As great (for us) as the three-week Atmospheric River was, it put everyone’s branding schedules behind, most roads too wet to get to our cattle. Normally, we’d be at Elko this time of year, but with travel and time away from business, we needed to stay at home before our calves got too big to handle easily.
When I look around our community’s branding pens I realize now that most of the old timers are gone, that we have taken their places going ‘old-people slow’, and we prefer it. Fortunately we have some young muscle to work the ground.
Robbin and I have scaled our operation down, in part due to our heavy culling to adapt to consecutive years of drought and also by selling half of our cows to my son Bob. Branding pasture by pasture, our bunches are now small enough to get by with three ropers, one calf stretched at a time. Our relaxed pace has become even more conducive for old friends to visit while we get the work done. These photos from our second branding of the season, it’s been great!
We head to Tony Rabb’s next week to brand after he assesses the rain forecast for this weekend.
It’s all new ground, this branding in the dry—even though Robbin rigged and ran a sprinkler from a spring-filled tank the day before to keep the dust down. Conditions were delightful. Still feeding everyday, but wearing down as we and our neighbors try to get a few calves marked as we go. It’s time, a month later than normal. Naturally, the calves are lighter, not the big and bloomy kind that draw compliments or test the ground crew.
Age and youth, the cowboy dream alive and realized in the same pen, at the same moment, under perhaps the worst circumstances of weather to date in California. Surviving the Drought of 1977 early in my career gave me confidence during the many dry years since, but these historical dry times will impact the future for man and beast for years to come. Busy with the basics, we have yet to imagine some of these far-reaching impacts.
But it’s reassuring to be in the company of neighbors, all of us in the same boat with the same decisions to make: whether to buy more hay or sell more cows—usually both that can’t last forever. Most our brandings roll ‘old-people slow’, just right for us and a few throwback kids that might want this kind of life. What they don’t know, of course, is that they invigorate and inspire us, help keep us going, make it all the more worthwhile.