Mel Hankla As Simon Kenton
Although lesser known than Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton was a very important figure in Kentucky history. "I can make a good argument that Simon Kenton did as much for Kentucky as Daniel Boone," Hankla said. "Kenton didn't have John Filson as a press agent. That's why Boone became famous while he was still alive."
Hankla is not just as expert on Simon Kenton, but also an expert on flintlock rifles as well:
In 1984, Hankla was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts folk art apprenticeship to study 600 hours under legendary longrifle maker Hershel House of Woodbury. House builds iron-mounted Southern longrifles that are recognized as unique interpretations, based on what early explorers carried into Kentucky around 1760. "It was a life-changing experience, and I have to give Hershel credit for encouraging my interest," Hankla said.
As a member of the Contemporary Longrifle Association, artisans who study and re-create the rifles and accouterments of the 18th century, Hankla continues to build longrifles in a style reminiscent of North Carolina and Virginia. He said he sells what he builds but doesn't take orders.