This spring is unusual as we are running a short crew. The help we had lined up couldn't make it, there wasn't enough time to track anyone else down and we can't reschedule because the calves will get too big. So we are all pitching in just a little bit more than usual and getting it all tended to. Some outfits use a calf table or brand using a chute, but we still drag calves to the fire.
I love to watch the crew work. Everyone has a job and they are amazingly efficient and work well together. They are like a well oiled machine and within seconds the calf has been innoculated, ear-marked, cut (if it's a bull calf), and branded.
Even with only 8 on the crew, they split into 2 teams and work 2 calves at a time:
When the calves are smaller, DD helps with flanking, but when the calves are this big, she runs the syringes. Everyone get a turn at dragging the calves to the fire. We have a friend who sings a song called, "That's My Boy Draggin' Calves to the Fire" and it goes through my head when DS gets his turn at roping.
Working as a family is one of the biggest blessings of living this lifestyle. Since the kids were little, we've all pitched in together.I get a little bit of a break this week because I don't have a bunkhouse full of men to feed at night. The help we do have are neighbors. We are incredibly blessed with amazing neighbors in all directions.
After this many years of cooking for a crew, I have been able to simplify and organize my week in such a way that I can usually sneak out and grab some photos a couple of days a week. The beef cattle are on the north side of the road so we don't do any branding here at headquarters in the spring since headquarters is on the south side. That means I have to drive about 40 minutes to get to any of the pens with the exception of North Camp. When they brand at North Camp, I make barbecue sandwiches, Cajun potatoes, coleslaw, corn on the cob, stuffed jalapenos, Tabasco pickles and Auntie's Chocolate Cake with ice cream. I can make much of it beforehand, leaving me time to play behind the camera.
It's all too easy for me to lose track of time and before I know it, I've got to scat back to house and put the finishing touches on dinner. I am always reluctant to leave my perch on top of the fence:
We're expecting a cold front tomorrow, but today it was pretty warm although the wind kept it's distance. Actually, it was the perfect day. The bawling calves, the smell of the branding fire, and the sound of the crew's easy banter mingles in the air.:There is nothing like the sounds and smells of branding day. At the end of the day there is a palatable feeling of satisfaction, of a job well done, a second piece of pie, and a good night's sleep waiting around the corner.