Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Branding

It was 6am. Time to rise and shine. The Irrigator was already out getting his work done. I was needing to throw myself together and make sure that everything was ready. When The Irrigator got home we pulled the Sleepy Baby out of his crib and put him in the truck in his pjs. He was going to Grammy and Papa's to play with Lil' Miss while we went to The Branding.

Here is what the Sleepy Baby looked like in the car. What a sight!
Now when we were driving The Hubby and I were having a nice conversation about various issues in life. We turned off the highway to Dad's and it was like the instant we crossed the property line something snapped. The Hubby immediately turned into The Intense Branding Cowboy. His foot became weighed down with some sort of rare Cowboy Testosterone and the truck bulleted down the dirt road. This Energy came spilling out and he began to give me instructions, "Okay, when I pull up and stop the truck we're going to jump out and start running for the fence." Whoa there Intense Branding Cowboy, did you just say I am going to RUN?
Then he proceeded to explain to me that they were rounding up the cows and calves in the field ahead and it looked like they needed our help. As we neared I could see the dust swirling around in the field and realized that was a group of 400 animals and 5 people on ATVs running in circles. The Intense Branding Cowboy could spot this a mile down the road. It took me quite a while to see what was going on. And then...the truck stopped.
And we jumped out and ran like we were Britney Spears being chased by the paparazzi through the field, over one barbed wire fence, down the creek bank, over the creek bed, up the other side, over another barbed wire fence, and into the pasture. Whew. I think we must be faster than Britney because she gets caught by the paparazzi a whole lot more than we would have been.
And then we stood there and froze for five minutes while we waited for the circle of dust to actually get into the pasture we were in. It took a while to get all of the cows and calves into the corrals but we did. At this point I was able to go get my camera and shoot a few pictures. That didn't last very long cause around here you work...and shooting pictures isn't working. So I was assigned to a duty of keeping the sorted cows from getting back into the corral with their bawling babes.
Sorting is an art. As I was able to escape the work and watch from the camera on a fence I was in awe of the art and skill that this takes. First, you have a bunch of riled up cows and their few-month-old babies in a small area. The trick is to get all of the moms to leave through a gate and keep all of their babies behind. It looks like this:
A few trusty folks keep the majority of the herd back from the side of the corral with the open gate. This trusty folks happen to be the awesome hands at Dad's place. They are both pictured here. My brother-in-law was the Master Sorter for a while. He would literally "face off" with any calf trying to leave the corral as huge mamas went running past him to escape through the gate. This is a brave, skilled art. And the white sorting stick in his hand was his only tool besides his own two feet!

The Intense Branding Cowboy, aka My Hubby, was the trusty Gate Keeper to back up the Master Sorter. Any time the Sorter might lose a "face off" the Gate Keeper was there as a last resort to stop the calf. You have to be brave and quick with great eyes for this task!

My father-in-law is helping get animals up for the Master Sorter to sort.
It was intense.

At this point I put away the camera and had to get to work. The entire process of peeling off 198 calves from their mamas took over an hour. Finally we were ready to start The Branding.

I want to pause for a moment here and give you the opportunity out of the rest of this post. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of branding or seeing photos of painful but important things quickly being done to baby calves then I would encourage you to skip the following.

But for the rest of you...here we go!

I didn't get SUPER photos although many turned out fine. I was unable to give much attention to picture taking because I did have a very important job. And we don't mess around in these parts with getting a job done. No lolly-gagging with this outfit! We work. We work hard. And we don't pittle fart around (as the Intense Branding Cowboy might tell you any day of the week)! The pictures I was able to catch were taken in the frenzy of a few moments here and there.

All together we worked 199 calves. We were done by 3:30 and took a nice lunch break. It was cold starting out and hot finishing up. I think I put sunscreen on 7 times before I left...I have learned the hard way too many times that these first warm Spring days can lead to first bad sunburns for the year.

My job was my usual. Paperwork and electronic ID tags. Sometimes I help fill needles or give shots but this year we had another person there to help with that.

Here is my clip board and equipment. I would write the calf's tag number down when he came into the chute. This would correspond with a new electronic tag number that I got ready on the piercing gun. Then I would wait for just the right moment (you get a routine down pretty quick when you're working cattle) and hand the gun to the Intense Branding Cowboy and wait until he handed it back. I tried to tag a couple calves myself but it takes a lot of strength and I just didn't have what it took.

Aren't you glad we don't get our ears pierced with this one?

I am usually the only gal around so it was awesome to have my sister-in-law there. She was The Vaccinator as well as The Calf Consoler, Cow Chaser, Medicine Mixer, and many more important characters.

The Intense Branding Cowboy was also The Castrater and The Tagger along with various other jobs.

One of these years I will be brave enough to ask to learn to castrate a calf. I am not brave enough yet. The other guys made sure the calf was still while The Castrater did The Deed.

This is as graphic as I got...

Many ranches rope calves and have people wrestle them on the ground to do all of this work. We prefer a calf table. It is a very sanitized, orderly process in comparison. We didn't need as many helpers as other places need and we could easily keep track of everything we were doing.
Here is The Consoler.

This is an electric branding iron.
You can see some of the hair stuck to it. The brand these calves got is a Rocking M. It is an M with a curved line underneath
My brother-in-law has done all of the branding since I've been around. Maybe some day I'll be brave enough to ask to try that too!

This is the MVP for the Day. The toughest job is not cutting out calf nuts or burning hide in my opinion. It is the guy who has to run calves up the alley into the chute. This guy gets the MVP because he goes home with the most bruises, bang ups, and battle wounds. He gets kicked, knocked, bumped, head butted, and much, much more. Thanks MVP for taking a beating for The Team.

And this next award is for The Most Pooped On. We offered to drive him to town and take him through the car wash so his wife would let him in the house again.

This is what you get for having to hold legs.

And here is my Intense Branding Cowboy at the end of a long hard day. Man, you trip my trigger.

We were both filthy dirty and exhausted after The Branding. The Irrigator showed back up as soon as we got home and headed out until late. We finally ate supper at 8:30. I managed to come home with one broken nail, chapped lips, and an aching back. The Intense Branding Cowboy on the other hand got a serious kick to his left thigh and came home with a bruised bone. I know it's bad when he's willing to ice, ibuprofen and Biofreeze. He's better today but he sure got it.

We get to preg check and Bangs vaccinate and tattoo next week at our place so it won't be too long before I get to write another Working Prairie Life post. Hope you all enjoyed!


Monica said...

Gosh i love it! tad is so cute in the first picture...mornings are so hard! i'm so sad i missed most of the meeteetse brandings! did i mention that i miss you yet!

wyofaith said...

WOw- that curly hair! Love Love Love the curls! It's amazing how much your cowboys look like teh PW's cowboys. Your bro in law looks just like Pesky Tim!
And I think you got some great shots- specially of in the chutes man.