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Pinedale Online > News > May 2017 > Branding Time in Wyoming 2017

The Ranch. Photo by Terry Allen.
The Ranch
A Centennial Ranch is one that has been in operation by the same family for over 100 years.

Applying the Iron. Photo by Terry Allen.
Applying the Iron
Ranch manager applies the brand and camp rider holds it down.

Almost Tied Up in a Bow. Photo by Terry Allen.
Almost Tied Up in a Bow

The Herd. Photo by Terry Allen.
The Herd

Ranch Owner Gets a Branding Update. Photo by Terry Allen.
Ranch Owner Gets a Branding Update
She used to be a school teacher. A local ranch kid that has now become a therapist credits her with his love for reading. She used to read the kids, The Wind in the Willows.

Ranch Manager. Photo by Terry Allen.
Ranch Manager
"Gives me my edge," he said.

Wrestlers. Photo by Terry Allen.
These girls are taking a break from holding down calves as they are branded. They also took time to look for frogs in the swampy willows.

Ready to Throw. Photo by Terry Allen.
Ready to Throw
Roper has an eye on an unbranded calf.

The Big Daddy. Photo by Terry Allen.
The Big Daddy
Many a calf in the branding comes from these genes. Here, he paws the ground at the photographer in a threatening manner.

Riding Into the Barnyard. Photo by Terry Allen.
Riding Into the Barnyard
From about a mile away where the branding was held, over the river and into the ranch headquarters where lunch will be served.

Serving the Branding Crew. Photo by Terry Allen.
Serving the Branding Crew
The ranch owner serves up a double helping of hot potato salad.

Where Old Dogs Retire. Photo by Terry Allen.
Where Old Dogs Retire
This old boy could barely get around, but still kept watch from the shade...on a few head in the corral.

Double Chocolate Chip Brownies. Photo by Terry Allen.
Double Chocolate Chip Brownies
Co-ranch manager puts brownies into the cookhouse oven early in the morning.
Branding Time in Wyoming 2017
by Terry Allen
May 19, 2017

I can't remember if I asked or got invited, but either way I was welcomed to the branding at the historic Centennial Ranch to give my impressions in both words and photographs.

A Centennial Ranch is one owned by the same founding family for a hundred years or more. Rustlers, lawlessness, Indians. It was back in those days the pioneering ranching families settled the area. Even though the ranch owner's husband passed on a few years ago, she keeps it running in much the same way with the help of a young married couple, who she spoke of ever so gratefully.

The young woman was putting a double chocolate brownie pan into the oven of the cookhouse when I arrived; which was lucky for me because I couldn't read the tracks in the barnyard for a clue to which direction I should head off into. Remembering about half the directions, I went thru the barnyard, opened a gate, drove across a bridge and headed north on green grass. I could see a dot on the horizon and figured that was my destination, but I had to backtrack once because...big, deep ditches that my 4WD truck could not get over.

As soon as I got there the ranch manager told me not to be offended if people yelled at me...and to stay away from the grey horse and rider because he was green...which means unpredictable and dangerous and it would be a huge inconvenience to have to stop the branding if I got kicked in the head. The last bit is just logical thinking on my part.

Someone clicked a striker and the propane branding furnace whoooshed to life. A bunch of riders swung into their saddles and loosened their ropes; and a cowboy at the far end of the enclosure opened the gate and cowboys at the back of the herd pushed them thru the hole toward ropers.

Ropers each have their own style of the same skill. Some swing loops big enough to rope several calves at once and some are more economical and you wonder if they shouldn't open up the loop a bit more. Didn't seem to matter though as there were far more roping’s than misses. Once the loop settled in over a head or around rear feet, the roper would give a high jerk to take up slack and tighten the rope around what they'd aimed at. The calf would commence to buck or run and sometimes just sit down on their butt and make the horse and rider drag them to the branding zone. I didn't know which gender to attribute their stubbornness to.

Once there, a couple wrestlers would each grab a calf end and take its feet out from under it, drop it to the ground and sit on the head end and grab the legs on the back end. Like a finely choreographed dance team a brander would swoop in and start making a mark. A guy with a syringe would inject the medicine. An ear clipper might take a little diamond shaped bit of ear. If the calf had horns, a guy with a de- horning tool would disable the little bump. A person with a big fat bright colored marker made a mark so no one roped that calf again. Then it was turned loose and the ropers brought another one in. I think the number to be branded was between 300 and 400.

I didn't talk to him about it to be sure, but one roper must have been a photographer because he kept roping where I was and positioned himself and the calf to my camera with an eye to where the sun shone on them best and the best scenery was in the background. See if you can figure out who I'm talking about.

I kept my eyes on the grey horse and no one yelled at me and pretty soon it was break time and people broke out beer, coke and cookies. I took some pictures of that and noticed the kids were out by where the horses were tied up...and they were diving thru the fence. It was all girls trying to catch frogs and not having any luck, but having great luck catching snails. There's a lesson in life right there. You've got to be fast if you don't want to be eaten. But there is another lesson of life I learned from one of the snail catchers. If you are slow, make sure you taste nasty. Turns out her mother had tried to make a snail meal once. Didn't work out, but the girls were still doing the catching part anyway. Since we all decided not to try to cook them with a better recipe idea this time, the girls took them all back to the swamp and let them go.

One cowboy told me he started out as a cowboy at age four. His first job was as a dauber. The little horn nub would be removed and he'd daub some tar on the spot to keep the flies from laying eggs in it.

I noticed the mother cows and calves kept congregating around me and one of the cowboys told me it was because I didn't have a rope or a branding iron in my hand.

It may seem odd to city folks that young girls were involved in the branding but the ranch manager told me that he liked to teach by letting them work at it if they wanted to. So, I asked some of them about it and the girls liked it because they liked to wrestle down a calf, it makes them feel strong and as soon as they get strong enough and skilled enough they plan on roping.

The ranch owner told me as soon as the calves get branded they will go to The Mesa before going on The Drift to the upper Green (I'll include a link to The Drift story I wrote last year). She said there used to be around 21 active operators that drifted their cattle north into the summer pastures, but now they are down to 9. She said it is a marginal business in this area due to severe climate and thin topsoil. I'm sure you've all heard by now that wolves and bears take their toll, too...which adds to the difficulty.

Cowboys (and that includes Cowgirls and Cowkids) have got to be tough in this country. A lot of brandings are crammed into a 4 to 6 week period and that can work out to around 27 brandings.

I asked about the mother cow licking their calves and was told it is a bonding ritual. It is how a mother reclaims her calf after a branding because they can get separated.

Once the branding was done everyone rode back to the ranch for a hearty lunch that had been prepared by some really great cooks. Even though I just ran around exercising my camera trigger finger, it sure was nice to just hold out my plate and have it filled and then go sit down and relax.

We sat at several picnic tables in the far corner of a great green lawn where it met the willows. There, kids jumped on a trampoline; chased geese out of a watering trough and jumped in. We talked about our childhoods, milking cows, making butter, the new sets of trailer mounted solar panels that power the pumps for remote stock ponds; and are also used to grow green spots for Sage Chickens. Just before dessert we listened to another Centennial rancher tell a story of how two boys met two girls at a barn dance in the big barn behind us a hundred years ago and one of them asked the tall one to dance and one took the short one to the dance floor and how things worked out for them...and here we were sitting at a table having lunch with their grandkids.

I hope you liked this true slice of life about our beautiful part of the world. Thank you to everyone at the branding who treated me like a friend and even like a member of the family, by trusting me to tell your story as it was impressed upon me.

I'd like to thank Jay Fear Real Estate for recognizing the value to our community of telling this story about one of our historic Centennial Ranches and agreeing to sponsor it. Jay has deep roots in the community and always enjoys sharing some entertaining stories. There is an elk mount and a bear rug on the walls of his office and I hear there are some mighty good stories attached to them. I sure do love the cozy environment of the office as I sit in the heavy, ornately carved chairs that sit on huge vintage Navajo rugs.

Jay's daughter Lisanne just graduated from college and also works at the office. She's a fine portrait artist and mustang trainer and teaches horsemanship. She hangs some of her work on the walls and I particularly like the one with a cat sitting in a saddle. She's got an art exhibit coming up at our library in Pinedale, so you don't want to miss that.

Jay and his staff are dedicated to developing lifetime clients, not just one-time customers, and to providing quality real estate services. In today's fast-changing Sublette County real estate market you need an experienced, well-trained, knowledgeable real estate professional to guide you through the complexities of a real estate transaction - whether buying or selling.

A big thanks to Dawn Ballou at Pinedale Online for supporting my efforts in documenting the lives of our community.

I encourage everyone to read the captions on the photos. They tell more of the story.

The photos on this story may be shared among you personally. I do sell hi-rez photos for a reasonable price. I also shoot any event, animal, vegetable or mineral that I think would make a nice photograph and I'm happy to shoot yours if you'd ever like to hire me to do it.

Related Links
  • Scenes along the Green River Drift - By Terry Allen, Pinedale Online! October 24, 2016

  • Throwing a Loop. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Throwing a Loop

    Facing the Morning Sun. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Facing the Morning Sun

    Watching the Rope Settle. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Watching the Rope Settle
    Just a split second before the roper gives the rope a yank.

    Smoke From Hide and Hair Fill the Air. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Smoke From Hide and Hair Fill the Air

    Girl Wrestlers. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Girl Wrestlers
    One sits on the head, the other holds the rear legs still while the brander applies the iron.

    Fancy Heading. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Fancy Heading
    Sometimes it just works out that way.

    A Sip in the Shade. Photo by Terry Allen.
    A Sip in the Shade
    Brander takes a break while a new herd is brought into the corral.

    Breaktime Can Mean Cold Beer Time. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Breaktime Can Mean Cold Beer Time
    At some brandings, no one rests or eats until it's all done. That's a hard way to brand in my opinion.

    Historic Western Look. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Historic Western Look

    Feathers in Hats. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Feathers in Hats
    Two young men compete over better feathers, better hats, and better roping skills. Moments after this shot, a young woman ran up and slugged the boy with his hands on the hat in the gut...hard...and ran away laughing.

    Hot Irons. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Hot Irons
    Propane keeps a variety of branding irons ready to use.

    Five Branding Teams. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Five Branding Teams

    Sometimes the Picture is Just Sitting There. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Sometimes the Picture is Just Sitting There
    It's always nice when someone is happy to have their picture taken.

    Bringing Him to the Fire. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Bringing Him to the Fire
    Mother cow follows after her calf as any good mother would.

    A Little Reluctant. Photo by Terry Allen.
    A Little Reluctant

    Ready to Throw the Calf. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Ready to Throw the Calf
    Once they secure the calf, they will loosen the rope so the roper can go get another one.

    Better to be Safe Than Sorry. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Better to be Safe Than Sorry
    Mother cow tells the wrestler she isn't happy about things, and the cowboy thinks it's wise to gauge her intent.

    A Mothers Claiming and First Aid. Photo by Terry Allen.
    A Mothers Claiming and First Aid
    A mother cow licks her calf as a way to claim the calf and perhaps to make the brand feel a little better.

    Belly Roped. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Belly Roped
    It seemed to me those that got belly roped kicked up their heels a lot higher.

    Belly Roped. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Belly Roped

    Nice Shot. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Nice Shot

    Big Loop. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Big Loop

    Got Him Good. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Got Him Good

    Heading to the Branding Area. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Heading to the Branding Area

    Taking Up the Slack. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Taking Up the Slack

    Looks Good So Far. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Looks Good So Far

    Branded. Photo by Terry Allen.

    Letting Out a Hollar. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Letting Out a Hollar

    Airborne. Photo by Terry Allen.

    Looks Like a Double. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Looks Like a Double

    Looking South. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Looking South

    Throwing a Calf. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Throwing a Calf

    A Working Horse and Saddle. Photo by Terry Allen.
    A Working Horse and Saddle

    Snail Hunters. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Snail Hunters

    Get Off the Reins. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Get Off the Reins
    Moments later she crawled under the horse and lifted a hoof off and then led the horse back to camp.

    Turned Loose. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Turned Loose

    Waiting on a New Group to Brand. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Waiting on a New Group to Brand

    Clipping an Ear. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Clipping an Ear

    Very Reluctant. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Very Reluctant

    On the Trail of a Calf. Photo by Terry Allen.
    On the Trail of a Calf

    Looks Good So Far. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Looks Good So Far

    Placing the Brand. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Placing the Brand

    In the Open. Photo by Terry Allen.
    In the Open

    The Branding Iron Furnace Heads Back to the Ranch. Photo by Terry Allen.
    The Branding Iron Furnace Heads Back to the Ranch

    Calf Hide Drying. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Calf Hide Drying

    From Pasture to Barn. Photo by Terry Allen.
    From Pasture to Barn

    Over the Creek. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Over the Creek
    I posted this one twice just 'cause I like it.

    Riding in From Branding Spot. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Riding in From Branding Spot

    Tying Up at Horse Trailers Before Lunch. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Tying Up at Horse Trailers Before Lunch

    Ranch Yard. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Ranch Yard
    A picnic lunch surrounded by a wind mill, solar panels, old tractors.

    Trampoline with Antler Landscaping. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Trampoline with Antler Landscaping

    Ranch Owner Helps Young Cowgirl. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Ranch Owner Helps Young Cowgirl
    As I watched the young lady make the request, it seemed to me the girl thought the lemonade would taste better if her grandmotherly friend poured it for her.

    A Ropers Lunch Plate. Photo by Terry Allen.
    A Ropers Lunch Plate
    His first plate...

    Branding Done, Horse Being Fed, Chaps Hung Up. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Branding Done, Horse Being Fed, Chaps Hung Up

    Ranch House. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Ranch House

    Ranch House Parlor. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Ranch House Parlor

    Historic Daffodils. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Historic Daffodils
    The lunch tables were set here.

    Childrens Playhouse. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Childrens Playhouse
    As seen from the lunch tables.

    Horse Trough Swimming Hole. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Horse Trough Swimming Hole
    As seen from the lunch tables.

    Retired Ranch Implements. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Retired Ranch Implements

    Jay Fear Real Estate Office. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Jay Fear Real Estate Office
    Come on in. It's warm and cozy and full of art...and yes, those are snowflakes you see and it's the end of May.

    Jay Fear Business Contact Info. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Jay Fear Business Contact Info

    Lisanne Fear at Her Desk. Photo by Terry Allen.
    Lisanne Fear at Her Desk
    Surrounded by her art and Grandpa's elk.
    Pinedale Online > News > May 2017 > Branding Time in Wyoming 2017

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