Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My First Branding

I would like to recount to you the tale of my first branding. Not many people can probably remember their first branding. Because, let's face it, if you haven't been branding for so long that you can't remember your first one, then you probably won't ever go to a branding. I, however, do not fall into this category. I remember my first branding as clear as day. Probably because that was the day my hopes and dreams of my parents' wild west ranching experience just being a phase were lost. Completely lost. They were serious about all this ranching stuff, and were dragging me along with them.

So in late spring of my eight grade year, we went to a neighbors branding. These folks are from Minnesota as well so they sort of took my family under their wing for a while. At most brandings you show up early and gather cows, but at this time my horse and I weren't on speaking terms so I decided the safest thing would be to not ride. Anyway, I didn't want to embarrass myself at my first branding by rounding up the wrong way!! I laugh just thinking of a time when I didn't know how to gather cows. Sometimes I wish I could pretend I don't know how. Riding in rough country still is not my favorite, so I usually have some sort of engagement or a disagreement with my horse when I'm asked to do so. Anywho, I showed up at the branding with my mom and sister just as the others were bringing the cows into the corral. My dad and brothers were a little more gung ho about gathering so they had gone along and helped. Sometime around this time I got handed a vaccine gun and a wax marker and was told to vaccinate. Oh, great. Now I just knew I was gonna stab someone or hurt a calf. Possibly both. After the guys had sorted off most of the mother cows is when the complete and utter confusion began. There were horses trotting by, guys wrestling, other people vaccinating, my sister ear tagging along with the daughter who lived on the ranch, bull calves being cut, and calves being, believe it or not, branded! So now I was not only worried about the pain my little tiny needle was inflicting on these calves, but also the pain they experienced when they were wrestled, dragged, cut, poked with another needle, ear tagged, and branded. Now I realize as long as everything is done properly, the calf will suffer the least amount of pain, which will probably only last a minute or two. I was doing pretty well vaccinating, but a friend of mine was not doing so well wrestling. He had wrestled the head of a calf and I ducked down to vaccinate the calf in it's front arm pit. Just as I pushed the needle in, the calf kicked, my friend let go of the leg, and I got kicked straight in the nose. Now I lean way out when vaccinating a calf he wrestles, just for good measure. Oh, and the smell. At a branding there is always a slight aroma of cow poop with the smoky smell of searing flesh. This smell made me almost nauseas at my first branding, but now it smells like summertime and a sense of community.

Since that first branding, I've learned to actually mix my own vaccine (it's harder than it looks), ear tag, and even wrestle. I can't believe there was a time when I had no idea what a branding was, but I'm glad I do now. I can't imagine a year of my life without at least one branding, and I hope I never have to know what that's like. I always look forward to branding season and I'm looking forward to my family's branding on Friday. I will take pictures and post about each job and the reasoning for everything sometime this weekend.

1 comment:

  1. "I laugh just thinking of a time when I didn't know how to gather cows. Sometimes I wish I could pretend I don't know how"

    Really enjoyed reading and I know the feeling.