Well, we finally got a day dry enough to do our branding. Thanks to a bunch of Kling cowboys and a bunch of their friends, it was a great day! If you’ve never been to a good, old-fashioned rope ’em and drag ’em branding, you’ve missed something. Kids start helping out when they are five or six years old and I guess our crew fit that. From around six to near 80. And every one a good hand. Still, one of my favorite brandings took place in the beautiful Blue Buttes a few years ago.
I tell you what, it was a cowboy crew. From eight months to 80 years old. Cowboys and cowgirls everyone. Abby, who was about six years old, ate 50 pounds of half raw rocky mountain oysters. Cooked over the branding fire. No spices. Just a nice stick and oysters fresh from the calf. Shirley asked if she could have one for our dog, and was sternly told, “NO! We’re not wasting them!”
After 49 pounds she complained to her mother that she was getting a stomachache!
Jade was busy elsewhere with a bunch of friends. I suppose they were all from about five to 12 years old. They’ve never had much for toys, so they try to make do. And they invented games that many kids never learn to play. At least I hope not.
I was watching this bunch of young cowboys playing in the shade of the trees. It was a beautiful day. All of a sudden they lay down in the grass and began rolling around. Then they would stop for a while and look each other over. Then down in the grass and roll again. Curious, I had to walk over and inquire as to what they were doing.
“Catching wood ticks!”
They would roll around under the trees and then pick the wood ticks off each other and place them in a bucket. I know it sounds kind of weird, but they had a plan. I guess it was a scientific experiment. They were going to find out if snakes eat wood ticks! Really! Did I tell you they had caught a grass snake and after chasing each other around with that snake for an hour, they had decided they should feed the snake?
There were calf wrestlers that didn’t weigh 80 pounds that would have worked any man to death. They didn’t care how big a calf the heelers came dragging from the herd. They would dive in there and grab those feet. And unlike some of us older guys, they would jump up when it was done and run to the next one. I had to have help up, and then would ease over toward the cooler.
We laughed over a story as one dad told of his son taking some jerky to “show and tell.” When the teacher asked where they got the meat, he simply explained they just take a spotlight in the pickup and shoot a deer!
The beavers were building a dam near their house last spring. Dad was going to sneak out and shoot them. Well, the young cowboy insisted on going along. And knowing there would be lots of questions, Dad said, “If you have any questions, ask them now, because we have to be completely quiet when we get down by the creek.”
The young cowboy had one question. “Are beavers good to eat?”
Waste not. Want not.
It was a great day. But at the end, when the adults are all leaning back and having a beer, and completely wore out. The young cowboys and cowgirls were galloping up and down hills, picking flowers, looking for snakes, and chasing each other with calf nuts.
Oh, to be young again.