Celebrity Cowboys

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If the PV cowboys were celebrities, I would be the paparazzi… always stalking them, crouching and wielding camera, threatening to snap a shot at the most inopportune of times.  For the most part these guys are very patient with me and my camera.  But sometimes I get the feeling that, if it weren’t for self control, one or two of them would like to wrest the camera from my hands and smash it with a rock.

With these sort of thoughts in mind, I decided to take a different approach with my shots when the crew was here at the VX branding last week.  I took fewer people pictures and more object pictures, hoping to illustrate not only the workings of a branding but also to capture the simplistic beauty of a hard, repetitive, and dirty job.

Up above, that’s Brian’s bandaged hand holding the bottle of ointment that’s applied to steer calves after castration.  Here’s Beau’s hand holding the same:

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The coffee is boiled on the fire, moved to the tailgate to cool, and served in styrofoam cups at break time:

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There are two wash basins on the tailgate, one for the bloody hands of the surgeons and the other for the needles of the vaccine guns:

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There is the propane bottle which fuels the fire in the branding pot, and the bucket of oysters nearby.  Really makes you want to eat a Rocky Mountain oyster, doesn’t it?

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And there is the branding pot itself:

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Outside the branding trap, the horses not being used for roping graze with their front legs hobbled to prevent them from straying too far (if you ever want to see a larger version of a photo, just click on it):

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Meanwhile, in the pen, you’ll see some fancy rigs:

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And some worn out rigs:

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And then there are the unsung but hard-working wrestlers.  We have been blessed with a capable crew of young men this year in Shad, Preston, and Michael — and their fearless leader, Josh.  They don’t get all the glory the cowboys do, but there’s beauty in their work done well:

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Speaking of beauty, mama’s love makes everything better (this cow was born in 2012, indicated by the age brand on her shoulder):

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And these two humans, below, have eyes only for each other.  Which, from what I understand, makes gathering the cows a bit of an Olympic sport for the rest of the crew!

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Also, the prickly pear cactus are blooming:

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When the branding’s all done, there are ears to be counted (we crop the left ear as a method of identification in addition to branding):

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There is equipment to be loaded:

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Sometimes there are potentially orphaned calves to be marked and watched carefully in the next few days:

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There are tallies to be taken:

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Bill is our chief ear-tagger.  His job is a stinky and repetitive one.  But maybe it helps that he gets to be the feller in charge of writing down an official count on cows and calves at each branding:

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And then there’s the catching of horses and re-mounting and heading back to the trailers:

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Finally, these two watch from their perch on the cooler, Oreos in hand.  They are drinking it all in, learning as they watch.

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And I am so, so, so thankful that we can provide for them this sort of Saturday morning programming.

© Tami Blake

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