Tag Archives: community

THE BRANDING PEN

 

Once again, the south slopes fade, begging for moisture. We’ve been following yesterday’s forecast rain for well over a week, watched it vacillate from 3/4s to ¼-inch daily, while hoping to get Kenny and Virginia McKee’s calves branded in Woolley Canyon at the same time—a four-day gather in wild country. On cue, a light shower began as we finished up, but unfortunately the trailing storm evaporated by late afternoon.  But it was a delightful branding, an efficient dance of ropers and ground crew that was almost mechanical, yet seasoned with quips and joviality, reminding me that the center of our culture and community has always been the branding pen.

 

Two years of Covid and the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine has upset the equilibrium of the planet, injected fear with the hopeless horrors of war into nearly every soul. The meatpackers’ conspiracy that has defrauded both producers and consumers has added to the instability along with our ‘megadrought’, new terminology from the scientists denoting two decades of drought not seen since 800 AD—all in all, the impacts of which have created an overwhelming mess.

 

Kids—recounting the branding at home, Robbin and I tallied at least 10 little kids in and around the corrals, another generation exposed to this lifestyle, caring families who treasure the opportunity to teach their children how to get the work done. We are not helpless, it is a luxury to still have a place to ignore the outside world where we can pour our attention to what’s important, to the things we can do something about.

 

 

A NEIGHBOR’S HAND

It’s not easy to get glimpses of myself

among the young men in the branding pen,

awkward young bulls bellowing

as they wrestle fat calves to the ground.

 

Yesterday, I carried the nut-bucket

and dope instead of riding with a rope,

instead of sliding a wide loop

beneath two feet. I can feel it, see it

 

in my mind, the smooth dance and dally

round a cotton-wrapped horn, rolling

calves and slipping slack when needed—

but my metronome has slowed.

 

I don’t wish to be among the old chiefs

who stayed too long to become obstacles

in space and time just to be aboard,

just to lend a neighbor’s hand, like always.

ABOVE IT ALL

There is comfort here among dear friends,
despite the drought, despite the news,
despite a virus that grips the world
 
somewhere below these old corrals
where we brand calves—our common
religion around Christmastime
 
that we wrap ourselves within—
a joyous insulation from despair
where we can lend a hand.

(Some) Branding Pix @ Paregien Ranch 2014

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A beautiful day for a branding with friends, Teri heels a calf for her Dad.

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Sid and Javier

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Robbin and Lee Loverin

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Tony Rabb

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Kenny McKee

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Break time between teams, we try to keep the work slow for us older people, time to visit, have a snack and a beer.

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Clarence Holdbrooks and John

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Virginia McKee, Craig Ainley and Kenny McKee

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Bev Drewry, John, and Maggie Loverin

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Teri Drewry and Lee Loverin

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Bill Drewry

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Brent Huntington sets one up for Teri

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And the oak tree, one of two in the branding pen that keeps the pace subdued. Clarence renamed it “The Release Tree’.

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Bill leads one for Teri.

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For our first branding of the season, everything was just right. A good place to start on the ranch before the ‘forecast’ rain, still on for Thursday night and Friday, makes our road too slick to travel for who knows how long. Good to get the calves worked before they get too big.

In this ever-modern and high-tech society of work saving devices, we are yet a throwback cattle culture trading labor within our small community. Miles off the asphalt, the branding corrals become another world apart from the latest media hysteria, an opportunity, we like to think, to talk about important things.

Proud, pleased and exhausted, Robbin and I collapsed on the couch.