Dick Schorr is a retired veterinarian who grew up with a ranching background. He keeps his reata/rawhide braiding alive through teaching and demonstrations.
FOLKORIST JIM GRIFFITH ON REATA:
“Rawhide,” in the words of the late cowboy poet Everett Brisendine, “is the outside of a cow.” It is pliable when wet, hard, and almost unbreakable when dry. It is the perfect material to use if you want to braid a rope that will stop a running horse or cow. If you take the same cow and process its hide into leather, you have a softer product that is perfect for belts, boots, bridles, and the like. And you can make all these without leaving the ranch!
There are always some craftspeople (and some cowfolks as well) who want to go beyond the strictly utilitarian. This is where art – the influence of aesthetic considerations – comes in. This can be accomplished in several ways, one of which is simply attaining a perfection of craft – what some craftspeople refer to as “doing it right.” A sloppy-looking bosal (hackamore nosepiece) will do its job as well as a neat, crisp piece of rawhide braiding, but may give less satisfaction to both maker and owner.
Another way is to add decoration. You can work colors and patterns into your horsehair rope, for instance, or stamp designs on your leather belt. Here we are headed beyond mechanical function and approaching what might be called social function. This sort of work can give satisfaction to both maker and user, and quite possibly impress others as well. With this, we are moving towards what can be called “art” – made objects which elicit an aesthetic reaction.