Is there anything Millville man won't braid? Knot!
You name it and he will braid it.
DeWitt Palmer of Millville braids leather, baling twine, wire, horsehair, rawhide and anything else he can get his hands on.
"I braid just about anything you've ever wanted to braid," Palmer said.
The 85-year-old lifelong cowboy decided at age 27 that he wanted to learn to braid his own reins and bridles. So he started braiding.
Palmer said he read books about braiding and talked to other braiders, but he taught himself most of what he knows.
"It's a lot of trial and error," Palmer said. "I've just kept with it."
Even after braiding for 59 years, Palmer said "There's always something new to try to master."
He has mastered braids ranging from three to 16 strands. When braiding with an even number of strands, it forms a round braid, Palmer said, and when braiding with an odd number of strands, the braid lies flat.
After working with braids for so long, a braid with many strands does not even phase him, Palmer said.
"That's the easy one," he said of the eight strand braid as he gathered four strands of leather in each hand.
To make the braid, he brings one strand from the left across the underside of the rope to the right side where he goes under two strands and then over two strands. Then he repeats the process alternating left and right sides.
He said he usually braids around a core rope. The thickness of that core determines how many strands he will use in the braid.
"I had to use a 12 strand on this one, or there would have been gaps in the braid," Palmer said as he showed a completed rein.
Sometimes for functional purposes, Palmer said he will make portions of the braid thicker by "mousing it up" or wrapping extra string around certain points of the core rope.
On average, Palmer said, the braiding materials shrink about one-third of their original length when braided. However, if he wants to make something that is 7 or 8 feet long, he will usually use 14 foot strands to make sure he has enough because tying in extra length does not work very well, Palmer said.
When working with such long strings, Palmer wraps each end around his hand and puts a rubber band around it to form a tamale, he said. Then as he braids, he can pull more string out of the middle and not have so much to work with.
The process is tedious, he said.
"To get them tight, I have to stop and pull each one tight," Palmer said. "It takes a lot of time."
He estimates that he can braid about eight inches in an hour.
It is because of the amount of time he spends braiding that a set of his reins will cost anywhere from $150 to $200. He said he started braiding reins and other gear for his own use, but many people liked them so much he started to sell them.
He sold a lot of his braids at the Festival of the American West while he demonstrated braiding there for 10 years.
He has since taught braiding classes braiding in the adult education classes at Logan High School.
He makes "fun, little novelty things," such as keychains and neckerchief slides that he donates to the Utah Reining Cow and Horse Association to be sold as a fund raiser, Palmer said. Palmer won the 1987 Utah Governor Folk Art Award for his braiding and has had his work displayed at the Utah State Fair many times.
But he would keep braiding, even without the recognition, he said. He simply likes to braid, he said.
"It's something we do to keep out of the pool halls," Palmer said.