Fort Collins, Colo.
About a month ago, I made a long trip to the southern part of Colorado, sure that I would be getting a job with the Colorado Brand Board as a Brand Inspector. Surely I could pass the test. Haven’t I been reading brands all my life? What could be so tough about a test where I had to identify brands on cattle?”
Boy was I wrong. It was a long round trip ” about 600 miles ” and fuel prices were going out of sight. I was out of a job and money was tight, as with most of the folks I know, but I was willing to take that gamble. After all, it would be a good job and one I could enjoy. Therefore, I gambled the $500 for fuel, lodging and meals. Loaded my bedroll, a little food, and my buddy (a Border Collie/Blue heeler cross named Blaze) in the truck and headed south so I would be refreshed the next day for the test.
Before leaving, I called my friends Paul and Linda Scholtz who live outside of Boone, Colo., to see if I could camp at their house for the night. I wanted to catch up on some visiting since I had not seen them for over a year. However, Paul called me back a few hours later and told me they were in Kansas, conducting a Cowboy Church at the Rodeo Finals.
Then I called Mike and Myra McArthur and they promised a reunion with the family. But a few days later Mike called back and said Myra had a horse training session to go to down in Texas and they would not be there at that time.
I should have gotten the hint that maybe it was not right for me to make the trip, but the old cowboy determination kicked in and I was going to make the trip anyway. Then I thought of my old friends Gail and Millie Allen who live on a ranch down there. When I called, Millie told me they were having a Cowboy Church service that night at the sale barn in La Junta. She said they had a house full at the ranch but would put me up on a couch at the ranch when it was over. However, she said they lived about 20 miles out of town and wouldn’t get home until about 10 o’clock.
I enjoyed the visit with Millie and Gail and enjoyed Cowboy Church. To my surprise the bleachers at the sale barn were packed with folks who enjoy cowboy church as much as I do. Then about 9 o’clock I found a motel, fixed a bed for my buddy, Blaze, and went to bed.
The next morning I met a rancher, Doyle Irvine, from Norwood, Colo., who shipped his yearlings to the La Junta sale barn because he said they could get a better price. He advised that it cost him 2 cents a pound to ship them and they made anywhere from 5 to 10 cents a pound more. He said the reason was that there are more feed lots in La Junta than on the western slope. We stood and talked for almost an hour and I learned a lot about this man’s life and was impressed.
Oh, how did I do on my test? Well I failed to pass, only identifying four out of the seven brands correctly. They were so shaggy that I couldn’t read the brands, and I think the only way to read them was to feel them, but we were told we could not touch the cattle. Actually only two out of 22 passed. I, along with several others, felt it was set up to fail most of us.
Oh well … I guess you can’t win ’em all, but it was an interesting trip.
Roger Thompson is a CHA certified instructor of advanced Western horsemanship and beginning English riding.
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.