Olympic National Park’s mule packer Boone Jones, right, shows Back Country Horsemen’s Mount Olympus Chapter members Rochelle Sutherland, Penny Doan and Curtis Wright how to make rope baskets out of old lariats during the group’s monthly meeting and potluck dinner. (Karen Griffiths/for Peninsula Daily News)

Olympic National Park’s mule packer Boone Jones, right, shows Back Country Horsemen’s Mount Olympus Chapter members Rochelle Sutherland, Penny Doan and Curtis Wright how to make rope baskets out of old lariats during the group’s monthly meeting and potluck dinner. (Karen Griffiths/for Peninsula Daily News)

HORSEPLAY: Weaving baskets and friendships together

AN INVITATION TO learn how to make my own basket from an old lariat sounded too good to pass up.

So that is why — in spite of last Monday evening’s pouring rain — I went to the Mount Olympus Chapter of Back Country Horseman’s monthly meeting at the former Elwha schoolhouse.

A lariat is a loop of rope designed as a restraint to be thrown around a target and tightened when pulled.

The word is also a verb; to lasso is to throw the loop of rope around something. It’s always made from stiff rope so the noose stays open when thrown.

Member Boone Jones (Olympic National Park’s official mule packer) was there to teach the basket making.

Entering the wooden building I felt a soul-warming heat radiate from a big wood-burning cook stove, the building’s only source of heat.

To my left were a bunch of folk in groups of three or four sitting around tables exchanging ideas and swapping horse stories.

“Just like the good ol’ days,” I thought. “Before the internet, video games, social media and binge-watching television turned much of society into isolationists.”

Sherry Baysinger caught sight of me and rescued me from my own thoughts as she welcomed me into the kitchen to share their potluck dinner centered around chili and cornbread.

Dave Seibel brought me up to date on he and wife Becky’s saga of a well running dry at their Spirit Horse Ranch, and then having to install new pumps in two wells, and needing to dig the trenches to run about 475 feet of water pipes and electrical wiring lines.

Phew! That’s a lot of work!

My interest turned to where Jones was leaning over the worn-out old wooden kitchen table showing Curtis Wright how to form a basket by winding the rope into continuous, regularly spaced rings and then use a wood burning tool to melt the nylon rope just enough to adhere to the adjoining layer.

While everyone there was making baskets from waxed nylon lariats, any type of rope or cord could be used.

Nylon is a plastic made of synthetic materials that can be processed into different shapes and textures. It can be melted and melded together by lightly touching it with a hot metal-tipped wood-burning tool.

Thick cotton piping cord is best stuck together with hot glue.

Weaving varying sizes and types of rope, ribbon, thread and the like adds even greater variety.

Sabrina Meyer said she and daughter Lily Meyer thought it would make a nice feature to take a little bit of hair from her horse’s tail and attach it to where the rope ended to hang down over the shelf below. Her words started my own creative juices flowing about the type and features of a catch-all basket I could make.

Certainly making the baskets seemed easy enough, but I knew to keep the loops even and tight would take a lot of practice and patience.

I’d always assumed lariats were made from waxed cotton, and said so to Baysinger.

“Lariats these days are made of waxed nylon rope. Cotton rope won’t stay stiff enough,” she said.

“Nylon? That’s not that old of a product, so what did the cowboys use before that?”

“Leather was one,” she said, “Like braided rawhide. You can still find them but they are expensive.”

Later Jones told me nylon was a better product to use for roping because it had greater stopping power than the rawhide, which also broke down quickly.

I mentioned to Baysinger there was a good turnout that night considering the bad weather. Glancing around she mentioned most were members, but she saw a few unfamiliar faces.

“Everyone’s welcome to come to our meetings, the more the merrier,” she said, turning her ever-ready warm smile my way.

Mule team packer

Being an old cowboy, Jones knows a little something of just about everything and a little nothing of most everything else.

Since 2014, he’s worked as ONP’s mule team packer. He takes in teams of mules wearing thoughtfully balanced packs filled with tools, supplies and equipment throughout the park’s 600-mile wilderness trail system for park projects and other expeditions.

A seasonal job, he lives locally four to five months a year and then spends the remaining months at home in Montana with his wife of 43 years.

Of his home he says, “It’s not big enough to make a living at, but it’s just big enough to work you to death taking care of it.”

He said he usually spends winters making a couple of saddles, working with his colts and taking care of calves for another guy.

He started making saddles as a hobby during high school in Montana, which is where he met his wife.

He said he enjoys the fact they are both ropers and handy cowhands.

With a sly smile and a quick shrug of his shoulders he shared the secret to his long-lasting marriage: “Well, we got married because we like being together.”


At 7 p.m. Nov. 8 in the Tri-Area Community Center, 10 West Valley Road, Chimacum, Buckhorn Range Chapter of Backcountry Horsemen will host Daniel Heaton, the technical services manager for the library.

Are there any equestrians, hikers and bikers who want to explore GPS tracking apps?

Heaton will review various apps available, including Earthmate, Ranger and the MapMyRun/ride/walk/hike apps.

For more information, contact Juelie Dalzell at gobi@olympus.net.


Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at kbg@olympus.net at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.

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