Born in the southeastern Idaho town of Grace, Dale Harwood grew up on a ranch and as a young man he worked on the family ranch, as did most local youth of his generation. In addition to tending livestock, he learned to repair tack and saddles. He traveled in the region as a buckaroo and rodeo contestant, and it was during this time he began to appreciate the value of good gear, realizing that a desirable saddle must combine beautiful design and perfect fit. Harwood opened a saddle shop in Idaho Falls in 1961 and then later moved it to his home in Shelley. Soon his work was in high demand, as working cowboys recognized the fact that he gave attention to every step of the creation of a saddle - processing his own rawhide; making his own saddle trees; cutting, stamping, and applying the leather to the tree; and designing and engraving his silver finishes. Cowboy artist Joe Beeler praises Harwood's leather stamping work as unique because he first constructs a saddle and then "gives it life." Harwood became a co-founder of the Traditional Cowboy Arts Association, a group of master artists who display their work each year at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. In 1997, he received the Best of Show Award, voted by saddlemaking peers, at the Western Folklife Center's saddle exhibition Saddle Up! A Renaissance in Leather.
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