Saturday, April 24, 2010

Branding at the Neighbor's

Last week I received "the call" from my neighbor.

It went something like this:

DAVE: You ready for that "you were in a car wreck feeling" again?


DAVE: Well, we're going to do it on Saturday. We'll start at 10 am. Can you come?

COUNTRY CHICKEN GIRL: Ya, I'll be there.

DAVE: How about Dan the Man, can he come?

COUNTRY CHICKEN GIRL: I don't think so.

DAVE: Why not?

COUNTRY CHICKEN GIRL: You'll have to take that up with him. Here I'll put him on the line.

DAVE to Dan the Man: Can you come on Saturday?

DAN THE MAN: I'll be in the fields on Saturday, gotta get this alfalfa corrugated. Sorry.

DAVE: No problem, just didn't want you to feel left out!

This event that Dave refers to as "you were in a car wreck feeling" is the annual branding of his calves. I got roped into helping (willingly) last year and when we were done I did feel like I had been in a car wreck. Although I must confess that I have been extremely blessed to never have been in a serious car wreck, but I can imagine what it feels like. It took me several days, weeks, months... to fully recover from last year's branding.

Those of you who have never branded cattle are probably wondering what in tarnation could be so physical about branding calves that you feel like you were in a car wreck when you are done. Well let me just tell you.

Even though these are calves, some of them weigh as much as I do. They also have four legs which have little hard hooves at the end that are perfect for kicking and if they happen to land a kick on your shin or thigh, you are going to get a bruise. If they happen to land one right on your kisser, you're going to get a bloody lip. They might even land one right smack in the middle of the back of your hand, that really smarts on your knuckles! These are feisty little creatures who have a pack with each other to give a good fight while they are being wrestled to the ground and are being held down.

Here's how it goes down. The "back man" goes into the herd and grabs the back leg of the calf and pulls him out of the herd all the while the calf is doing everything he can do to get away. The calf will kick and buck trying to break your grip on his back leg. Meanwhile you are doing everything you can to hold on and not let him loose. This often feels like your arm is going to get pulled out of it's socket. When the "back man" gets the calf out of the herd, the "front man" joins in on the fun and grabs the calf's front and then together as a team the "front man" and the "back man" gently take the calf down on it's side. The "back man" positions himself and gets a hold of those back legs of the calf so that he can't kick and the "front man" positions himself so that the calf can not move his head or front legs.

Note: Remember you can click on the pictures to see a full view of them. Just hit your browser's back button to return to the blog.

The "back man" going in for a calf. Notice the tongue action!
This take great concentration so that you don't get kicked!

The "front man" holding down the calf.

When the calf is subdued, the "brander" moves in and brands the calf. Then the "vaccinator" moves in and vaccinates the calf. This only takes a few minutes and as soon as this team is done, the calf is released. Then the process starts all over again.

Cori filling up the syringe.

Cori as the "vaccinator."

Dave as the "brander."

We branded around 80 calves at one location before lunch and ate lunch before we headed over to the next location to brand the other 80 calves. Cori made submarine sandwiches for every one and we ate together. The sandwich, chips and Little Debbies tasted delicious and the soda hit the spot as we let our bodies recuperate.

I don't know why this is fun, but it is! I think it is just the comradery that takes place while you are working with other people in this capacity. Someone will get kicked and someone will say something like "ooo, that was a good one, you okay?" or "Ouch, I bet that hurt!" even "wow, I heard that one clear over here!" and "that's going to leave a big bruise!" After all the calves are done some of us even compare our injuries. But not all talk about their injuries, some don't mutter a word about any of their battle wounds.

When the calves are reunited with their concerned mothers, the mooing of the mothers calling for their calves and the calves calling for their mothers is deafening! What commotion and blessed happiness when they reunite and the calf is quickly comforted by their mother's utter!

If you've never helped with a branding, you don't know what you are missing out on. It's hard work, but it is also enjoyable. I was lucky this year and didn't have to wrestle any of the calves down. I took the easy chore and ran the gate! I also took lots of pictures and tried to stay out of the way.

It amazes me how many people show up to help. Dave posted on Facebook "Looking for a Nebraska branding crew this weekend weather permitting. Time for that old car-wreck feeling again!!!! I'm talking to you Lyman Volunteer Fire Department, Chicken Girl, Johnsons, etc......" and the call was answered. Dave even had an old friend come up from Cheyenne to help. This friend use to work for Dave's parents at their ranch in Colorado. Then come to find out, this friend of Dave's had recently married my sons' (Chris & Skyler) kindergarten teacher from when we lived in Laramie. What a small world for us to run into each other at a branding in the middle of no-where Nebraska!! We hadn't seen each other or been in contact for 10 years! It was crazy.

Gotta love days like this in the country. Wouldn't trade them for anything. This is the stuff that memories are made of. Don't tell me that one day in the country isn't worth a month in town! I do love being a country girl!

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the day along with a video.

Calves waiting their turn!

Don't know what was said, but it must have been funny!

I think this is my favorite picture of the day!

Is that dirt on your face Mr. Trouble or a 5 o'clock shadow?

Concerned mothers.


Kids are the best subjects!

Gotta LOVE these boots!

Dude, that's gotta hurt.
(This is what happens when a hoof connects with a chin.)

Notice Max playing with Lance's hat!

Max, do you think those boots come in my size?
Maybe I could try yours on?

Hold on Michael! Don't you let go!

Man who takes his job seriously!

Victor, a REAL Marlboro Man!

No, you can not brand your wife's behind!

How's that tasting?

Can we still be friends?

Chris reunites with his "first love"(his kindergarten teacher from Laramie) Shauna!

Note: If you are having trouble viewing the video, try pausing it and letting it load for a while and then play it. If that doesn't work, you need a faster internet connection. (You know who you are!)


  1. O.k. Max has stolen my heart! Great pics Kathi!

  2. Hello, I am Jimmy McGhar from Alabama. Met Dave at McDonalds in Laramie last year while visiting my property there. Tracked him to his home in Lyman and helped move cattle to his Yoder pasture, and had a great time with him and his family. What great hospitality!! Maybe he should consider opening a working guest ranch for additional career. Wish I had been there for the branding, the pictures show what a wonderful time everyone was having. Thank you Chicken Girl for a great presentation and narration. Maybe will get to meet you and your family when I visit again to the good folks in Nebraska. I live only one mile from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, and have a farm out in the country. The door will always be open if you and your family want to visit Alabama sometime. Only 3 hrs from our OILY gulf of mexico beaches, formally some of the finest beaches in the world. So, get Dave and his gang, and make a road trip. Regards to all, Jimmy