When the Rafter E branded recently, a bunch of us went out to help. It’s a badge of pride to have worked your way up the branding ladder.
As a kid, you flank the calves; you grab them, throw them and hold them down. This is conducive to abrasions, muscle strain, and involuntarily changing the color of your shirt.
As you get older, you get to handle the branding iron, then move up to giving shots. After that comes earmarking. When you reach the pinnacle of branding, that is, when you own the calves, then you get to rope the calves and drag them up to the fire.
It is a swirling cauldron of heat and hooves, excited cowdogs and bawling cows. There is the smell of manure and singed hair and sweat and corral dust.
At the Rafter E, I wielded a syringe as the youngsters got their teeth rattled by the heavy stuff.
Wasn’t the first time I’d given the shots, though. Once during a branding at the Triangle Cross, I was about to immunize a calf when the calf jumped and I stuck the needle into my thumb.
Hurt like the dickens, of course, but at least it was effective. I haven’t had black leg since.
Slim Randles, based in Albuquerque, N.M., was sports editor of the Mountain Democrat in 1964.