Steve Harris - Rawhide Braider @ www.rawhidebraider.com


Mostly it was my brother Mike’s fault.

In the fall of 1993 he was working for a cow outfit near McDermitt Nevada (or Oregon). An old timer there got Mike started braiding rawhide. He visited home around Christmas time. I was still in school back then, not sure which path my life would take when Mike brought out a knot he was working on. I picked it up—and never put it down.

A short, unspectacular rodeo season and traveling for the FFA brought me in contact with many braiders in Oregon’s corners, from Bonanza to Zumalt Prairie. There were lessons to be learned in every tack room and western goods store. Much of that gear was pretty rustic, but everything taught me.

In Pendleton I met Duff Severe. He was a quiet old gentleman when I knew him, but his mind was keen and he enjoyed new knots. He allowed at that time that I was the only young braider he knew. Our friendship lasted until he passed away; I made many pilgrimages to his cabin and learned a lot there.

I found Jack Shepherd in the spring of 1999. Fern answered the door very cautiously. With hat in hand I explained that Duff had given me their address and sent me by. The door opened wide and another valued friendship began.  My copy of Jack’s biography is inscribed “to Steve, Rebekah, and baby Harris Love Fern”.

Many, many people have given me valuable insights and useful criticism. Bill Black has been a great encouragement to me and many others. His braiding was exquisite when I was just beginning. I remember a day at Ernie Marsh’s John Day Valley Roundup rodeo when I looked with awe at Bill’s 05, U5 heel knots. I also recall Clark Morris holding my first set of bridle reins (they measured a wopping ten feet) “Wow Steve, what are you gonna do with these, drive a team?” I was deflated, but after that I began paying more attention to proportions and less to fancy knots.

It was at Ernie’s rodeo that I first met Mario Hanel; he became a valued friend and my saddle making mentor. My work is not like his, but I hope to someday match his standard of excellence. We discuss everything, and I have really enjoyed watching his children grow up.

Around the turn of the century I moved back to Oregon. I still traveled a lot, cowboying for old friends and making new ones. It was about this time that I met Merlin Rupp. Someone told me he knew how to use a ring bit. I asked him one day at the Big Loop, and got way more answer than I had expected!

Gradually the business and I settled down. I spent a great deal of time making rawhide, experimenting with different methods. (I know a hundred ways to ruin a hide!) There were saddle repairs, rawhide, and inventory to make for shows—which I began to pursue vigorously. Over time my focus narrowed to hackamores. Gwynn Turnbull invited me to exhibit at the Californios and I donated a bosal as a prize—a habit I continued for that event, and several others. Donated gear gets into the hands of working guys who are getting good results with their horses; these riders have become my primary clients.

I remained in Roseburg until 2008. For most of those years my grampa C.M Johnson worked in the shop with me. My father and grandfather are my heroes and mentors, men who through their actions defined integrity, faith, and hard work.

Rebekah and I married in 2008. We lived here and there, eventually settling back in Roseburg. Cait and Mairi have joined our team, though they are still in training.

Together we have a shop making hackamores, bridle sets, and the occasional saddle. I still do a little day work, we have some cows with my dad, and Rebekah teaches school sometimes. Life is good. God is very kind to us. I am greatly blessed to do this work I love, with people I love, in America which I love. The shop provides a great context for raising children, and I still learn every day. There is room to grow.