A two hour instructional video filmed at Bill's Mt. Toro Ranch.  Randy goes through the steps of making a reata with suggestions and stories by Bill.  In his lifetime Bill made about 67 reatas, most of them for his own use.  He got Randy started making reatas, and was pleased with Randy's work.   Professionally filmed and well done.

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Jeremiah Watt Products

(559) 935-2172


Joe Wolter and Bill Dorrance

My father Bill turned fifty shortly after I was born, and mostly what I remember is what took place from the late 1950's on. Bill never considered himself an artist as it related to his braiding. Braiding was mostly done in winter and spring months when the humidity worked in favor of the keeping the right moisture in the rawhide. Not a big reader, most of his time was spent working with his horses, the ranchland, and his family during the daylight hours.

Saddle room at Mt. Toro Ranch

He would rawhide early in the mornings, after dark, or when the weather was on the inclement side. He always said that it was something a fella could do if he was laid up. He never stayed laid up long enough to do much rawhiding, and the manner at which he went about it would not have lent itself to healing an injured body.

Mt. Toro Headquarters 1950's

In the years prior to meeting his wife Marie, he made some rawhide to sell along with what he was using. Rawhiding was an all encompassing term  that took in cutting the string to making the finished reins, bosals, reatas, and hobbles. The quality of his work was very fine with tight straight crosses on his reatas. When he checked over a reata, he would look to see if the string was cut uniformly, the crosses set up tight, and smooth splices. He would hold the reata coils with a hand on each side and push the coils toward the center to check the springness of the braided strings. A new reata needed to have had decent string to have lots of spring. He liked reatas when they were new, in their prime, and at the end of their lifespan. I remember many a time when he finished a reata at night and was using it the next morning. Dogs and cats were not allowed into the rawhide or saddle room. Mice and rats were trapped with a vengeance. He was not about to have his gear spoiled by having it chewed up. He was not inclined to let his rawhide go to where it was not going to be taken care of or used. A reata left on the ground where the dogs could get to it was very offensive, and someone who led or tied their horse by the rawhide reins offended him greatly.

Rancho Tularcitos Carmel Valley

I never remember my mother roping an animal. My dad would rope an animal, get it handling, and then hand it off to my brothers or myself to dally and hold. He would then heal it, and hand it off to the other fella. He would then get off, fix the ropes, doctor or brand it. He got quite a bit of roping in, and we got quite of bit of dallying in. He had to keep a close eye on us, as wandering 5 and 7 year old minds kept things happening on an all too regular basis.


When he needed to doctor a bull or cow, he would catch it by the head and work with it until he could ride clear around it. He would be out aways, and he would get about three circles around it with his reata. When he was directly behind the animal he would ride off. The circles would pull off the front legs and remain around the hind legs. One of us would ride up and lay our loop over the hind feet and dally up. He would get off and get his doctoring done, pull his rope off and mount up. Most of the reatas that he used for this were small in diameter and made out of a hide off of a thin cow. Bull hides were used for burners, and a fat hide for reins or hobbles.

Rana Creek Ranch 1987

In the 1980's my dad started use a 5/16" poly rope. He did not have the strength to make many reatas, or the strength to pitch one any distance. The small poly ropes worked for the close roping he was doing and were not affected by the weather. He used reatas off and on in his later years, but when his arm started to tire he would switch to the lighter poly. He sure liked to rope and was working with his horse the entire time.

Steve Dorrance

Salinas, California


copyright 2006 Steven and Leslie Dorrance