With land prices high and cattle prices low, Moffat County resident Floyd Martin figured the only opportunity that he'd have to work with cows was inspecting them.
And, as a Northwest Colorado brand inspector for 35 years, he's had a lot of opportunities.
Martin was issuing Forest Service permits when he saw a job opening for a brand inspector covering parts of Moffat and Routt counties.
"I needed something to do," he said. "I didn't have the money to buy a ranch, so this was the closest I could get to owning cattle."
He said there are no days alike on a job that can put more than 3,000 miles a month on his truck.
"An that's not leaving Northwest Colorado," he said.
Martin verifies brands on any cattle being moved, sold or leaving the state. Right now is his busy time of year, with ranchers selling off portions of their herds to get through the winter. Some days, Martin is out by 4:30 a.m. and barely makes it home in time for dinner.
And that's slow for this time of year, he said.
"The numbers are down a little," he said.
He said he didn't have any good rustling stories, though he's initiated a few charges of animal cruelty based on "stupidity," he said. "They didn't know how to feed cattle."
Martin's stint as a brand inspector ends in January. He's not planning a full retirement but will continue to chase his dream of working on a cattle ranch.
"You can find a lot of cowboys -- a lot of wannabe cowboys -- but there aren't any cattlemen anymore. It's a dying breed," he said.
Thirty of Martin's 35 years have been spent in Moffat County and he plans to stay here after he retires to be close to family.