Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



All of My Friends

A huge Thank You to everyone who entered the Goodreads Draw!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

Daughter of Ishmael

by Diane Stringam Tolley

Giveaway ends April 08, 2017.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Friday, August 5, 2011

Rodeo. Minus the crowds. And drama

Some of the crew . . . and the all-important 'squeeze'.
Branding.
First a little lot of background . . .
Branding, at the Stringam ranch, invariably took place in high summer.
And lasted forever.
Okay, I was six. Everything seemed to last forever.
Except Christmas, but I digress . . .
For the entire day prior, every rider on the place would be involved in gathering the herds. With an operation the size of ours, this was no easy task. The fields were a section (640 acres) in size and, normally, two riders would have to work together, collecting the herd. Then those smaller herds would be gathered, one by one, into the main corrals.
The sun would be high and hot, baking the wonderful scent out of the sage.
There would be glorious vistas of open, wind-swept prairies where one could see, literally, for miles.
Heat and dust and sweat.
And an unbelievable din.
Picture this: Hundreds of cow and calf pairs, which, when herded together immediately become . . . unpaired.
They start bawling for each other. ('Where are you?' in cow, invariably sounds the same, 'Mooooah') They aren't smart enough to actually . . . look . . . for one another.
The cows merely sniff any calf that happens in their vicinity. 'Sniff', nope. 'Sniff', nope. 'Sniff', nope. 'Mooooah'.
And so it goes . . .
Slowly, each herd is driven to the corrals and penned. Hay is thrown into the mangers. The cows finally find their babies. Peace is restored, somewhat.
Then, another herd is brought in and everyone immediately becomes separated again.
More bawling. Then they get sorted out. Then another herd.
This goes on all day and into the evening.
Things are quiet for the night.
Then, the big day dawns. The most exciting, but noisiest day of the year.
Cows and calves are separated and the cows are moved into the largest pen.
The calves go into pens which connect to the chutes. One by one, these smaller, though not necessarily easier to work with, animals are pushed down the chute and into the squeeze (an apparatus which captures the calf and then converts into a table by tilting sideways).
And then, with the noise, come the smells.
Hot metal of irons in the fire.
Burning hair as those irons are briefly pressed to the tough hide.
KRS, a disinfectant.
Manure.
One by one, the calves are branded. Inoculated. Then released.
One by one, they find their Mamas.
And slowly, ever so slowly, order is restored.
Then the entire herd is released and driven back out into the pastures.
More noise and confusion.
Then all is quiet.
 Every year, on the ranch, this is a highlight.
For us humans, anyways. (I have to admit, it probably isn't quite as exciting for the cows, or their babies.)
Enough background . . .
This was the most exciting year of all. This was the first year I was able to participate. Well, as something more than just chief mischief-maker.
The excitement was palpable.
A crew had been assembled. (As branding is such a big job, invariably, neighbors come in to help.)
My oldest sister and I were given the smallest, and nearest field. We left the chatting, gesticulating crowd and headed towards our assignment.
The two of us gathered our herd and pushed them towards the corrals. At one point, just below the ranch buildings, it is necessary to cross the Milk River.
Twice.
But the crossing is shallow and, usually, the cows show little concern.
Our small herd marched across without a pause. We chased them up the hill and into the corrals. Then we sat back and watched as the others herds came in.
There were a few tense moments, but mostly, everything went off well.
The herd was tucked in for the evening.
The next morning, the real work began.
I was assigned to be the 'pusher'.
And no, it's not what it sounds like.
I was the person inside the chute with the calves, pushing each of them into the squeeze so they could be branded.
It was hot, heavy work, especially for a 6-year-old.
And I loved it.
Push. Push. Push. Gate closes. Squeeze . . . ummm . . . squeezes. Tilts sideways. Branding. Shots. Tilts back. Squeeze - unsqueezes. Front gate opens. Calf bolts.
Push. Push. Push . . .
And so it went throughout the day. At noon, Mom appeared with lunch for everyone and we abandoned our posts to gather in whatever bit of shade we could find, and gorge.
Have I mentioned that Mom is a great cook?
Two brothers, neighboring ranchers noted for their pranks and hijinks, were on hand to help us out.
They had found a comfortable spot for lunch on one side of the car Mom had driven up in.
Mom and Dad had relaxed on the other side.
Mom had made the mistake of supplying sliced watermelon for our dessert.
The two brothers, as they had finished each piece of watermelon, launched the rinds up into the air over the car, aiming for my hapless parents.
Two rinds had been met with silence. Obvious misses.
The third rind went up.
"Hey!" My Dad's voice.
Bingo.
Dad got up and stalked, playfully, around the car, but the brothers were already gone. He shook his head, turned towards the corrals and walked over to stand next to the chute.
It was the signal for the rest of us to get back to work.
I crawled up the side of the chute and prepared to drop down inside.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Alfred, one of the brothers, sneaking up behind my Dad. I turned to watch.
Alfred was carrying a pitcher of ice-cold water, which he proceeded to empty into my Dad's back pocket.
"Hey!" Dad spun around. But by then, Alfred had, once more, disappeared.
Everyone, including Dad, got a real laugh out of that one. Fortunately, with the hot, dry air, his soaked pant leg soon dried.
By sunset, the work was finished and the herds sent back out to pasture. Everyone who had been involved assembled at the house for supper, feeling sunburnt, windblown, tired . . . and happy.
That year, as in previous years, we all sat around the table, talking and laughing.
And it was then I realized that branding was a time of gathering, not just of cattle, but of  family and friends. Because of the vast distances between settlements in this prairie country, people go months without seeing each other.
So branding, in addition to being the apex of the year, regarding the work, is also a time of visiting. Re-acquaintance and exchanging of news.
Perhaps that is the reason it is so important to all of us who live on the ranch.

6 comments:

  1. This was so fun to read since I have no experience of ranch life and all the hard work (and fun) that goes into this way of life! As you were describing the branding process I kept thinking about those poor mamas and their calves being separated from one another so many times and I'm hoping branding does not hurt them. Can you tell I have no experience with my silly question? :) I think it's great you also shared in some good laughs and memories after a long hard day! What a great story! Thank you for sharing on NOBH! It's always a pleasure to read your posts and escape into your world through your memories!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I couldn't help but think about Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo when I read that last part. It's not exactly a get together of neighbors, but it brings my family together, and I invariably meet up with a number of friends.

    We're all social creatures, and we all have our ways of being social. Thanks for sharing your way with us all!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wonderful! With us it wasn't branding, it was a long summer of haying (usually three cuts a summer.) My arms and legs would be covered in scratches from the bales, I was hot and sweaty, I felt like a wet noodle, but we got to go swimming afterwards to cool down, and swing off the ropes in the old barn. So it wasn't all bad. In fact, it was mostly good!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love these stories. It takes me back to days in the country in Colorado. I wish life was still like this, but you don't find too many working ranches nowadays. Thanks for sharing your memories. God bless you!

    ReplyDelete
  5. You have the most amazing family stories. Since I have never lived on a farm or ranch this was great to read. Your family sounds like fun. I would love to just hang around them:)

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting! Drop by again!

Daughter of Ishmael

Daughter of Ishmael
Now available at Amazon.com and Chapters.ca and other fine bookstores.

Follow by Email

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?

Google+ Followers

Networked Blogs

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!

My Granddaughter is Carrying on the Legacy!
New Tween Novel!

Gnome for Christmas

Gnome for Christmas
The newest in my Christmas Series

SnowMan

SnowMan
A heart warming story of love and sacrifice.

Translate

My novel, Carving Angels

My novel, Carving Angels
Read it! You know you want to!

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic

My Second Novel: Kris Kringle's Magic
What could be better than a second Christmas story?!

About the Mom

My photo

Diane was born and raised on one of the last of the great old Southern Alberta ranches. A way of life that is fast disappearing now. Through her memories and stories, she keeps it alive. And even, at times, accurate . . .

Join me on Maven

Connect with me on Maven

Essence

Essence
A scientist and his son struggle to keep their earth-shattering discovery out of the wrong hands.

Essence: A Second Dose

Essence: A Second Dose
Captured and imprisoned, a scientist and his son use their amazing discovery to foil evil plans.

Looking for a Great Read?

E-Books by Diane Stringam Tolley
Available from Smashwords.com

The Babysitter

The Babysitter
A baby-kidnapping ring has its eye on J'Aime and her tiny niece.

Melissa

Melissa
Haunted by her past, Melissa must carve a future. Without Cain.

Devon

Devon
Following tragedy, Devon retreats to the solitude of the prairie. Until a girl is dropped in his lap.

Pearl, Why You Little...

Pearl, Why You Little...
Everyone should spend a little time with Pearl!

The Marketing Mentress

The Marketing Mentress
Building solid relationships with podcast and LinkedIn marketing

Coffee Row

Coffee Row
My Big Brother's Stories

Better Blogger Network

Semper Fidelis

Semper Fidelis
I've been given an award!!!

The Liebster Award

The Liebster Award
My good friend and Amazing Blogger, Marcia of Menopausal Mother awarded me . . .

Irresistibly Sweet Award

Irresistibly Sweet Award
Delores, my good friend from The Feathered Nest, has nominated me!

Sunshine Award!!!

Sunshine Award!!!
My good friend Red from Oz has nominated me!!!

My very own Humorous Blogger Award From Delores at The Feathered Nest!

Be Courageous!


Grab and Add!

Search This Blog

Ghost of the Overlook

Ghost of the Overlook
Need a fright?