Honestly, who could stay away from a dirty, smoky day where the coffee is made before the sun has risen and the burrito in your pocket won’t last until 7:45 in the morning. The kind of day to saddle up that bridle horse or the itchin’ to be froggy, colt. Where the possibility of forcefully kissing the ground, without a desire to, is just as high as the odds of the 8-year-old neighbor boy out-roping you. Exactly the kind of place to feel excited about the days work ahead, knowing that at some point you’ll either make the cut to neck a few or get to spend the day as ground crew.
For most of the folks in the area, branding is a spring event. Everyone starts the day out gathering up the pairs of mama cows with their zestful spring calves. Riding through the canyons, high desert, volcanic rock fields just to push the cattle down the unpaved dirt road that leads to the corrals. Branding is a form of identification for cattle, that dates back further than Bonanza and The Lone Ranger . It is the act of making an impression of an allocated design on cattle, to be traced back to the owner.
Once the cows and calves are separated out, the calves are typically roped by the head and heels and brought to the branding fire. At the fire, the calves get branded with the owners brand. Then, they get an ear tag or ear notch that serves as another form of identification, bull calves get castrated and supplements are given. The calves are released and back out on the range to be comforted by mom. Branding not only serves as a functional way to identify calves, but it gives the rancher a closer look at cow-calf pairs that have been away on range.
Branding season gives cowboys hope to make it through the cold winter months of calving season. Dreaming of the day surrounded by friends and good company, hitting the backhand shot they practiced all winter long and getting to see the hard work of the winter pay off.
If I had a penny for my thoughts,
October 27, 2020