When rawhide presented itself as a possible medium, he spent a lot of time running down old timers, the true masters. “After I moved west,” he says, “I found a couple of good ones – Claude Hatchings, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Horace Henderson, Grangeville, Idaho.
“I’d already been transferred to Nebraska, and I’d heard about Luis Ortega’s work on display at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. I went down there and spent two days looking at his work through the glass. I paid $25 for an old copy of Persimmon Hill magazine, in which Ortega had written an article. So I looked through that glass and studied his work for two days. After seeing his work, I knew it was for me.
“Personally, this business is about keeping alive a heritage that is slowly disappearing. That’s the main reason I have stuck with it. I enjoy it, of course, and we use it on our horses as well. But it’s mostly to hang on to the legacy.”
During the summer months, Beaver and his wife, Cindy try to prepare enough rawhide to give them braiding work for the winter. During those long winter months on their Sundance Ranch, 20 miles north of Idaho’s Priest River, they do most of their own cutting and braiding. In a recent interview for Cowboy magazine, Beaver said, “Trying to prepare hides in the winter can be a real undertaking because of the cold.” He braids rawhide gear for many uses.
Beaver guides hunters through the mountains, so his knowledge of the horseman’s regalia is firsthand. He finds rawhide is a durable material, one that seldom wears out. Beaver knows this material is not only one of the most useful to the cowboy it can be artfully turned into a decorative part of the cowboy’s gear.
Among his best-selling items are six-plait reatas and half four-plait and half eight-plait reatas. He boasts of his reatas: “There are no splices. If a string breaks, the reata simply turns out shorter than I planned.” Each piece of his work is a single and unique work of art, handproduced, tough, and durable.
Beaver received the Academy of Western Artists Award for Braider of the Year in 1997. He has made countless items for cowboys and cowgirls everywhere.
Mailing AddressMichael Beaver
P.O. Box 1538
Hayden Lake, ID 83835