching his books than writing them.

“It seems that the ones that you enjoy doing are the ones that sell the best,” Nelson said.





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