Stories

Well, branding went just peachy!  No one got hurt, we had plenty of food and drink, it was a cool, overcast day, and the rain started after lunch!  We were a little short on help since it was on a Wednesday, but the 21 people who were there stepped it up and handled things well.  We had planned on branding, eating lunch, and then finish branding, but with rain clouds looming we branded everything  and just ate later.  Which left me with enough food to feed more people, but that was the original intention.

Thanks to .6 inch of rain yesterday, we virtually had the day off, although cleaning up after branding is still a chore.  Daniel and Vernon went to Frannie, Wyoming and bought Daniel a new saddle… He has been riding his grandfather’s old one, but it needed serious repair, and so they decided to purchase a new Billy Cook.  Daniel rode it today, but was not impressed, guess it needs some serious breaking in…

Today we sorted off different pairs out of the branding bunch to go different directions with different bulls.  We sent 55 green tags to the upper end of Violet’s, 49 Y8’s to the feed grounds, and Vernon, Daniel, and Shelley gathered the Joe Henry Allottment.  We still have to take the Y8’s to the Mills place.  We have yellow tags to take to the Richie pasture.  We have other green tags to put in the horse pasture.  Sigh.

But let me entertain you with the story of Daniel and the bull’s tail.  The day I spent cooking for branding, they had to move some pairs down to the branding corral.  As they went along, two bulls got in a fight and Daniel took down his rope to break them up.  Using the end (not where the loop is), Daniel proceeded to beat as hard as possible on one bull to distract him and make him quit fighting the other bull.  Somehow his rope got tangled in the hair on the bull’s tail and wouldn’t come loose!  He dropped his end and followed the bull.  Shelley rides up and Daniel gets off his horse, grabs his rope and hands it to her to dally up.  She does, turns her horse, and tries to pull the rope off.  But poor Shelley and her horse just end up getting dragged backwards as the bull isn’t stopping… he has quit fighting the other bull, but is now determined to leave the country!  It was quite the picture, I guess, Shelley pulling on one end of the rope, the bull pulling on the other end.  Now Vernon appears on the scene.  He proposes cutting the bull’s tail… the end is just long hair, so they regroup.  Daniel is still on the ground, pulling on his rope.  Shelley dallies up again.  They both pull on the rope as hard as they can.  Vernon bails off his horse with pocket knife in hand.  One swipe of his sharp knife and Daniel is on his back with his feet in the air, but his rope now unattached to the bull.  Daniel is unhurt, but shocked his Dad’s knife was that sharp – he assumed a couple of swipes or some sawing would have to take place, but it sure didn’t!  The entire time the bull didn’t stop.  Thank goodness he never went on the fight with them.

Whew…

The view from above…Elsa rests at my feet during a break on a long day of gathering.  Never far from where I am, this is typical Elsa.  If I’m on horseback, she’s at my horse’s back end on the left side…95% of the time.  I didn’t teach her that, maybe that’s where the shade always was!  Note the dirty poo on the side of her head.  She had to roll in some fresh green, maybe it helped cool her off!  I worried about her some… it was fairly warm and it’d been a while since we found water.  But we had a break and we went chasing a mud puddle, which she was very thrilled to lay in and drink!  All my dogs have a great fondness for K9 Restart – a doggie gatorade that I pack along.

Go lay down!  After we’ve gathered a section of pasture, we all meet at the sorting grounds.  There we pair up each ranch’s cattle and send them different directions.  Oftentimes it looks like mass chaos…riders cutting mothered pairs out of the herd, some riders turning back those that want to leave the bunch, but don’t have their calves with them.  Other people just work to keep the herd together.  It is during this time that the command of “Go lay down” is used.  Lucas has that one down pat.  He’ll search for a quieter area and try to find some shade.  Obviously he didn’t find much this time!  Sometimes a cowboy will trail a pair very close to Lucas and not see him.  From somewhere Lucas hears me say “Stay”… and though temptation is there to chase the cow and calf, he does behave and the pair is cut away from the herd.  Elsa is better if I take her somewhere and down her and then tell her stay.  “Go lay down” is too much of a command for her to hear and she often turns her head away from me, signalling I was too loud or demanding.  But I wonder sometimes why cows and calves are watching me so intently… I look down, back, and to my left and there sits Elsa…who broke her stay and just *had* to help me out!   

Reality

For every person that watched Roy Rogers or Clint Eastwood or Robert Fuller or Lee Horsely and thought, wow, I wanna grow up to be a cowboy… the shine wore off of the romantic version today.  We fought hard today to get 175 pairs out of the badlands.  We are exhausted, sweaty, sore, and in a foul mood.  This pasture is a big one, 12 miles to the backside which is where we started today.  The grass looks gorgeous this year thanks to all the rain… the unfortunate byproduct of that is the cows are happy and not thrilled to be forced to leave a lush pasture with plenty of water.  So they take two steps and stop and eat.  And you ride by and yell, and they take two steps and stop and eat.  So you turn your horse or sic your dog on them and they run 3 steps and stop and eat.  We left home at 7 this morning and arrived home at 6.30 pm.  Do not try to make me laugh, my sense of humor is gone.  Do not try to do anything but be sympathetic, or give me a backrub, or help me with supper since what I put in the crockpot burned before we got home.  Let me take a shower, go to bed, and I’ll be fine in the morning.  We ride again tomorrow, we are short 8 pairs.

First day

Though this week has been a busy one, today’s job was our first day of gathering in our “badlands” pasture, and it has been a long day.  Gone are the days when we woke up at 3 AM to eat a hearty breakfast and we were on horseback riding out before the sunrise.  Now we leave home at 7 AM and haul out in our horsetrailer.  The pasture looks terrific, all this rain has the ground saturated and grass growing everywhere.  We all went today, Johnny, Vernon, Victoria, Daniel, Brandon, me, Lucas, Elsa, Boomer and Bob.  Well, ok, Dally got left at home, but I’m just wanting to have more of a handle on her than exists at this moment!  We made it home at 3:30…and were very grateful I had thrown a roast in the crockpot.  After a break for lunch we all went our different ways to continue a day of work until dark.  We’ll continue this the next couple of days as well.  Take a break, giving me enough time to shop and cook and then we’ll brand again on Wednesday.  I’ll try to pack a camera and take a few shots tomorrow for sharing.  Drifter comes home tomorrow as well, and that is a story for another day.

Branding

   

Some of the girls on the crew…………………………………….some of the guys………………………………………

Our first branding of the year took place last Saturday.  Branding is a stressful day.  For my husband, he has to gather cattle, branding supplies (vaccine, medicine, barrels, irons, wood, and all the little details) and arrrange the time and place for friends, neighbors, and family to show.  For me, I have to worry about feeding 30+ people.  We seem to invite more than 30 people…but it has averaged about 25 people who show.  Then you have to take into account the weather…if it’s hot, are you going to run out of drink?  And those unexpected guests or no-shows.  We now have a nice large shop building and therefore electricity close to our branding corral.  Back in the day, we branded on the mountain, having to reheat or cook on a campstove or fire…and we were an hour from home if we forgot something!  Now it seems so much easier.  This year I voted for lasagna…  I had escaped from home for a quick trip to Casper and Torrington the days before, and lasagna sounded easy enough to feed the people.  Now I have never fed lasagna at branding before, and was a little unsure of the amount necessary for 30 people.  But lasagna, garlic toast, salad, orange jello salad (my kids’ favorite), and desserts sounded good.  Until Daniel says: “That’s all you’re making? I can eat most of that by myself!”  I should have slapped him…  but the seed was planted and I got nervous.  How much will all those teenage boys eat????  My mom suggested serving the lasagna myself to control portions…but I went with the approach of putting all the other food first, and leaving the lasagna last in line… It worked and the 26 people who ate finished just over half of what I had prepared.  Daniel had made me paranoid for no reason!  The branding itself went well.  We had three new people come with a neighbor…they travel around the country and put on horse clinics with Buck Brannamen and on their own.  Rick and Sara were good hands, and her dad Jim was fascinated by the branding.  Jim was from Baltimore, and had never experienced the old fashioned kind of branding.  Most people have switched to using a branding table – capturing each calf individually by running them through a chute and then squeezing them and flipping them on their sides.  It is much less labor intensive.  We prefer the old way.  A cedar wood fire, metal irons in the fire, two ropers who rope the calves by the heels and drag them to the fire where a pair of “wrestlers” grab, flip, and hold the calf who then gets branded and vaccinated.  Though we worry about weather, workers, food, and drink…branding for us is also a fun time.  Neighbors helping neighbors.  Kids learning from parents and grandparents.  Stories being told.  Hard work followed by good food.  Now we get to do it all over again in a week or so when we do a larger bunch of calves.  What will I stress over next time?  I don’t know… I haven’t decided what to cook yet!!!