We could not have asked for a better first day of branding than what we had! It was a beautiful sunshiny day with just enough breeze to blow the smoke away. Even better, there was hardly any dust because of the snow and rain that came through the couple of days before. I can handle a hot day or a cold day. Heck, I can handle a rainy day but I really don’t like the dust (and yet I live on a dusty, windy ranch in southern Idaho…. I know…). From years in the passed, you know that the dust can really make or break a good day of branding. And this day was destined to be a good day!
The first branding of the year is always a gamble of sorts. Being a momma and rancher’s wife means that I never know how I might spend my day. It could be all hands on deck and I’m a full member of the crew getting the work done. It could be that no one needs me and I get to put my feet up. Or it could be spent entertaining bored and spent kids…
I knew that The Rancher’s Sidekick was going to be fine. He was already stoked that it was branding season and ticked off that his dad had left him to drive up later with me (mom is always second best… bummer…). There wasn’t going to be any problem helping that boy have a good day. I was a little unsure about The Ranch Princess because last year she wasn’t too into it. The smells and the noises were just too much for her two year old self. But thankfully this year she was all over those issues and into the fun. She was adamant that she had to wear her cowgirl hat and a cowgirl shirt and her cowgirl boots and bring her cowgirl rope (something I could totally handle and make me best mom of the day!). The real gamble of the day was the baby. I had no idea how he planned to handle the day and I prepared myself that I might get to hang out in the truck all day. But to my luck, and somewhat astonishment, baby slept all day! He ate just before we headed out, slept till lunch, ate again and slept as we finished up. Yahoo! That meant I was able to help the guys and keep them in line (haha! I don’t know that anyone wants that job!) and best of all- snap some photos!
With the dust being at a minimum that day, I was able to get some fun pictures. I shoot photos all day long and then at the end of the day I have HUNDREDS to choose from to share with you. Sometimes I feel like they may be getting a little redundant but there is enough differences in them that I have to share ALL may favorites. I have been trying and learning new composition and photoshopping (is that a word?!) tips so you will have to tell me what you think…
At the end of the day The Rancher’s Sidekick came up to me, somewhat disappointed. It only took a second to learn that he was upset that his dad hadn’t helped him catch a calf yet. Our little cowboy wanted in on all the action, including roping a calf to be branded. The Rancher was quick to fix that problem and took him around to find a calf or two. When we call it quits, a lot of the calves are just laying around, making themselves any easy target for an little cowboy still learning to rope. He managed to snag a few and seemed pretty satisfied. The Rancher figured he had better go finish with the clean up and left his sidekick to go along by himself. I think he kinda assumed that he had roped enough calves and with dad gone, The Rancher’s Sidekick would be done.
But he wasn’t.
He kept looking through all those calves to find himself another one to catch. But going at it alone meant that he didn’t have dad’s eye for a small one or a somewhat lazy one that would hold still. Instead, he managed to find a big, sturdy calf with a lot of zing in him. I was taking pictures when I saw the rope go over his head, tighten up and the calf take off. And that moment when I saw rope go on, my momma heart started racing. I could see rope burns and hurt fingers and a little boy with a mouth full of dirt from being drug around. I yelled out to him and just then, the slack went tight and things got real.
Now let me interject, that I’m not really one of those crazy paranoid moms. I know that life happens and kids get hurt. I’m ok with them learning lessons the hard way, just so long as they aren’t too hard. And that’s all good because I’m married to a cowboy that likes to play a little rough and tough with his kids. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t those moments when I somewhat go crazy inside.
So back to my story… So I see that my little cowboy has a calf more than twice his size on the end of his rope running for momma cow. As any good little cowboy would, that boy dug in his heels, leaned back and hung on the rope. It slowed the calf a little but being the heavier and faster of the two, the calf just kept moving. It was at this point my momma instincts took over and pictures were totally forgotten. I ran to the rope, getting there just a step or two before the cowboys got to it, and after dancing with the calf for a minute, managed to get the rope off. I looked at The Rancher’s Sidekick who was wide eyed with terror and excitement. It took a few minutes for everything to sink in and then it was a flood of emotions- “I caught a big one!” “Mom, why did you let him go?!” “My hand hurts!” “That was a little scary” “That was so COOL!” “Let’s do that again!” “My hand hurts!” “I’m never doing that again…” “Next time I need my gloves…” “My hand hurts!” … “My hand really hurts!”
I laughed inside and maybe cried a little too. My momma-of-a-little-cowboy heart just about couldn’t handle what had just happened. The Rancher appropriately came over and talked to his sidekick and helped smooth over everything, calling him tough and saying how he was impressed how well he hung on. Seconds later, our little cowboy was off to find something else to do (which wasn’t roping a BIG calf) and that was that.
It was only a couple of minutes, but its those kind of “couple of minutes” that sometimes makes it tough to be a momma of little cowboys. You want them out there learning at their dad’s side. You want them to love the life and you love it when its all they want. I’ve learned as I send them off with dad, to send them off with a prayer. And to close one eye if I decide to watch! I’m afraid of what this momma-of-little-cowboys heart has yet to make it through…