Rekindling Branding Day Romance

The romance between my husband and me began in springtime. We’d only been dating a couple of months by branding season and he introduced me to his family on their branding day.

We spent that day, and the rest of those May weekends helping neighbors gather cows to corrals horseback, and wrestling calves together. Our courtship basically evolved throughout those neighborhood brandings and every May, I feel a sentimental twinge about our beginning.
We’d make googley eyes at each other through the thick branding smoke while men hunched over us with vaccine guns. My face would flush pink and I’d start to sweat as the space between us heated up every time those hot branding irons came between us. I felt giddy when he’d wink at me while we bore down to hold a feisty calf as the branding irons marked the calf’s hide.
While we wrestled calves, sometimes he’d gaze at me with those hazel eyes and ask, “ANY SCOURS?” while I held down the back end of a calf. After spending all day together at a branding, I could still smell him long after we parted; the scent of burnt calf hair and hide. I spent so much time watching him that I’d forget to pay attention to what I was doing. He’d grab my hand and pull me toward him every time I accidentally sat in fresh manure to hold down a calf. We’d hold each other’s dirty green hands while waiting for more calves to wrestle. Maybe eat a few freshly cooked nuts off the brandin’ stove, and swig beer from a shared can. Sometimes we’d sneak a quick kiss before grabbing another calf to wrestle.
Our branding roles have since changed in the fifteen years we’ve been together. I became busy taking care of our cow kids and preparing the branding day dinners, and he became responsible for making sure all the branding supplies were ready, and lining out the branding crew with the day’s work.
For years, I’ve sorely missed being around my husband on branding day. This year, I aimed to rekindle our former branding day romance. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to cook dinner and help brand, but told my husband to get a horse in for me because I intended to be out there.
To be able to do both meant getting up early and staying up late to do as much as possible in advance. The thought of sharing a morning panoramic view of the back ends of cows while riding alongside my husband excited me.
By Sunday morning, I forgot about feeling exhausted, having sore feet, an aching back, and a tension headache. Our daughter and I rode double and I got to admire my husband cowboying, lining someone else out besides me, and our son’s horsemanship, as we all gathered cows toward the corrals. My husband ran the branding irons, but we shared a memorable branding day moment when we wrestled one of the kids’ calves together so our son could brand it. I spent the day wrestling calves with my son and was only in the kitchen long enough to get the rolls and coffee in the morning, and later, serve and clean up our branding day dinner.
Spending our branding day with my husband and my kids turned out to be more romantic than I expected. The extra work was worth the effort but I definitely didn’t eat my lunch for free.
Column originally published May 10-16, 2009

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