Legends in Leather
The center of attention.
by Terry Allen
July 6, 2015
You don’t need to hang out at Ridley’s grocery in Pinedale long, before a truck full of serious looking ranchers pulling a trailer full of horses show up to get provisioned. They’ll climb out of their truck and stomp their boots on the pavement to knock the mud off before they enter the store. Don’t bother them yet, let ‘em get their bottle of soda to knock the thirst down, first.
When they come out of the store, they’ll be smiling and their spurs will be jingling. That’s when you introduce yourself, and if you show a little interest in the cowboy way, the Cole Butner Family might invite you to a branding.
May 20, 2015 was branding day at the old Floyd Briggs Ranch, leased to Gene Pearson for the last five years. Gene was born over on the Green River and has been ranching for 60 years.
"Lazy E Spear" is Gene’s brand and today and it will be put on about 210 calves; with the help of 14 people and 8 working horses.
Cowboys and cowgirls dressed in leather chaps, sat upon leather saddles that cool and misty morning. Blaine Matthews and his sister Bryanne, Rudy Paravicini, Gene’s son Gene Paul, Cole Butner and his son Tanner, Jack Christensen from the old Scott Place…also known as Grindstone. The mood is a combination of quiet business, light-heartedness and anticipation. Gene and Cole get on their phones and a few minutes later another handful of cowboys show up, get their horses out of their trailers, and the whole bunch mount up and head to the south.
An open-ended corral is set up quickly, and mother cows and their calves are run into it. Without much talk, a bunch of the men get on their horses and start headin’ and heelin’, the term for putting a rope around the neck first and the rear two legs last. Then a cowboy takes the calf off their feet and puts weight on it so it can’t move, and Gene can clip an ear.
Bryanne and Sue Briggs vaccinate against disease and run a fat white marking chalk down their spine to keep track of who has and has not been branded. Then Gene Paul puts a big, heavy foot on the calf and applies the glowing home-made brand to the side of the thousand dollar calves, to guard against modern-day rustlers.
The hide sizzles for a moment, an acrid smoke of burning hair fills the air, the calf lets out a bawl, then the ropes are loosened and it runs back to its mother.
Sometimes three sets of horses have 3 calves between them, and the ground crew seems choreographed as they clip, vaccinate and brand, and then run to the next calf and do it all again.
An elderly Floyd Briggs rides up in a covered 4-wheeler and surveys the action and smiles. Floyd’s grand-dad a hundred or more years back, homesteaded the ranch, and gathering, and branding has been done the same way ever since. Neighbors helping neighbors get their cattle branded, until it is done for all.
Terry Allen’s branding exhibit, Legends in Leather, is at The Rock Rabbit Bistro in Pinedale. Stop in and let the large photographs, take you to a brandin’.
Photos by Terry Allen.
Terry Allen can be reached at 307-231-5355 for text or email Txpartisan@gmail.com.