Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Branding Time

Wednesday February 18 2015

When the grass begins thrusting out of the sand toward the sun's warming rays, and snows commence melting in the mountains (never mind it's a month or two too early this year), and the cows have (already) dropped their calves, it's branding time in Owyhee County.

It's a time that neighboring ranchers help each other out: cowboys pulling up in their rigs with their horses, rounding up and pushing and sorting the herd into pens, getting busy with the calf roping; the horse-less helpers jumping in with the syringes, snippers, stampers and branding iron. The cowboys (and one cowgirl this time) make roping the calves look easy though it's only easy if you've been doing it since you were knee-high to a cow horse.

And oh, the poor little dogies… in one swoop they get roped, dragged to the fire, stretched and sat on, vaccinated, branded, ear-tagged, and, if they are unfortunate enough to be boys, snipped down there, every single step of which they object to, and bawl shameless and lustily. The procedures are done quickly and efficiently.

After the calves are all done, and everybody feasts on a big extravagant lunch spread the rancher has prepared (with help from several more people), the mama cows are sent one by one into the squeeze chute, and my, that is not a job for beginners nor sissies. Talk about mad cows. One of those rank things'll kill you if given a chance, particularly if you're grabbing her nose with tongs then twisting her (killer) head to the side to inject a wormer up her nose, stamp a new tag in her ear, jab her neck with a couple of shots, and brand her to boot while you've got her squeezed tight in the chute. Be careful, too, when she's let out of the chute, because she just might charge you so you have to leap up on the fence, and keep your legs up while the mad cow smashes into the long table beneath your toes, upends it and spills everything on the ground, gets tangled up in the table and falls down with it, then staggers up snorting steam and snot out her nose and looking for something else to smash into, particularly something two-legged, until she's finally chased out to the calf pen to hook back up with her baby.

But, back to the roping.

Neighboring rancher Ed chats before he unloads his two horses.

Just you wait little dogie, your turn is coming.

Ed dallies his catch.

This gal could hit her mark 90% of the time!

I loved the expressions on this guy's horse.

There's no escape little dogie!

Holding their calves.

Dragging one to the fire.

Oh, the injustice, the ignominy!

This young boy can't wait to help with the roping on his own cow horse one day.


  1. Great set of photos Merri! I think them ropers need to drop their hands a couple of inches, make their horses a little happier! They be like "I got this, ya don't need to hold me in!!!"

  2. love the expression of the horses in these photos!! all in a day's work, i guess haha

  3. Great photos! I feel sorry for the poor little doggies but I guess it's got to be done. Wouldn't want to be a male, they really get the works. Those horses are worth their weight in gold too.

  4. That's amazing! I couldn't do any of it, ever, but it's amazing that people do and do it right! Poor cows! I'm glad I'm not a cow or a chicken. But then, what do I know!

  5. Still waiting for spring here in the UK!

  6. Looks like an exciting event. Boss would love it! We finally got some snow here in Utah, about 5 inches on the ground. For the first time, it looks like winter here.

  7. no doubt some serious work involved! and long, dusty, dirty, dangerous days. :)