I think for many people, May is the best month of the year. Grass is greening up, calving is winding down, farmers are starting to curry the ground, and the flies and mosquitoes haven’t really got going yet. So you can have a drink on the deck in the evening without battling bugs.
One of the activities that takes place in ranch country is branding calves. Now for most ranchers this is a community project. A couple weeks before branding people start arranging their schedule. You check with the neighbors to see when they are working. You check with the friends and relatives to see which kids are available which days. You check with the wife and see what day she wants to fix dinner for six to 40 people. It’s just a little hard to plan until you actually begin branding. So the wife has to be pretty flexible.
Now if you are a good calf wrestler, say from 12 to 30 years old, you can count on being called upon to go to lots of brandings. If you are handy with a rope, and can catch two feet on a calf and drag them to the fire, you can count on eating well during the month of May. You can load a couple horses in the trailer and figure on getting a good workout on both of them.
If you have a good vet kit, with scour pills, antibiotics, a scalpel, short needles, and a couple vaccine guns, you will probably be popular. Because one vaccine gun will get stepped on or kicked out of someone’s hand and he or she will be asking for a spare.
And a common theme is that if you help someone at their branding, they will return the favor when you do yours. So for good cowboys and cowgirls, May is a fine time for putting on your chinks, spurs, and summer hat and be ready to roll before daylight. Your phone will be ringing as ranchers are figuring out how many Ma can count on for dinner.
My phone doesn’t ring much. And after working some of our calves a few days ago, I can kind of see why. I used to be a good wrestler and a fair roper. Maybe it’s like my basketball skills. I remember better than I really was. But if someone came with a calf roped by one hind leg, I would jump in the fray and grab a leg. If someone holding the hind leg of a calf lost control, I would bail in there and pin that calf down. I could rope a little if someone else wanted to switch off. Note the word “little.”
Now I give shots. Not whiskey shots. Vaccine shots to the calves. Or I am put in charge of putting an ear tag in the calves. Now don’t get me wrong. These jobs are important. But ever since Noah brought that calf off the boat, these jobs are delegated to the person that is too young or too old to be of much help wrestling or roping. The next stop is tending the fire and handing the irons to the people doing the branding.
I had always figured on getting old. But dang, I wish it hadn’t happened this soon!