Branding the calves is always a great time of year. There’s the mounted help, the ropers, the cowboys.
Annnnnnd there’s the ground crew. That is, in fact, me wielding the branding iron. This year I succumbed to the pressure to learn a job a swore I would never do, brand the calves with a searing hot iron. Don’t get me wrong, I know it has to be done, I just don’t want to be the one doing it. There’s something almost artistic in the way different ranchers approach branding their cattle, how they walk up, take their stance, angle the iron just perfectly, and press down, hold for a count, then lift up to inspect the job. I am sure this year’s batch of calves are sporting the ugliest, most sloppy brands of any we’ve every raised.
When I mentioned the act of branding as a form of artistic display, Mr. Rancher replied that ear-marking was actually more of an art. Strange to think of any sort of animal husbandry as artistic or creative…only truly amateur connoisseurs of art (such as myself) would think so. Or perhaps I’m improving my ability to find beauty and grace whatever the situation around me, I’ll let you decide.
Either way, I really don’t want to learn ear-marking. Which is why I will never voluntarily or intentionally carry a pocket-knife to a branding.
As you can see, our ground crew this year consisted of Mr. Rancher and a bunch of women/girls/babies. My niece Megan was the best innoculator this side of the Rockies and asked a million questions about the cows and calves. She’s fascinated with animals and a hard worker making her a pro-branding-hand. My sis-in-law Lexcie, my branding bud for life, stepped in to help any way she was needed. She’s a peach and always will be in my book.
Say what you will about equality of the sexes, females simply are not equipped to throw steers and heifers to the ground in the same effortless way males are. Point of fact, I had to throw down many of our calves (another first time experience) and I was dog-tired by the end of the day, not to mention much slower and clumsier than my husband at the work. Most of the time, Lexcie and I had to both work the calf together in order to get it secured on the ground, while Mr. Rancher handled even the largest ones all on his own. True, my hubby is a manly-man and tough-as-nails and super-strong and a-really-hard-worker and all that masculine jazz, but you know what? Lexcie and I are pretty tough too, and we still couldn’t keep up. Next year, I’m advocating for more men on the ground crew!
Miss Becca was a champion branding-buddy for 3.67 minutes. About as long as it takes to snap two photos in the melee of the branding pen.
Don’t I look like such a bad*** ranch mama? It’s all a show, folks. All a show. This blog, though based on our real life, only shows snippets and snapshots, not the whole picture. The reality is that my gracious sister spent most of the day caring for my baby and pre-schooler while I worked with Mr. Rancher. There is simply no way I could have done both and I’m so grateful my sister was there to fill the gap. She’s a good sport and a generous soul.
Here’s the kid-crew. These
monsters I mean munchkins had a grand day of exploring, playing, and even fighting.
My curly locks and cousin Cambree (in the red shirt) had a knock-down-drag-out-fist-fight over a football. Neither girl was seriously injured, neither girl ended up crying, and neither girl was ready to stop the brawl until Grandma pulled the two apart. Tough cookies that simply don’t have an ounce of “give-up” between their two little bodies. They’re really the best of friends…and maybe it’s healthy to have a sparring buddy…ya know, to get rid of pent up aggression in a healthy, supervised manner…maybe???
At the end of the day, branding brings together so many people and requires input from everyone to get the job done. Cowboys to rope, ground crew to brand, camera crew (Thanks, Liz!) to capture the memories, kids to entertain and teach, family to cook, help, care for kids, rancher to make the whole thing happen, and so on and on.
I sure do love my crew, cowboys, ropers, ground-workers, Mr. Rancher, sisters, munchkins, cousins, in-laws and all. Don’t know what I’d do without ’em.