Moisture Therapy

Nothing livens up a branding more than a good rain soaker. When moisture arrived, my family was happier, excited and more optimistic, even though it threw a wrench into our branding day.  

The large amounts of moisture we got recently made branding a challenge for us but nobody complained about the rain or the mud it produced. It’s been the kind of therapy everybody’s mood needed. The weekend we planned to brand, we took a chance and went ahead with branding even though we got a lot of rain the day before and more was predicted.  

That morning, my son informed me, “Just be prepared for some heavy duty laundry Mom!” He planned on getting his clothes heavily soiled because calf wrestling was going to be messy. I knew the mud couldn’t be helped but I also knew the conditions were mostly his excuse to get mud-covered without getting into trouble for it, and that he was going to get as much mileage as he could from it. Not only did it give my son an excuse to get dirty, but the mud-filled corrals gave all the young guys helping a reason to do the same without appearing too juvenile-like.  

Our branding wasn’t for fair-weather cowboys. Besides being really muddy, the morning started off with sprinkling rain. Calves were put under the roof of a lean-to and a barn to keep their hides dry (branding irons can smear if the hair’s too wet) right before a brief snow squall showed up. Rain and snow held off but it remained chilly and breezy most of the day.   

Adding mud to the mix made calf wrestling interesting too. Those who showed up to wrestle calves faced a mucky branding corral, even though it had been relocated to the least muddy area.  Guys made a point of using whatever means necessary in order to plant the female calf wrestlers’ rear-ends in the mud or help break in their clothing. Cowboys and cowgirls got teased whether their backsides were really dirty or too clean. Young guys argued amongst each other over who’d been working more by comparing the amount of grime on their clothes and boots.

After it was all over, the trail of mud on my porch and kitchen floor that was left at dinnertime looked like a cattle drive came through. When my family brought me their branding clothes to wash the next day, there was pride on my son’s face as he held up his mud-encrusted clothes like he was showing me his branding badge of honor. He’d survived the muddy trenches of calf wrestling. He tried to hide his smile, but he was proud of the way his Wranglers took on a new look, all stiff and crumpled with dried mud, manure and blood. Clothes get that kind of dirty from hard work, but I suspected he also worked hard to get extra dirty too. The look on his face said he enjoyed working hard (or getting so dirty).  

Despite the excessive rains and substantial amounts of mud, working on the mucky ground was occupational therapy of a different sort that perked up everybody’s mood. It was the rehabilitation needed to recover from another worrisome moisture-lacking winter. I just hope these moisture therapy sessions continue until we’re fully recovered.

column originally published May 21, 2008

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