Gidgit Newcomer — new to ranching country — inquired as to the reason for branding animals. I believe in educating the uninformed so I attempted an explanation.
I mentioned that the obvious reason is to identify them as belonging to a particular ranch. I explained that branding is usually done on young critters. I pointed out that a calf brand is a scorch job while a lamb brand is a paint job. I elucidated that a piglet gets it’s ears notched. I declared that chicks wear cute little plastic circles on their legs — after they’ve emerged from the eggs of course. I stated that branding an egg would be a losing proposition unless one is making an omelet.
I made clear that branding adult poultry is seldom attempted as the procedure tends to shorten a chicken’s life plus the smell of burning feathers is really offensive. (In “olden” days if one fell over in a faint, a medic might burn a feather and wave it under one’s nose. The acrid stink supposedly would rouse the passed-out person).
Gidgit Newcomer wanted to know how brands are constructed and why there’s such a variety and how in the world does one “read” a brand?
I took a deep breath and offered a short course in: The Art of Brand Reading 101. I expounded that one reads a brand from left to right if the marks line up side by side. Read from the top to bottom if the marks are stacked in a column, and from the outside to the inside if the brand has a circle or square or diamond enclosing a letter or number.
Style wise, one can have a letter, number or mark “tumble” which merely means it tilts sideways as if about to fall over. To illustrate further, consider the letter “R.” It can be “lazy,” or reversed (printed backward), or flying (if there’s little “wings” sticking off it). If it’s got weensy “feet” slanting up off the lower edges, it’s “walking.” If it’s sitting on a quarter circle, it’s “rocking”. If it’s drifting above the quarter circle but not joined to it, that would make it R Quarter Circle. If the quarter circle is above the R and attached to it, that makes it Swinging R. However, if there’s a gap between the quarter circle and the R, it’s read as Quarter Circle R.
By now Gidgit Newcomer was completely confused and I hadn’t even mentioned bars, slashes, diamonds, half diamonds, goose eggs, rafters, picture brands, running irons or how rustlers operate.
Unfazed, Gidgit inquired as to how brands are created in the first place. I took another deep breath and advised her that a brand design is limitless if one owns a wide-ranging imagination. I further counseled that one’s initials can be formed into a brand.
“For instance, Gidgit,” I declared, “take G N, your very own initials. If you created G N—, that would be called G N Bar. If you put the G inside a circle followed by N, you’d be saying Circle G N. Or if you made it G forward slash N, you’d have to call it G Slash N. Put the G first followed by a Bar and you’d be reading it as G Bar N. You’d still have G Bar N if you stacked the G at top, Bar below and N below the Bar. (Reading from the top down).
Of course if you wanted something a bit fancier, you might try G followed by a Bar followed by laying the N on its side resulting in G Bar Lazy N. And if you really wanted to go crazy, tilt the G to the right followed by the Bar followed by the lazy N. Voila! You’ve created Tumbling G Bar Lazy N.
With admiring words Gidgit praised my vast “expertise,” so I told her to come back tomorrow for The Art of Brand Reading 102. ❖