Shootin' the Breeze

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Archive for the tag “castration”


In recent years, the word “brand” has been adopted by advertising types to describe an identity for your product or company.  That ain’t what this is about.

What this is about is a hot iron being applied to a calf in order to mark it with a symbol identifying which ranch it belongs to by burning the ranch symbol into its hide.  The device is called a branding iron.

Here in Colorado, a brand has to be registered with the state brand commission.  You submit to them what you would like to be your brand and it is approved, or not.  The brand I thought I had invented for Cross Creek Ranch turns out to have been registered to Adolph Coors, the beer guy.  So we had to modify it in order to get something similar approved.

At a branding, the mother cows are separated from their baby calves, usually when the calves are a couple months old.  So calves born in March are usually branded in May.  The longer you wait the more the calves weigh and the harder is the job.  A 300 lb. calf is easier to handle than a 500 lb. calf.  Well, maybe not for me, but for regular cowboys, I suppose.  I have heard smaller cowboys complain about calves that are too big.

The separating is usually done by a team of folks helping at the branding.  The mother cows are cut from the milling herd and chased out of a corral one or a few at a time.  There has to be someone running the gate who can close it quick before any calves get away.

As you can imagine, after the separating, the cows are outside the corral calling to their babies and the calves are bawling for their mamas.  Don’t tell the PETA folks.  It is not inhumane, it is just the way we do things out West, and have been for a hundred and fifty years or so.   For example, our neighbors on the Roberts Ranch are having their 140th annual 4th of July party.  I was not invited for the first 120 years, but for the last twenty, I usually attend.

Once the pen is just full of calves, some ropers rope the calves around their legs and drag them to the fire, one or two at a time.  For each calf, a couple fellas or even sometimes husky females, wrestle the calf and hold it down on the ground while it is branded, sometimes vaccinated, and, in the case of baby bulls, subjected to a procedure that results in them becoming baby steers.

Despite my reputation as a talented roper, or more likely because of my impressive size and strength, I am always one of the calf wrestlers.

That is fine with me.  For biblical reasons, I don’t want to do to the baby bulls what I would not want done unto me.

After the process for each calf is completed, it is reunited with its mother.

P.S.  Not every ranch holds to the tradition of ” ropin’ and draggin’ to the fire.”  There are some ranchers who try to be more efficient by pushing the calves through a narrow lane of panels to a squeeze chute at the end, which can be turned so the calf is on a table on its side.  There are even electric brands or, propane fires to heat traditional branding irons.  Now that kind of thing is fine if your helpers are city boys.  But if you want to hold on to tradition and practice cowboy skills, you need horses and ropes and ropers and even wrestlers.

P.P.S.  I’ve been to many brandings with a dentist/rancher who always gets the job of castrating.  Knowing of his vast experience with bulls, I will never go to his dental office.  I’d hate to have him get mixed up about the task for the day.

To the Rescue


Sadie lost two friends in 18 days, Max and Rover, her only two friends.  Those of you who follow this blog have read about our losses in Passing of the Ball and Sad Times at Cross Creek Ranch.  Sugar and I have been in mourning.  Sadie has taken it just as hard, probably harder because she spent all her time with them so her world changed drastically.


It was sad to watch Sadie stare out the window, waiting for their return.  She also slept much more, as if to escape her pain.  She was needy, following us from room to room, never wanting to be alone.

After Max died, for a few days, she perked up when she heard one or the other of us drive up the lane.  She watched the vehicle as if expecting Max to return.  Of course, she was disappointed every time because Max did not return.

After Rover died, she did not seem to expect his return.  She seemed to know that he was dead.  She had sniffed the bed of the pickup truck before I washed out his blood from transporting Rover from the road to his grave.  Also, even though Sadie was not allowed outside as I dug the hole and placed Rover in it, then covering him up, she nevertheless sniffed his grave.  She knew.  She was obviously overwhelmed with sadness.  Her friends were gone and she was lost in her own home.

When a friend sent us a link to the Humane Society website, she pointed out a dog named Max who was up for adoption.  She wrote, “Another Max needs you.”  We really did not take well to her suggestion.  We did not want another Max.  We missed our Max, who could not be replaced.  Our friend did not intend to offend, but we were not in the mood to appreciate the suggestion.  It seemed disrespectful to our beloved Max.

So on Wednesday, we went to the Cheyenne Animal Shelter and adopted Beau, another male Yellow Lab.  What changed our minds, if not our feelings?

Why?  We did it for Sadie.  When Sugar was young(er), she had two dogs who grew up together.  When one had to be euthanized due to an incurable condition, the surviving dog was depressed, stopped eating, and had to then be euthanized as well.  Sugar saw Sadie’s inconsolable depression and worried about history repeating itself.

We decided that getting a new puppy was not the solution.   Sugar looked for a mature Labrador to befriend Sadie, who is a Lab, specifically, and more importantly to her, a Yellow Lab  We had noticed at dog parks and doggy day care that Sadie is a racist.  She is prejudiced against non-Labradors, preferring the company of other Labs.  Also, if given a choice, she is biased in favor of Yellow Labs more so than Black or Chocolate versions of the breed.  Of course, Rover won her over by his obliviousness to her Yellow Supremacist attitude and by pure joyousness.  She decided Rover was okay to play with, maybe overcome by his gift of enthusiasm.  She even lowered herself to sleeping with him.  They clearly made friends.  That friendship probably helped each of them cope together with the loss of Max.  They still had each other … for a mere eighteen days.

Beau is a two-year-old Yellow Lab.  Last Saturday, we took Sadie up to Cheyenne with us so that they could meet under supervision at the animal shelter.  He was very glad to meet her but was rather clumsy about it, totally lacking in the cool reserve that females find alluring.  Nevertheless, Sadie tolerated the nerdy approach and the powers that be called it a good match since neither displayed aggressive behavior.

Why then, did we not take Beau home with us that day?  The sad answer is that he was not available for adoption until he was neutered.  So he suffered castration on Tuesday and we picked him up on Wednesday.

He has been very sweet, shy actually, seemingly eager to please.  He is having a difficult recuperation from his surgery.  Out of concern, Sugar took him to a vet to check on his condition.

cone of shame

He had to wear a plastic cone to keep him from messing with, well, you know the site of his surgery.  Sugar felt sorry for him bumping into everything with the wide cone, so she went to town again to buy a more forgiving inflatable one.

Beau Tie

However, he could still reach his, you know, private area by bending around the inflated tube, so Sugar went back to town to get a second, larger one.  That did not work either so now he wears both.  (Those three trips involved 120 miles of driving, one vet bill, and two purchases for any of you keeping track of such things).

I introduced him to the horses.  They were completely unimpressed.  They let him sniff them without kicking him and ignored his barks.  I am under the impression that was Beau’s first encounter with equine creatures.  It was not the horses’ first encounter with dogs.  They were interested in their hay and not at all interested in the new member of the family.

Sugar took a picture of Sadie and Beau together.  Beau is the one with the fashionable neck ware.  Look, they made friends!


We don’t know what Beau’s life was like before we brought him into ours, but now we have two dogs from rescue shelters.  (See Sadie’s Tale in the archives for June 29, 2012, under Animal Stories.)  Now they can help each other.  Ain’t that something!

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