Tuesday, May 18
the stone ranch
last sunday i spent in northern carbon county on the stone ranch, owned by doug moore, branding just over 300 calves. the him, brother b and friend buck and i woke for breakfast that becky cooked us at 5, we left the association just before 6 and arrived at the stone ranch around 7:30. we made it almost there in good time, but i didn't know about the sand two-track that made up the remaining distance to ranch headquarters, and was that sure a mess - complete with two cattle guards a horse trailer can barely fit through.
the ranch sits in the middle of desolation flats, bordered on the north by ferris mountain, on the east by the seminoes and on the south by a rim that i'm not sure what its name is... it's a very peaceful, remote location, and i could live there. an ample pantry is all i need, and that house has got one.
after chilly, snowy, rainy days, that branding day turned out bright and sunny. we began by riding out to help push the cows and calves into the branding corrals, at the end of which i was unceremoniously bucked off friend buck's gelding halfway into mounting him, and i've got a lovely bruise on my calf from where he kicked me on the way down before running off victoriously through the sagebrush.
the rest of the branding was not near so eventful for me, and there were plenty of people around for the ground crew, so i ended up only wrestling one calf with buck, and vaccinating for a bit, but most of the time i spent taking photos. the first one posted above is buck, the mutton marshall and the him, waiting to kick the cows out in the trap as other members of the crew sorted the calves off them.
brother b was a sorter:
then the roping began. it's a gentle process of three or four ropers horseback that go into the bunch of calves to retrieve them by their heels one by one and drag them to the far end, where the ground crew awaits them.
the ground crew consists of two people that 'wrestle' the calf, getting it by the head and hind and removing the rope from its heels. then the calf is branded, vaccinated and cut if it's a bull calf. and this particular ranch also puts a pesticide tag in them to control insects.
this is the him, friend buck and two others unraveling two calves the mutton marshall brought in simultaneously.
the guy on the back braces his legs against the calf's hindquarters and lower rear leg, holding the other hind leg stretched out, making the hind end immobile.
the guy on the front puts his right knee over the calf's neck, holding the upper front leg up. usually it's also folded back and pulled toward the left, to further immobilize the calf, in instances where he's likely to kick and try to escape, like when the hot iron is applied...
...like in this photo. although many hot irons with branding stoves are used, some ranches prefer to use electric irons, which are powered by a generator set in the middle of the pen, and don't ever cool off or require time to heat in a stove. the traditionalists like the him, however, scorn the electric irons. :-)
now, although branding does inflict some pain upon the calves, it doesn't bother them for long, and brands are the best form of identification in a ranch situation, where cattle run in big open pastures and sometimes get mixed with other cattle. tags are not a reliable solution, because they are prone to being torn out and lost. brands ensure that the cattle will be easily identified for life.
this group of calves was all different colors, as opposed to the customary black that most cattle producers have gone to, so i was excited to take photos of them.
a good roper prides himself in not stirring up the bunch of calves, not swinging his rope too much, and being efficient and quiet - which all results in less stress on the calves and a smoother operation overall.
here the him takes the slack out of his rope after catching a calf's heels and before dallying to his horn.
this one is one of my favorites from the day:
you'll have to excuse me for throwing in this photo i like of the him. he was riding brother b's horse lad, because the branding pen was crowded and his one horse fiddler doesn't handle those situations well, and his other horse deetz was still out to winter pasture.
this photo will run on the cover of the paper this week, with a branding progress report.
another of my favorites - the mutton marshall on his horse clabberdash.
the mother cows stand by and watch closely through the whole process:
at the end of the day each of the calves sported a new WJ brand and they were turned back out to pasture with the cows to find their mamas and go back to life as normal. the branding crew headed to the house for chili, other fixings and a few cold beers before heading back over the sand two-track. before leaving i managed to rip the seat on some of my favorite jeans before leaving, on a boone and crockett splinter on the well-weathered picnic table. thankfully we were among the last to leave and nobody was walking behind me. :-)
Posted by Christy