The Branding Season Guide You Haven’t Read

Posted in: Featured, Ranch Life

Most cowfolks think that branding season is the best time of the year, including Christmas and their own birthdays, but I have a confession to make. Branding season is not my favorite. I realize I may risk losing my cowboy card over this, but I’m willing to take that chance, because I have kids and am no longer afraid. I’ve survived teething babies, sleepless nights and public temper tantrums. If haters wanna hate, I’ll just laugh, then change a squirming toddler’s diaper while standing up in the CAL Ranch parking lot and carry on.

I prefer the fall works, with their crisp mornings, long days of gathering and the holidays right around the corner. But, for those who prefer (or at least plan on participating in) the spring works, here are a few tips:

1) Show up on time. If you want to have fun roping at a branding (because who doesn’t? Hey, I never said I didn’t like branding season!), you need to show up early enough to help gather.

2) Pay attention and do what the boss does. Is everyone heading and heeling calves? Then don’t be the dummy who drags something to the fire by the heels.

3) Wait your turn to rope. The boss/owner of the cattle/whomever is in charge will tell you when to get your horse and rope and when to switch out with someone on the ground.

4) Bring a horse broke enough to be useful. It’s fine to also bring a green colt, just don’t bring a whole bunch of green colts. Unless you rope like Martin Black, who makes even God jealous with his mad roping skills. Has anyone else heard that joke? I should write a blog post about it. It’s pretty great.

5) New mothers: if you are having a hard time putting your baby down and picking up a rope because she might cry/need you/miss you/you might cry/you might need her/you miss her, then just keep on a-holdin’ that baby. Sitting out a few brandings and missing out on the roping will make you feel conflicted, but there will be more calves to brand next year. But your baby will only be a baby for one year (that’s a fact, I’m not pointing it out to be a jerk), so honor that part of yourself that just wants to hold what you created.

6) New mothers: if you are desperate to hand your baby off to someone so you can jump on a horse and rope, go for it! Fact: people love babies. Someone will hold your baby so you can rope. And your baby will be fine. Well, unless you pick a degenerate alien life form on crack to hold your baby. So, don’t do that, and your baby will be fine.

7) New fathers: saddle your baby mama’s horse for her. She will feel loved and love you all the more for the kind gesture.

8) If you’re just not feeling the roping part of the branding season vibe but want to participate in the fun social atmosphere, learn to cook. Everybody loves to chow down on some high-quality victuals after burning hair all day, and you’ll be the best-liked person (next to the degenerate alien life form on crack, because you know he likes to party) on the ranch. Tip: always make way more food than you think you’ll need, because extra people always show up and branding crews can eat their weight in chili and sourdough biscuits.

Happy branding season! Have fun and don’t get rimfired. But if you do get rimfired, here’s a post I wrote with a few tips on remedying the experience.

Below, Taren Hays takes a calf to the fire while I come in for a heel shot. Photo by Becky Kingen.


Posted in: Featured, Ranch Life

About Jolyn Young

Jolyn Young lives near Montello, NV with her cowboy husband and 3 small kids. For more, visit

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