Pipi’s Pasture: Remembering branding day | CraigDailyPress.com

Pipi’s Pasture: Remembering branding day

Diane Prather
Pipi's Pasture

This past weekend my son Jody, daughter-in-law Cindy, and my grandson Jaycee came up from Vernal, Utah, stopped to pick me up, and we all went up to Morapos to help my brother Duane (Osborn) sort cattle and brand calves so he could put the animals out on summer pasture. It was a day of memories.

First, though, a word about branding for readers who might not have experienced the ranch chore: as retired brand inspector Floyd Martin once told a group of elementary students during a Moffat County Cattlewomen-sponsored school visit, “Branding provides a return address when animals stray/get lost from the herd.”

Indeed, people contact the local brand inspector to find out who owns cattle that might have strayed onto their property. Although ranchers use ear tags with numbers and brands on them, branding is still necessary. Tags are easily lost when cattle walk through brush.

Anyway, Saturday’s branding reminded me of all the years past when we branded at Duane’s house, followed by branding our own calves the next weekend so we could turn them out on summer pasture, too — year after year at different places until we settled here at Pipi’s Pasture. Our children were teens in those first years, and then there were toddler grandchildren who finally reached 4-H ages and had livestock of their own.

When I was growing up on the ranch we didn’t have calf chutes and tables. Calves were roped by a rancher on horseback, and the calves were worked on the ground. The job took a lot more work and required more help. In more recent years, Duane and our family have made use of a calf chute that can be turned onto its side to make a calf table. Calves are sorted off from their mothers and put into a holding pen and from there down an alleyway into the chute. Pushing up the calves in this manner often results in getting kicked or stepped on by sharp little hooves.

Each branding day is different, usually involving a little excitement. Typically a calf jumps through the chute before the head catch is closed, and there he is, back with all the cows again. In the end he has to be sorted off again.

I remember one year at Morapos when my sister Charlotte (Allum) and her husband John were visiting Duane and were helping with branding. A calf escaped, and John grabbed a rope and went out into the herd to lasso him. I don’t remember what happened, but trying to lasso a calf in a herd of big cows is a daunting job, indeed.

Saturday when we were finished branding, Duane opened the gate so the cows and calves could go out to pasture, and all of them left the corral except one calf.  Wouldn’t you know it? Like most calves, he could not see the open gate. Back and forth he went across the ditch of water that runs through the corral, but finally he found the opening, and no “worse for wear”, after branding and running around and all, he found the others and started eating grass.

I have lots of memories of branding day. Where did all the years go?

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