Severe Brothers Saddlery

March 13, 2018  •  7 Comments

Severe Brothers Saddlery

Pendleton, Oregon

cowboy, saddlery,leather,craftsmanshipSevere Brothers Saddlery, Since 1955Front view of the Severe Saddlery building.

A bit of History from the Severe Brothers Saddlery Website:

    “Severe Brothers Saddlery from Pendleton Oregon, is known internationally for producing the finest in custom handmade western saddles, bronc saddles and roping saddles. Saddles covered with the best grade leathers using the time-tested older methods, such as all leather ground seats, make them good for a lifetime of pleasure as well as durability.

    Severe Brothers Saddlery was founded in 1955 by Bill and Duff Severe after apprenticing at Hamleys & Co. several years under master saddlers. Duff Severe in leatherwork, and Bill Severe in saddle trees. Together, this unique combination helped them produce a saddle with total quality control.”

    After a nice weekend of showing and selling my Western Photography Artwork at the Pendleton Cattle Baron, I was scheduled for a visit with Randy Severe, of Severe Brothers Saddlery.

    My dear friend, Brian Arnold, knew I was going to be in the area, and recommended that the Severe Brothers Saddlery would be a great place for me to go visit and photograph. He mentioned that he likes my photography and thought I could capture the essence of, the history, that has taken place there over the last 60+ years. He knows Randy well, as Randy’s daughter, Jodi, played music with Brian’s band in the past. He called to set up a meeting for me to meet Randy for a visit and tour! Brian also expressed, “After seeing the great saddle shop, you have to have Randy take you upstairs to show you where all the cowboys have stayed over the years, while they were in town to ride in the Pendleton RoundUp!”

    I pulled up at the large two-story building. A small A Frame building was out front with a Skull on its peak. On the main building there were wagon wheels on the deck upstairs, and a modest wooden sign that reads; “Severe Brothers Saddlery, Since 1955”.

    I took a few pictures outside, then entered the side door. While shooting a few pictures and viewing the posters in the short hallway entrance…I heard the door open and turned around to meet Randy Severe. He invited me in. I introduced myself and gave him my card. He was very gracious and is an all-around nice man.

    After a bit of chatting and looking around at all the saddles and tools and displays, without taking pictures…I like to take the time to get to know people first…I mentioned, “Our friend Brian also mentioned that I just HAD to go upstairs. Would that be, OK?” He said, “Sure!”

    As we were climbing the stairs I noticed a bear hide hangin’ on the wall. The stairs were strong but creaked as you walked up them…I wondered and tried to imagine all those who had taken these same stairs over the years.

    As we came to the platform of the top step, Randy said, “Please excuse whatever mess you might see as we haven’t been up here in a while.” I laughed and said, “I understand.”

    Randy explained that this building was built for World War II Barracks, and that his Dad and Uncle, the original Severe Brothers, were the first owners after the Army left them.

    At the top of the stairs, straight ahead, there was a door going into a very large room, on the left was the kitchen with what looked to be a sitting room on the end of it. On the right-hand side was the bathroom and another room. We went straight ahead and into the door that led to the large open room.

    Wow!! There were hundreds of photos on the walls of Cowboys competing in different rodeo events. Randy said that in order to have their picture on the wall’s here, they must have also stayed here.

Rodeo photos on wallOne of the walls of Fame. Rodeo photos over the years. Only could be posted after the cowboy had stayed here.

    In one corner there were a few signed Cowboy hats tacked to the walls…Along with a lot of posters from various businesses, and rodeos over a few decades. The room had lots of bunk beds, some made of Steel, some of wood. There was even a roping dummy in the center of the room, as well as a make shift saddle bronc with a saddle on it. On the round table there was a pair of cowboy boots with spurs on them. Along one wall, and around a bed, where these Red diamond-tucked velvet/leather fancy panels and bench. I asked, “Where did these all come from?” Randy replied, “Those came from a restaurant that was at the Pendleton Airport. When it closed we brought them here.”

rodeo, cowboy,practice,loop,roping,riding,saddlebronc,Inside the HOTEL de'COWPUNCHHOTEL de'COWPUNCH has options to practice your Rodeo event right here!


    At the end of this large room there was another door, I could see that it was locked. I asked what was behind it. (I had to know!) Randy opened it up for me and explained this was where the “Music and Dancing” happened! There were a few chairs lined up in a few rows, an old Piano in the corner and a stack of saddles under a window. He said this room was only open during the Pendleton RoundUp. He then said, “Make yourself at home. I will leave you so that you can photograph.  Please lock this room back up when you are finished.”

    I thanked him and expressed that I would be downstairs to shoot it, in a little while.

    I photographed most everything. I like to, for documentation reasons, as it helps me remember all that I saw, and of course to share it with all with you! They may not be art, or something you would like to hang on your wall, but at least you can see what I was blessed to see!

    One of the photos is of the newspaper clippings about Duff Severe, one of the original brothers. Sadly, the clippings were of his obituary. What a full life he lived and what a legacy he built!

    For about forty minutes or so, I finished photographing the “HOTEL de’COWPUNCH” as they rightfully named the upstairs area. It was reported to be, “A home away from home for thousands of Cowboys!” What a blessing to visit and photograph such a historic place.

    When I got back downstairs, the first room you enter is full of used saddles. On the opposite side was the business office. Further in, you get to where the magic happens. There were two work stations, one on the left, and one on the right. The one on the right is where Randy works. I have never seen so many leather tools!

    Randy was working on a saddle when I came in. He was cutting and trimming a piece of padding for the seat. He shared with me that he was taught by his uncle, Duff Severe, to do leather work. I asked if he makes saddles then sells them, or are they all custom orders? He replied, “They are all custom orders, except, for the ones we make for the Pendleton RoundUp. As we make their trophy saddles every year.”

    He then showed me on the wall the pictures of some of the original trophy saddles made for the RoundUp over the early years. He explained they only did ONE Championship saddle for the Rodeo in the beginning, starting in 1968, so they were VERY intricate in detail. (I got one photo to share with ya’ll that shows 3 original photos of these saddles).

Three Severe Custom Saddles Custom Saddles

    Hanging up high was a saddle that Randy said was his personal saddle. He said he rides it when working at the RoundUp. (In November of 2008 Randy was elected President of the Pendleton RoundUp!) Just below Randy’s saddle there was a miniature saddle proudly displayed on a stand, it was made by Duff Severe.

    Randy walked me around the first room pointing and sharing the history of how the Severe Brothers Saddlery came to be. Duff Severe did the leather work, his brother Bill built the trees for the saddles. On the wall next to the photos of Bill and Duff was a large hanging display case. While I was photographing it, Randy explained that Duff and Bill started out as rawhide braiders, a trade they learned from their father who was a sheepherder in Idaho. This case was called an “Order Board.” It shows the different sizes, braids, designs, so that one could custom order whatever it was they wanted built and done exactly how they wanted it to look and fit.

Bill and Duff Severe and Rawhide Order BoardRawhide Order Board.

    In another lighted free-standing display case were small replica saddle trees. This was to show the customer the difference between the trees for the different types of saddles; Pro-Roper, Association, Form-Fitter, Wade.

Randy Severe explaining Saddle TreesRandy Severe explaining the different saddle tree shapes used for various types of work.

    After being there a while another gentleman came in to the shop. His name was John Trumbo. I soon found out that he was the retired Umatilla County Sheriff. We were introduced, and he then went to work at the other station across from Randy’s. I asked him about what it was he did here at Severe’s… He jokingly replied, “Well, I always said whenever I retired, I should go help out Randy, as it looks easy!” We laughed. He then expressed that he helps out with doing saddle repairs and the like and that he really does enjoy it. You could easily see that these two were very good friends, I am sure they have a fine time working together.

John Trumbo repairing a saddleRetired Umatilla Sheriff, John Trumbo, hard at work repairing a saddle at his station in the Severe Brothers Saddle shop.

    I turned the camera to capture these two icons hard at work. Then I suddenly remembered my friend Brian Arnold had mentioned something about the Severe’s using “Ivory” to work on their saddles…I asked Randy about it. He showed me a long Walrus tusk tool, then showed me how they used it. He explained that you must be careful working with leather, as it can mark easily, especially when wet. They use the ivory, because it is so smooth, to assist in shaping the leather. (I got a picture of him simulating as he explained, and another of the tool laying on the work bench.)

Randy showing Ivory tool for leather work.Randy states that he uses ivory because it is smooth and less chance of scarring wet leather while working.

    Near the working area there was a structural post that had some shaped leather pieces hanging on it. I could tell they were worn out Pommel covers, but didn’t know why they were hanging there. Randy seen me looking at them, so he explained. “These pommels are from the Cowboys that turn in their worn-out ones, as I built them their new ones.” One of them had a note in it from Heath DeMoss, Professional Saddle Bronc Rider, expressing his gratitude for the one he had made him, and how he had won a lot of money at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo that year while riding it! How cool is that?!

    There were great treasures everywhere I looked! I sure enjoyed my visit and tour with Randy Severe. I am so grateful for him taking time out of his work to share the history and the work they continue today.

Thank you, Randy!

To see more of my photos taken during this visit, Click here.

To learn more about the Severe’s; Duff, Bill, and his sons, Randy and Robin, please click here.


Joe Alderete(non-registered)
I been looking for one of your leather splitter for years..and not giving up looking for one.
Charlotte McGrew(non-registered)
I have a saddle made by Duff n Bill!! 1960, made for me . My graduation present from High School!!! I paid half and my folks paid half! My dad and I designed it!!!
Tommy Butler(non-registered)
Thanks to everyone for sharing of the Severe saddlery with all its history
Mark Temple(non-registered)
Nice to see this. As I was a young kid,I knew Duff and watched him work at times. I asked him once, "Hey, Duff how can you do such intricate work and still talk to everyone" He answered, "Why heck Marky, if I had to stop everytime someone wanted to talk, I'd starve to death".
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Carla and Rider at Round FortRound Fort is between Ibapah and Callao Utah. It is also called Canyon Station. The Pony Express Canyon Station was further West of here though... This rock fortress was built the year after the Pony Express had ended.

Currently we are working on a Photo Journal, that will be an Ebook, with our personal experiences on the road. I started this journey, due to a visit to Fort Churchill, with my family in 2014. I read how it was built to protect the Pony Express Riders and the California Emigrant Trail. I have always been fascinated with the old West, and that of course included the Pony.  On that day, surprised to find such a fortress still standing, I wanted to know if there were more!  The photos I have captured, of these gems in the desert, will be in a Photo Book/Coffee Table Book. There will also be some History of the Stations, Station Keepers, Hostlers and the Riders.

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We have decided to stop the book and journey for the time being at Salt Lake City, UT for a couple of reasons;

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There are 3 more Divisions from Salt Lake City to St. Joseph Missouri. Lord Willing, we will make a book Two!

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