Roger Thompson: Horsin’ Around 17-7-11
Fort Collins, Colo.
The other day I was asked by my friend Jarred Flores to come to a branding. Now I haven’t been riding my new little mare all winter, nor summer (why I don’t know). So I explained to him that I would not be bringing her to the branding. I thought it was going to be a normal branding with a squeeze chute. That means loading yearlings into a corral, running them down an alley, forcing them into the squeeze chute and working them the way every one does it today. It saves time and uses fewer cowboys.
That way is the way most folks work their cattle today. It takes fewer men and gets finished a lot quicker than the old fashion way of branding. Jarred explained where his place was and told me the time. He said he lives east of Eaton but I turned off at Ault and spent a good half hour looking for the trucks. Finally realizing I had turned off at the wrong place and almost getting stuck I found where I was supposed to be and went right to work.
I love the old way of branding and working cattle. But it takes a lot longer, especially when the calves are not separated form the cows. There were five cowboys horse back and they formed a half circle around the cows. The cattle were herded into a V shaped corner of the fence. Not like working out in the open where you have to have enough cowboys horse back to hold the herd but using the fence to hold.
Then the rest of the cowboys fan out on the open side. When one rider spots a calf that needs branding, he rides in slowly and dabs a loop over the calf’s neck or picks up two back legs with a heel loop and drags him to the branding fire. If the calf is not down a cowboy must get off his horse and tail the calf over. The heel rope is put over the two legs and the head rope is put over the two front legs. This holds the calf stretched out so an iron can be put on the side and a brand can be applied. Then if the calf is a bull calf, he must be castrated and swabbed with disinfectant before turned loose. Many times calves are given shots at this point.
This is the same procedure if using a squeeze chute but this was the only way it could be done in the old days before chutes were invented. It takes longer but is more fun that running them through a chute. The biggest problem is that we no longer have to rope as much and do not have the skills with the rope to be fast. The use of a rawhide reata (Spanish word for rope) was what was used in the old days and now can be purchased in saddle stores. However it takes many hours of practice to be good with it. It is soft and must be swung with a large loop when roping.
Personally, when heeling, I like a stiffer rope so the loop will stay open until I jerk the slack. Problem is that for this kind of roping, the heel ropes they now sell are too short for this type of roping. Not giving you time to dally around the saddle horn. But it is still a bunch of fun and gives you a chance to work on your skills.
Prior to his retirement, Roger Thompson was a CHA certified instructor of advanced Western horsemanship and beginning English riding.
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