I fed 4 men at my house for breakfast yesterday. Then I had 15 men for lunch, 11 for supper, and 8 for breakfast this morning. My husband, kids, mom, sister, and niece and nephew aren’t included in my grand meal tally, because I don’t submit a bill to the ranch for feeding my next of kin. I figure that’s just part of the cost of having a family!
As you can see from the photo in which I was putting sweet rolls in the oven while wearing my pink polka-dot robe at 3:29 a.m., we get an early start during branding season. The guys like to be in the pasture with the cattle at sunup, and they eat breakfast before they leave for the pasture. There are two reasons cowboys start riding early:
1: They try to avoid the hottest part of the day. It can get darn hot here in June, and as the sun climbs higher in the sky, it’s more punishing not only for the branding crew but for the cattle too. So the crew rises early and they work fast. Yesterday morning they branded 240 calves in our corral and were done by 11:30.
2: Calves and cows are paired up first thing in the morning. This is important because branding is a confusing time for cattle as they’re all pushed together from a large pasture and then squished into a corral and jostled about, and our main goal is always to keep the right cow with the right calf because, well, nobody can raise a calf better than a good mama cow. The interesting thing about cattle — more proof of God’s wondrous creation — is that if a cow and a calf get separated, they will both try to return to the last place the calf nursed the cow and wait for the other there. In the pasture on a regular lazy day, a cow and an older calf will spend time apart — the calf playing with other calves, the cow grazing or going to water. So during the daylight they might be separated. But they always try to spend the night together. Then, at daybreak, the calf nurses before they both go about their day. When a pair gets picked up at daylight and trailed to the corral for branding with the other cows and calves, the pair will more than likely get separated through the course of the day — as the herd is thrown together, as other cows and calves are milling and bawling, as the herd is mashed into a corral and as calves are singled out and brought to the fire for a brand and vaccinations. After the calves are all branded and the herd is released to its pasture, it’s a noisy, raucous, antpile-like jumble of cows darting here and there, smelling all the calves they come across as they grab bits of grass to munch on, while some of the calves are wandering about looking dazed and confused and still other calves are fast-trotting with their heads down to the last place they saw their mamas. The pair’s best chance at quickly reuniting? If they both return to the last place the calf nursed. And if that early-morning nursing is fresh in their minds… success rates are even better.
So there. All these words simply trying to reassure myself that there was a good reason for me to be up at 3:29 a.m. putting sweet rolls in the oven.
Now off to do dishes… and start working on lunch.
© Tami Blake