It started out something like this.

Miranda – Hey, we’re gonna’ be branding this weekend if you wanna’ come over.
(She says this in her very sweet, country girl-next-door voice but with a twinkle in her eye like she’s inviting me over for a “Pleasure” party.)

Me – Sure
(I answered in my, city-fied limited knowledge of branding which, I’m not gonna’ lie, consisted only of old westerns I’d seen on t.v. as a kid.)

Not.A.Clue of the day that awaited me!
Not – A – Clue!!!!

I knew branding had something to do with livestock; cows/bulls/horses and that was pretty much the extent of what I knew. I honestly thought it was just taking a long, hot poker rod with a brand at the end of it and poking it at an animal.
True story. Hey, shut up, it’s all they did on t.v.!

I couldn’t have been more wrong in so many, many, many ways!!!

First you have to round up your livestock, in this case, cattle, mostly cows. Blake and the boys did this part, on horseback.

So far, so good, just like in the movies.

Now the cattle moves to the corral and it’s time to separate the mamas from the babies.
Not gonna’ lie, Hitler crossed my mind at this point..

Blake and the boys maneuver the mamas into the chute.
Here’s the littlest buckaroo moving the cows to their impending doom into position.


Everything – EV.ER.YEEEEE.THING – after this point waaaassss…

Wait… I mean HORR-I-FYING!!!

Yeah, this, this is what I felt like inside, and you’re gonna’ see this photo A LOT!

After the cute cows get into the chute, gently prodded by the much cuter lit’l buckaroo, it’s time for their shots and ear tags.
Thoughts of my kids getting their baby shots and my daughter getting her ears pierced as a toddler cross my mind..
Yeah.. NO!


The look on the cow’s faaaacccce!
The look on the mother fucking cow’s face, people!!!!!

The whole shot, ear tag thing happens in the blink of an eye and the cows know it’s coming, they fucking know because they run full speed ahead into that steel torture chamber trap of all things livestock and then BOOM! Nowhere to run folks, trapped like rats in a cage.

Fortunately for them Miranda did the majority of the shots and tagging and she was very swift with her needle and giant livestock ear piercing gun, and yes, I’m pretty sure that IS the technical term for it, so the cows were in and out, and what I surmised from this process is that first and foremost, Miranda may have missed her calling in nursing, and secondly, to a city person, this is fucked up but as Miranda educated me every horrifying step of the way, it is absolutely necessary for the health of your herd.

Next up, the babies. No chutes for them, nope, nope, nope. They’re in the corral to get roped n’ tied.
This is a true blue cowgirl.
(I smiley faced her face because I didn’t ask permission to post this pic but it’s my pic and now, this could be anyone, right??)
brand rope kyla12
Again, look at the cow’s face…

The babies get all kinds of shit done to them.
– Nut cut, castration, whatever.. If need be.
– Shots
– Ear tag
– Ear cut/mark
– Branded

These are the branding irons heating up.

And then the deed…

I would’ve asked for a bucket to vomit in if I wasn’t so busy taking pictures. Seriously, it was horrifying and mesmerizing all at the same time, like a National Geographic special right before your eyes. How could I not take pictures??!! And, the only bucket available was filled with these..

Rocky mountain oysters, cowboy caviar, call ’em what ya’ want. They’re fucking balls, testes, testicles, and people fucking eat them. Yes, they do. Here in Idaho, they have a huge Rocky Mountain Oyster Feed every year in the city of Eagle, and in Clinton, Montana, they have their annual Testicle Festival.” Not even kidding folks.

And that was pretty much Miranda’s idea of a “Pleasure” party. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, she said branding but you guys weren’t there, you don’t know the twinkle in her eye that, on most days is angelic but not on this day, oh no, no, no, on this day I’m certain that twinkle was put there by Satan himself! And you guys didn’t hear the soft, allure of her voice.. She said branding but it rolled off her tongue like “Pleeaaasure…” AND, to everybody in attendance, it was pleasure! Not the “Pleasure Party” kind of pleasure, well maybe, if you got the horse off to a nice trot, wait, no, seriously, this whole day was fun to them, seriously fuuunnn, so much so that they all went and helped the neighbors do the same thing the very next day!!!

There is a happy ending to this story.
happy ending
No.. Not that kind..

This kind!

Elk burgers on the grill! Elk burgers that Blake n’ Miranda and their “boyz from the woods” shot and prepped themselves.
They were delicious, and we all lived happily-ever-after.
The end.


I poke fun in this post but the truth is, this is hard work, and this family is one of the hardest working families I have ever met, ranchers in general, are hard-working people, hard-working people. They’re not “good ‘ol boys” or “Jethro Bodines,” and the women are definitely not your “daisy dukes n’ cowboy boots.” They are highly intelligent business people who just happen to conduct their business in the all outdoors and trust me, they don’t keep bankers hours and they don’t get holidays off, they’re working 24/7 to keep themselves fed, you fed, me fed, and all people north, south, east and west. 
Seriously folks, if you love your steaks n’ burgers and that Sunday meatloaf, take a moment to thank a rancher. What they do is important. They’re important..


ON A SIDE NOTE – I no longer eat beef. True story.