For centuries cattlemen have been marking their stock with hot irons pressed on the hide searing it to a beautiful golden brown color. When done right, brands peel off in about a month and what is left behind is a permanent mark that proves ownership of an animal. Brands are more than just a way of marking stock and showing ownership. Almost every rancher I know views their brand as a legacy, a symbol of quality, and something that will stand the test of time. Many brands are passed from generation to generation. Some brands are fancy and ornate, others simple and to the point.
Legacies are something that is hard to explain. They are a combination of pride, desire to improve on the existing, and a will to leave your own mark on history. Some of the oldest ranches in the United States have used the same brand since they were first founded. The brand is ultimately the logo for the ranch. It tells the world that the stock bearing the brand came from one particular ranch. This in and of itself is a huge sense of pride for us ranchers. We strive to constantly better our product through better genetics, better management, and better practices. It is the hope of most ranchers that we leave our operations better than when we started. For most of us, the legacy of our brands will be carried on by our children.
Riding for the brand is more than just a phrase to those of us here in the ranching world. If you work for a ranch, you are loyal to that brand. When you go out on the town, you conduct yourself in a manner that reflects well on the ranch. Riding for the brand is more than loyalty however, its your own personal character. Be true to your word, be kind to your neighbor and represent your own operation, or the ranch you work for, in the best way you can. You may not be a top hand with a rope, but if you go to a branding, there is plenty of work for everyone. The one who shows some manners and does any job that he is asked is likely to be asked back next time.
It will forever amaze me how many out there that have never owned a brand think that the best brands are the ones with lots of characters or symbols. Everyone has their own preference, but the best brands are the ones that are simple, can be drawn with one or two irons, and don’t take up much room on the animal. Brands with fancy elaborate details are likely to blotch, making them ineffective in their designed purpose. Keep your brand like you should keep your life, simple.
Both of my children have their own brand. As a parent it fills my heart to see them gleam with pride when we brand their calves come branding time. The brand that my wife and I use was given to me by my parents, handed down from an uncle of my grandma. Our brand is something that money cannot buy. Its years of family history and pride handed down from one generation to the next. It is my hope that my children will feel the same way about their brands that I do about mine.
In this age of constant change and progression, there are some things that I hope never change. I hope that brands are always a symbol of the west, a representation of honesty, integrity and grit, but mostly I hope when people look at a brand they see a legacy and tradition of hard work. That’s all for this week. Keep riding for the brand and keep tabs on your side of the Barbed Wire. God bless.
Meinzer is a fourth-generation rancher raised on the southeastern plains of Colorado. He and his family live and ranch in Oshkosh, Neb.