Here’s the forecast for Memorial Day 2019:
Rain and snow showers, becoming all snow after noon. Patchy fog. Temperature rising to near 39 by 8am, then falling to around 32 during the remainder of the day. East northeast wind 8 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. Total daytime snow accumulation of around 2 inches.
My last blog-post from one month ago declared it to be spring. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then – literally. It’s been a cold wet spring.
We don’t have much farming to do – only about 40 acres of hay renovation. But it isn’t done yet. There has only been a day or two in the last month when it was dry enough to get in the field with a plow. Another job is weed-spraying. But that, too, requires some dry weather.
I had set Sunday the 19th as our date for branding, but the rains came. One can’t brand wet calves. The moisture in the hair cools the irons too quickly, and it causes steam, which scalds the skin a blotches the brand.
Yesterday, however, we tried again.
There had actually been a bit of dust on the very surface of the county road. There were breaks in the overcast sky. I sent a group text to the help I had lined up, and we began gathering early.
We had the cows in the trap when stock trailers began to roll in. Several people went to work sorting cows out one gate while holding back the calves. Another group was at work on the other end of the trap sorting calves into the corral. We were soon running cows through the chute for their annual vaccinations for some respiratory and reproductive diseases.
Two of us were ahorseback pushing cows up the alley. Two more were feeding cows into the chute. One was running the headcatch, one was mixing vaccine, two were vaccinating, two were keeping the cows moving up the chute.
The last of the cows were still in the chute when I lit the propane burner and ropers tightened their cinches. As soon as the irons were hot, I gave the signal and the calves began to be heeled to the fire.
I was kept busy slapping on brands and hurrying back to the pot for a fresh hot iron; Eric was vaccinating; dark clouds were closing in.
We were about half way through the bunch when Darin rode up and told me to go to roping – he’d take over the branding.
Thunder began rumbling in the distance as we worked steadily through the calves. The last calf was drug in just as the first raindrops fell.
We quickly closed up the tool boxes that held our vaccinating guns. I’d forgotten on which post I’d hung my vest. I swung onto my horse and grabbed the reins of Eric’s horse as the rain increased. We loped the half mile to the barn, where I found my coat. Raindrops stung my face as I sped to the house on my four-wheeler.
Rain pounded on the roof as the crew lined up in the kitchen to load their plates with sloppy joes, potato salad, and baked beans.
I produced a jug of Wild Turkey to help lubricate the bantering and story-telling that followed. We were all in a magnanimous mood. A disparate crew of friends and neighbors, town folk and cattlemen, old hands and uninitiated, had come together like a well-oiled machine to accomplish an essential task; we had done it in record time; and we had beat the rain!
Read here about another day of Branding on the West Boulder.