Tag Archives: Douglas Thomason

First Branding



Branding calves in Earl McKee’s corrals has always been removed from the rest of the world, separate from the conflicts and politics that we are bombarded with daily. Never more true than yesterday among a few neighbors and friends at our first branding of the year, most of us going ‘old people slow’ as we got the job done.


Ode to the Crew 2: Six Pix


Branding calves is an acquired art, not to be confused with the timed rodeo event of team roping. The idea is to get the calf to the fire while making it as easy on the calf, horses and ground crew (in that order) as possible. Douglas Thomason above times the rhythm of his loop for a long distance shot, catching the calf before it knows it’s caught, half the job done with no stress and little fuss.


Though the camaraderie is an essential part of trading labor, the branding pen is not a place for recreation. Robbin and I appreciate the care our neighbors take with our calves, as this 450 pound bull calf above would bring about $1,100 in town today. We hope that by June that he’ll be a 650 steer and bring in the vicinity of $2.50/lb. An injured calf, or ones overstressed and susceptible to sickness can become expensive.



Followers of branding pictures on this blog will recognize many familiar faces. On the ground, everyone has a job to do, an orderly process of vaccinations, castration, branding, dehorning, earmarking, tagging and recording–in the branding pen, it can become a dynamic dance.



Yet in the midst of it all, there are moments that might be forgotten if not captured in a photograph, whether a daughter recently returned home having a moment with her father,


or a Brent Huntington wiping sweat and smoke from his eyes.


Our thanks to all, especially the several anonymous photographers.




Looking between their ears
watching the business
on the ground stretched

and rolled for needles, knife
and iron, the mesmerizing
dance of humans ‘round

a calf to be turned back
into a jungle of Poison
Oak and Manzanita,

the impassable wilds
of Woolly Canyon
it took four days to gather—

all done in an instant.
Little progress here,
but no less futile

than punching a clock
where time is money
and the earth is flat.