KURT PANKRATZ keeps his workshop and his forge at a beautiful spot on the southern edge of the Hill Country near Boerne, a few miles from where he worked on a dairy farm. He remembers helping milk the cows twice a day as hard work. His farm chores, it turns out, prepared him for the long hours needed to practice a trade. Blacksmithing beckoned. Working in one of the oldest trades on earth, the art of smithing, Pankratz can and does repair wagon wheels using an 1850s wagon-tire roller and tire shrinker. He uses ancient techniques and tools hundreds of years old when he does work for the Alamo and the missions. Pankratz’s work is so meticulous and his new gate hinges for the Alamo so close to the original, he has to put his mark on them so they won’t be taken for antiques. He excels at modern techniques as well, constructing metal sculptures of his own design or building a copper fountain for a client’s home. Pankratz learned much of his dedication to excellence from his father, who emigrated from Germany in 1923, and is still active today in his nineties. For more than thirty years, Pankratz has supported his family with his extraordinary skills. “The only way we ever really survived is if we could fix everything,” he says.