The Branding Pen
So, here we are gentle readers, it’s the Fourth of July. I am writing this prior to our celebration of independence, and I just suspect that I will not be as enthusiastic as normal. Why? I think you all know why. However, let me wish all of you a happy fourth, a safe and happy fourth with lots of family, friends, food and what not. Just don’t blow yer cotton pickin’ hand off and for sure, don’t start any prairie fires! With that said, let me move on to another subject, the branding pen.
Most, if not all of you that have cow/calf operations have branded already unless you calve in the fall. The branding pen can be a fun, comfortable place to be with family, friends and good neighbors to help you get another big chore out of the way. It can also be a “nitty, gritty, I wish we were done with this,” kind of day that you hoped wouldn’t happen. You know, hot, steamy, snotty cows, short of help, vaccine gun quit workin’ kind of morning with ropers that couldn’t catch a cold while naked in a snowstorm. I feel for the roper that just can’t catch a pair of heels if his life was threatened. I know, I have been that guy. You hate to see your friends reading the Denver Post while you are prowlin’ the calves tryin’ to find the perfect shot.
I have been to brandings where all of the cows were left with the calves in a not so large pen. I had hoped to get to drag a few to the fire, but our neighbor who was in his late 80s, on his old sorrel bronc roped every one. All 120-something. He just dropped a loop on their heads and drug them to us. Oh well, we did get it done and of course we were worn out from flanking those big ol’ soggy calves. They weren’t all big, but many were.
Then there was the time my boss told me to meet him at his banker’s place in the country. We were gonna’ help his banker brand his 20 or so calves. Those calves were soggy and full of snot and energy and they all weighed close to 400 pounds. Of course, the older, portly banker couldn’t heel one. Nope, he had to head them all and then let out a war hoop when he finally got one caught. I was in my 30s, it was hot, we were in a dusty pen full of hot sand on a July day. Romantic, NOPE!
There is always that guy that wants to come help you, he just doesn’t want to get off his horse. He’s a roper. “I rope”, that’s what I do. Guess what? He doesn’t get to rope unless he “rassels” his share. Most of the time he just loads his horse and goes home. I had a stranger ride up to our branding pen along the highway years ago when we were draggin’ calves to the fire. He was wearin’ short britches, sandles, a tee shirt and ball cap with sun glasses, of course. “Who’s the boss here?” he bellered. “I am, I snorted, what can we do for you?” Y’all need some help with draggin’ them calves to the fire?” he graciously offered. I looked him over once again and shot a quick look to my cowboy crew. Then I said, “sure, we can always use a good roper like you, but you will need to do your share of flankin’ these calves!” He balked somewhat and said, “nope, I don’t do that, I just rope’um.” with that he turned and rode off. What a jerk.
I have helped on places where they used a calf table and they are handy when you are short handed. It’s not nearly as much fun, but it will get the job done all the same.
I was invited years ago to help at one of Bob Norris’s brandings at Colorado Springs, Colo. Lots of calves, lots of folks as he invited anyone and everyone to come, if not to help, to watch and to eat. Folks, this was a big deal. If I remember correctly, there were five or six ground crews and of course that many ropers at one time.
There was a lot of dust, a lot of cowboy humor and a lot of calves gettin’ branded in a short amount of time.
Bob, if you remember, was one of the original Malboro cowboys. However, he quit smoking when one of his friends died from lung cancer. That’s what I remember being told back then. Bob was a wonderful man, a great cowboy, horseman, humanitarian, and a wonderful story teller. They named their rodeo arena there in the Springs after him. He had two large ranches in the area.
I miss those days in the branding pen. I watched as my 8-year-old son, Andy, drag his first calve to the fire on Flax, his big sorrel horse with the flaxen mane and tale. His little sister, Sunni, roped her first calf in the branding pen, but she was a foot. They are in their 50s now! WHAT? Where did the time go? I have stored so many memories of those good ol’ cowboy days when the kids were little and so wish I could go back and relive them at some point.
It’s summer, it’s hot, it’s dry. I’m runnin’ out of grass and if it doesn’t rain this weekend, the cows I have on my place will have to find another home. That’s ranching, that’s life, the good, the bad and the ugly. But ya know what? It has always been worth it and always will be. I will bring you up to date on the new calendars in the near future.
Stay tuned, check yer cinch on occasion, remember to hang and rattle, and I’ll c. y’all, all y’all.
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