Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An Evolving Tradition

May arrives with a bustle of activity every year.  Calving season is winding down and crops are going in to the ground.  Inevitably, a rain storm hits and puts the brakes on the tractors for a few days.  With field work grinding to a halt (not that there has been much of that anyway with this extraordinarily wet spring),  a good day for a branding of the calves arises.  Branding is the same from year to year:  the herd is rounded up, calves are sorted off and tended to, and the pairs are parceled off to their respective pastures for the summer.
Yes, while the end result was the same and many of the sights and sounds were the same as they've been for the last 100 years of modern life in the west, some things for our family were different.  For Danish Cowboy, it started off with his mode of transportation.  Red Feather still had a bit of spring in his belly and rounding up the cattle was a bit more of an adventure with his new mount.  Joe, his pensioned horse who has racked up 27 years of life, seemed to enjoy watching the events from the sidelines.
Green horses and enthusiastic dogs don't mix, however.  Poor Tucker got in trouble and was sent home for a brief cool down period.
Argo also had to stay home because he tends to act more like a jackass than a horse when other horses that he is unfamiliar with are around.
So the kids, dogs, extra horses, and I hung out in our yard to watch the roundup festivities.  We had work to do anyway, what with all the equipment that mysteriously got stuck in the mud while I wasn't looking.
The cattle did eventually get rounded up and sorted off and the branding began.  (Note the oddball face in this crowd.  Even cattle have fidelity issues:  the neighboring hereford bull must have been visiting for a few days.)  Manpower requirements were significantly reduced this year as a crowding tub had been installed and a branding table had been purchased.  The crowding tub works well with the cattle psyche as the animals are constantly moving in a circular direction, allowing  us to get them where they need to be safely and quietly.
The branding table also helps to reduce the stress.  As far back as Danish Cowboy can remember, the calves were wrestled to the ground in small pens to get the tasks associated with branding accomplished.  The branding table/miniature squeeze chute was a major change for us.  While it took away from the traditional atmosphere of branding since a large crowd was not required to get the job done, it made life a little less stressful for everyone involved.

Of course, there were a few calves that were too small to successfully hold them on the table so they were caught and branded the traditional way.  It was a good refresher for Danish Cowboy to have to wrestle a calf to the ground:  it's usually a sport for high school boys but even the young at heart an play once in a while.
Some things never change, though.  The mama cows still voiced their disapproval and worry.
And the babies quickly found their comfort with mama after the job was done.

No one knows how life will change and traditions such as branding will evolve over the next few years.  But if my little people have anything to do with it, they'll be right in the mix trying to do their part.  It was pretty tough explaining to a three year old that he couldn't round cows up on his bike.  "Give it a few years, little buddy," we told him.  Then we can all mount up together.

1 comment:

  1. love reading your blog! ;-) what a WONDERFUL life you have out west there!