Sticking with the Tradition of Neighbors

A calf table is modern ranch equipment that’s safer, easier, and a more convenient way to brand calves without the need for extra people. That’s why they’re really boring too. We still brand the hard way—with the use of neighbors.

Eliminating the need for people eliminates getting together with neighbors to drink beer and eat a lot of good food while getting a little work done at the same time. Our lifestyle hampers a lot of socializing and is the main reason we continue the tradition of branding the hard way. We probably wouldn’t see our neighbors as much as we do and it would be hard to replicate the camaraderie with friends and neighbors at our home any other way.

Many people who come to our branding come just to wrestle calves despite the risk of getting kicked or run over by calves but when they do, it usually makes a comical story. Part of old style brandings is that we get to hear new stories and jokes and old ones get retold.

We could do everything ourselves with a calf table but my husband and I would probably end up mad at each other before the work got done. Our tensions and stresses benefit from the distraction of a lot of neighbors helping. Their presence makes the work more enjoyable to get done. Branding wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining if my husband and I had to listen to each other the whole day and there wouldn’t be anyone to tease about their calf wrestling skills or lack thereof.

The job wouldn’t be worth getting enthused about without neighbors around and it would be harder to get our kids excited about being involved if branding seemed like drudgery and hard work. It would take us longer and there wouldn’t be any horsing around or teasing going on. Instead of feeling like work, the annual event feels more like a good time while still getting the job done.

Doing this kind of spring work alone wouldn’t be worth losing sleep over either. As it stands now, at least I have a legitimate reason for sleeplessness the night before. I lie awake wondering if I’ll have enough food, how many people might show up, and what I have left to do before dinner the next day. I wouldn’t bother to cook at all if we didn’t have neighbors to feed. We’d probably eat leftovers from the night before which aren’t as appealing the second time around, and there wouldn’t be any desserts to sample either. Without friends and neighbors, we wouldn’t have an excuse to drink beer and it wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable to consume without their company. Having neighbors helping also means we don’t have to eat all the Rocky Mountain oysters by ourselves.

If we relied on modern equipment we might not know for sure who our real neighbors are. When the weather gets downright nasty, it’s the people who show up to help brand and wrestle calves anyway that we find out who can always be depended on. Having friends and neighbors to help do our branding work isn’t an expensive investment but they are the most valuable and worthwhile ones we rely on come branding day.

Note: I know a lot of outfits use calf tables for various reasons, especially farmers who have fields to plant and that many table users also rely on neighbors too. This is just an exaggerated tongue-in-cheek story not meant to offend and I respect anyone who tries to get a job done by whatever means they feel necessary. Thank you for always taking the time to read my column.

originally published May 9-15, 2010

One response to “Sticking with the Tradition of Neighbors”

  1. Jessa in Nebraska Avatar
    Jessa in Nebraska

    I love reading all of your posts! I very much agree, it’s alot more fun when there’s more people involved! I recently married a rancher and I am still in the process of learning how to cook, how to navigate gravel roads and the different breeds of cattle. It’s been a big change but a ton of fun too! Keep up the blogs and all the neat pictures you take! =]

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