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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Branding Calves‏

June 10th, 2011 · 5 Comments

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The biggest surprise and the most fun that I had last weekend in Comanche National Grassland was an opportunity to watch and photograph the branding of calves on a ranch of “neighbors” of the Everetts, where I stayed.

On Friday evening I happened to overhear a conversation between Chris Dawson, one of the participants in Rob Palmer’s and Fi Rust’s photo workshop, with Casey Everett, one of our hosts. Casey said that he was going to help a neighbor to brand calves the next day and that Chris would be welcomed. The opportunity sounded so interesting that I immediately asked if I could come along, and Casey said that I could.

The next morning Chris and I followed Casey and his parents, Terry and Jennifer, together with their horses in trailers to the “neighboring” Bader Ranch, where the branding operation was to take place. Of course, Casey also went to help their neighbors, but Casey’s wife, Laneha, had to stay back at the Everett Ranch to cook for us workshop participants. In this case, the word “neighbor” clearly belongs in quotation marks by my city standards. Moving along at a good speed, we took just over an hour to get there.

Jennifer and Terry Everett Arrive at the Bader Ranch

Jennifer and Terry Everett Arrive at the Bader Ranch

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Casey Everett Has a Real Cowboy Belt Buckle

Casey Everett Has a Real Cowboy Belt Buckle

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Randy Bader and Jennifer Everett Share a Hug

Randy Bader and Jennifer Everett Share a Hug

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"Howdy, Neighbor!"

"Howdy, Neighbor!"

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Neighborliness in Southeast Colorado is not just a function of how far apart these people live from others, although that must be a factor. I know from my experience how real their neighborliness is, because twice when I stopped on the roads there to take care of some little thing, the only vehicles that came along stopped and the ranchers in them asked if they could help. That doesn’t happen in the city.

The Baders are relative newcomers to Southeastern Colorado. A few years ago Kelly and Randy Bader moved their operations from Mancos, in Southwestern Colorado, when they felt too crowded there. Kelly’s mother and father still live near Mancos, but come often to the new Bader Ranch, making sure not to miss the branding. Here are Kelley’s parents, the senior Baders, Clay, 89, and Jean, 88, with their great-grandson, Sage, who is 7.

Sean, Clay, and Jean Bader

Sean, Clay, and Jean Bader

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I asked Sean if he was a cowboy. “Sure,” he replied. He sure looks it here:

Sean Bader May Be Just 7, but He Is Already a Cowboy

Sean Bader May Be Just 7, but He Is Already a Cowboy

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Never before in my life have I seen cattle branding, and all that I know about it I learned by watching what happened on the Bader Ranch last Saturday morning. The way I saw it, branding is at least a three-step operation. First comes the roundup of the cattle, which took several hours before we got to the ranch early in the morning. Then, came the “cutting” of the cattle; in city terms this is the separation of the cows from their calves.

Mama Misses Her Baby!

Mama Misses Her Baby!

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The separation of the calves from their mothers was hard on both, judging from all the mooing going on. Since my still photos don’t capture the sound, I recorded a short movie with audio — just 21 seconds certainly qualifies as short — and posted it on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GonOIc2U7oY as well as on my Facebook page.

The third stage of the operation — the actual branding, vaccination, and castration of the male calves — sounds the worst. But then the calves were free to leave the coral and find their mothers. When they found each other — surprisingly quickly — they appeared as happy as ever.

That day the ranchers branded 49 calves born in April or early May with three different brands. Jean Bader explained to me that “Slash K V” is Kelly and Randy’s brand. Two other ranchers use “V Lazy T” and “Lazy V Upside Down T,” she said.

Kelley Bader is Ready to Rope this Calf

Steve, another Bader Neighbor, is Ready to Rope this Calf

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Roped!

Roped!

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Down!

Down!

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Three or Four Ranchers Need to Hold Down a Calf

Three or Four Ranchers Need to Hold Down a Calf

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One surprise for me was that I had assumed the brand would be on the branding iron. Instead, the branding iron was a straight piece of iron, which the branders applied several times to make the actual brand.

Branded

Branded

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For a city boy like me to have the opportunity to be right in the coral where real present-day cowboys and cowgirls branded their cattle was an honor. This is the real American West that I love so much.

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Posted in: Photography

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Danielle // Aug 1, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    David, I really enjoy the photos and the idea of exercise by camera. I might have to try this one. I bike and coach soccer which has impoved my circulation and health tremendously.

  • 2 Chris // Aug 5, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    This activity, and this: http://bit.ly/9fsQZa is why I no longer eat meat.

  • 3 Ginny // Oct 26, 2013 at 10:17 pm

    Great photography. I’m wondering if it would be ok to use a photo of one of the calves as a reference for a painting I’m working on?

  • 4 David Mendosa // Oct 27, 2013 at 3:04 am

    Dear Ginny,

    Absolutely, yes! I would be delighted if you could make such good use of one or more of my photos.

    Do no harm,

    David

  • 5 Ginny // Oct 27, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    Thanks David, very much appreciated. No harm will be done.

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