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:
The coffee is boiled on the fire, moved to the tailgate to cool, and served in styrofoam cups at break time:
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:
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?
And there is the branding pot itself:
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):
Meanwhile, in the pen, you’ll see some fancy rigs:
And some worn out rigs:
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:
Speaking of beauty, mama’s love makes everything better (this cow was born in 2012, indicated by the age brand on her shoulder):
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!
Also, the prickly pear cactus are blooming:
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):
There is equipment to be loaded:
Sometimes there are potentially orphaned calves to be marked and watched carefully in the next few days:
There are tallies to be taken:
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:
And then there’s the catching of horses and re-mounting and heading back to the trailers:
Finally, these two watch from their perch on the cooler, Oreos in hand. They are drinking it all in, learning as they watch.
And I am so, so, so thankful that we can provide for them this sort of Saturday morning programming.
© Tami Blake