Julie Tarp

Julie Tarp
Born and bred in Texas. I'm a Screenwriter with a script currently in Development in La-La Land. Met and fell in love with my husband who is an actual cowboy. We have a 140 head cow/calf operation. He does the hard work, I just write about it.


Editor’s Pick
APRIL 24, 2009 12:40PM

The Inaugural Rockin' TC Calf Branding

Rate: 37 Flag

Tick. Tock.  It’s all I can hear.  Tick. Tock. 

It’s Tuesday and the branding is on Saturday.  Preferably, to hold a branding, you need corrals.  Ah, yes, the all-important corrals.  We do have them planned out and marked, no thanks to the power and water companies.  But, that’s about all we have at this point. 




And this is where the fun starts.   There is a railroad that runs through town and a corner of our property.  Paul asked them about any railroad ties they may have and/or if we could purchase some directly through them.  They were happy to oblige and offered as many free ones as we could take.  Since I’m the one who balances the checkbook – I like free stuff.  As a bonus, we were both happy with the fact we’d have “green” corrals in reusing the old ties.  Strong, sturdy corrals that wouldn’t budge for centuries.  Plus, they’ll look really cool.


Did anyone else know that railroad ties weigh, like, 300 pounds each?  Paul said they’d be heavy, but I think even he forgot just how big these suckers are.  For weeks, he began amassing them.  Getting one load – about 25 or so – would take the better part of half a day.  This is on top of all the daily things Paul does around here:  going through all the cows, checking if anything has calved (Yes, we still have cows left to calve.  Rotten, lying bastards – February my ass!  It’s the middle of freakin’ April!), cows at the leases, horses, feed, water, fences, etc.  I’m sure there is much more that I still have no idea about.  So, let’s just say, he’s spread a little thin.  Perhaps my big city, Dallas-girl charm is wearing off and the differences are beginning to become a hindrance?  I do have a really nice base tan going though. 

Better start getting some of these posts in the ground.  We borrowed a neighbor’s tractor and post-hole digger.  HUGE help.  Well, kinda.  The post-hole digger is 9” wide.  The railroad ties are 9” wide.  So, although we got the holes done, Paul has to dig out every single one to have wiggle room for the post.  We’re talking 3 feet in the ground and at least 3 inches on each side.  There are at least a hundred holes.  Unfortunately, this can only be done by hand.



aPic5   aPic6 

Dun, dun, dun… 

What’s that?  Rain?  Yes, all the holes are dug, only the corner posts are in and it starts to rain.  And rain.  And rain.  Apparently, having 3-foot deep holes filled with water is not conducive to actually setting a post.  Who knew?  From the looks of the tears streaming down Paul’s face – he knew.  But, he kept going.   

Wednesday evening Paul’s dad arrived and got more than he bargained for on Thursday.  A decision was quickly made to scrap the remaining railroad ties (for the sides) in lieu of 2x4s.  So, we got the dimensions and spacing worked out and I picked up a hammer.  My manicure is horrendous as you can imagine.



My aunt from Minnesota drove my 88 year-old Grandpa from Iowa down for the branding.  We were thrilled that they could make it, although we would have loved the rest of the clan as well.  They started their drive at 3:45 am and were here 12 hours later.  Minutes after they arrived, Grandpa was itching to get down to the corrals, which I must say, by this time; Bill and I had made good progress on.  Poor Paul, still putting in posts.  We all walked down and they literally got to work that minute.  They put us to shame!  The corrals were half built by the time dinner rolled around and starting to really look like something that could contain wild animals. 

Friday morning, the crew got to work in the pouring rain and the corrals were done.  Well, there are still some inner-workings that need to be finished, but hey – we can have a branding! 


The finished product – creepy weather.

Talk about cutting it close!  Let’s all have some cocktails in the hot tub!  And more cocktails.  And more. ..

Some friends Paul cowboyed with came in from out of town.  Both sets didn’t get to our house until after 11:00 pm.  I was well on my way to being incoherent by then (and most likely the reason there was no ice for mojitos).  I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone in this, but it’s a little hazy.  Sid and his wife, Sarah came up from just outside of Ft. Worth.  He’s a California boy too, but thank goodness Sarah's another Texas belle.  Dan drove from western Oklahoma and picked up a couple of horses we bought on the way.  He cowboyed with Paul in Oregon at the ZX, which is over a million acres.  Pretty impressive.  He brought along a Texas boy that he works with, Justin.  Nice crew.  And fascinating – all of them. 

There’s just something about seeing a bunch of cowboys (and cowgirl) saddle up their horses, make ‘em look pretty (there is a shocking amount of vanity here – from the tack to the clothes to the hat to the horse, it’s amazing) and head out to gather the cows.  Out there in the open, working in unison.  Paul is happiest on the back of a horse – especially if there’s a rope in his hand.  Which there would be plenty of today.





Justin giving Tyrone a good brushing before the start.I was fascinated by his leggin’s – a blend of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico “Cowpuncher” style.  Silver conchos go all the way down the back and sides and they must weight fifty pounds.  His hat is a traditional Texas Panhandle style, straight up on the sides.  Apparently, skin cancer isn’t a concern. 


Dan – knotting up his horse’s tail.  


Sid and Sarah


Heading out to gather the cows.

 apic19  apic20 

Paul and Justin push the herd from the two pastures behind the trees to this one.  Dan and Sid then get them moving into the next pasture where the corrals are.





The one that got away.  Justin going after a straggler.

With the calves sorted and the fire started, the inaugural TC Cattle Company branding begins.  (I have no idea why the font size changed here...)

Dan, Justin and Sid are horseback.  On the ground are Sarah doing the ear tags, Paul’s dad doing the vaccinations, Grandpa with the branding iron, Beth keeping the fire stoked and Paul cutting off the cojones and placing them in a container fashioned from a Coors box (sad, I know).  I am safely behind the rails – exactly where I should be. 


Sid kicking it off, throwing his loop.  “Headed” on the first shot - Showoff!
Dan waits, look how his horse is just intent on the calf.  Dan’s an enigma of style, combining “cowpuncher” and “buckaroo”.  He wears traditional Texas/Oklahoma  shotgun chaps (pronounced shaps).  But, he wears the buckaroo flat hat and wild rag.
Paul branding the first one as Grandpa and his dad, Bill, look on. 
The "Rockin’ TC" - thought it looked cooler in black and white.
Sarah helps in the holding and does the ear tag while Grandpa and Dan brand.
Sid has her headed as Justin heals.


Sid winding his loop.







Paul, holding a calf, intent on the ground crew.  

Yay!!  Guess who’s here?  The esteemed Mrs. Michaels and Puppy Monster!  She drove up from Dallas to be a part of this crazy day and man, am I glad she did.  Not only for the fact that we got to meet in person or that she brought chocolate and wine, but because I had one task – to keep track of the heifers and bulls.  A simple hash mark.  Did I mention that I was hung-over?  Although, there's a chance I was actually still drunk.  For my brain, this was like reading a Stephen Hawking book – it didn’t compute.  Mrs. M immediately took control of the pen or was forced to, I can’t remember which. 

I'm ashamed to say that Mrs. Michaels and I both eluded the camera all day.  There's not one single picture with her in it and only one of me - well, my ass, but who needs to see that?  She's everything you think she is:  Beautiful, gracious, funny as hell and ridiculously smart.  We're both so glad that she made the drive. 

It’s time for Paul to rope and Dan to take the ground.  Here’s where the different styles of cowboying come into play.  California Vaqueros, buckaroos if you will, have a very slow, almost methodical approach to animals.  Texans are more on the hurry-up side of things.  Remember that Coors box for the well, um, calf thingies?  That is now Mrs. Michaels’ head.  Those things are being tossed around willy-nilly – and with impressive distance.  The chair that she was just sitting in?  Oh yeah, pegged that too.  On the back of it no less.  “Bend It Like Beckham” my ass.  Bend It Like Conway! 

My dad, Cheri and sister Holly made the trip up from Dallas as well.  And thank goodness!  All of the sudden there were hardly any calves left and a bunch of hungry people.  I could not for the life of me start a fire for the bbqs.  Totally lame.  They literally took over and we had food.  Voila!

The branding went off with only a couple of hitches - herniated calf and Justin's horse did a full-on buck and roll with him on his back.  Our friends and family that came were appreciated beyond belief.  And while we may have been covered in mud by the time the bbq started, I think we were all happy with a job well done.     




Mrs. Michaels' hyesterical account can be found here




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This may be a dumb question (or worse yet, sound like I'm being a smart ass, but I'm not), but when you brand a cow, does it smell like steak cooking? I'm a city kid, so just curious. Great post & pics, by the way.
I wish it did - more like I set my head on fire - burning hair.

You're next Sheldon...
Thanks JK - I know it's a little long - I thought about doing two posts, but gave up.

You're jealousing of this - but I want your cabin!
So vivid I could smell the manure!

I love it when you write about ranching life.
Thanks Silky! I wish it hadn't been so gloomy a day and the pictures would have come out a little brighter...
aww, I've been waiting eagerly for this post. I truly wish I could have been there. Mrs M sounds wonderful, and I already love you guys, this would have been just that much more.

(I love Paul's hat too.)
Now that's a CORRAL! Really nice pics of the action and the Cowpunchers. When do ya'll get down to the "nut-cuttin'? When they are yearlings or sooner? Ooops, didn't mean to pry.
Rated & Cheers!
Giddyup! I LOVE this and that you guys are really doing it! As far as I'm concerned you could have written even more-I loved reading every word and the pictures are outstanding. Cowboys are my weakness. (Great book if you haven't read it.)
rated for good old fashioned living
Thanks Barry - I wish you could have come! We'll do it again though, don't worry. And now that we've got a couple more horses, after Paul works with them, maybe we could just get you and the fam up.

I'll actually be in Dallas later today. I wish we could find some time to get together, but I have to go to a bridal shower and then we need to get right back.

Bubba - We cut them then. One person does the vaccines, one does the ear tags, one does the brand and someone makes 'em into steers. Some of the bull calves at one of our leases are already starting to get frisky! We don't hold over yearlings, we sell them at around 9 months.

Let's drink to finished corrals! Cheers!
Thanks lady - This is Paul's favorite part of cowboying. We invited a bunch of neighbors to come, but no one knew how to rope! I'm sure there will be another installment, we still have about 40 head or so to brand from the lease.
Julie, I'm more up to speed on 'product branding' than cattle branding so it was quite an eye-opener to see the way you go about branding! It may take "a village to raise a child," but a small team that knows what they're doing seems to be what it takes to brand a calf.
D - Ha! While we go about it a bit differently, the really are the same. The calf is our product and the brand is our "logo". Plus, now no one can "rustle" them. We're in the same boat though, I went to my first branding six years ago and what an eye opener!
It's amazing to me to think that when we talk about "branding" in the modern sense of marketing, THIS is what it all boils down to!


Thankis Helen!

It's really weird how many things we use from back then. Paul almost had a heart attack during the election with McCain throwing around "maverick".
Julie, an excellent point about the logo aspect of your branding!
What a great story and GEEEEZ ~ you guys get more done in a day than we could get done in a month! Thanks for sharing a great day with us! Looking forward to the corrals!!!
Mom - I guess I didn't include a picture of the finished product! I'll have to get one up. Now we're crashing and burning though. I've spent the better part of the week at my pool.
I'm trying to send my pictures. They are being very, very slow to attach. Yes, our side of the fence was clearly the side to be on.

I did feel like their saddles should have had cupholders.
cool on the ties. do you know what kind of wood they used?
E - I'm so glad you got some! Mine are just of the very beginning. And a couple of people have sent me more - can't wait to see them.

It's amazing they could get all that done with a beer in one hand.

Marcelle - I think the 2x4s were some kind of fir. We're going to go back and replace them with ties at some point. Paul says in the very far future though - he's a bit tired.

Great story and pictures, but of course, I have to ask, does it hurt the calfs to be branded? It must, don't you think? Poor babies. Do you apply ice or anything? To the calf, I mean, not your hung-over head.
Wow! Photos fantastic & thanks for the peek in to your very interesting life. HB
I'm heartbroken, by the way, that you're going to be in town and won't have time for anything else.
m.a.h. - I wouldn't say it hurts more like, "man, this is uncomfortable". No, there's no ice - I wouldn't want that job - although, I should have thought about it for the head. The brand simply burns the hair off the hide in that one spot. Think about how thick leather is...They get right up and go back to eating grass as if nothing happened at all.

Thanks HB!
I know E. We're actually about to leave now. But, the shower's at one and since Holly and Cheri helped so much - I definitely need to return the favor! So, it'll probably be four by the time we're through. Paul's got to get back to check on everything while there is still a little bit of daylight.

I've got to get back soon anyway - did you check out my hair? It desperately needs a trim and I don't trust anyone here.
Julie, what a great story! Just goes to show somethings HAVE to be done the old fashioned way. I'm also sure that the romantic life of a cowboy is nothing like Hollywood portrays it to be.
Also very cool that Mrs. Mrs. Michaels could get in on the action.
I really enjoyed this.
Thanks for sharing it, Julie.

(thumbified for beefiness)
Great story and photos Julie, but why didn't you save the oysters for a calf-fry?!!! To this day we still laugh about the time one of our friends froze us an OB sleeve full of nards. We served them up to my sisters and brothers-in-law...well, at least to the one BIL that would actually eat them ;)
this was really terrific and I am so glad it's the headliner on the front page
Loved the story and the photos - reminded me of being at my mom's in Wyoming, especially when you mentioned how much pride the cowboys have in the way they dress. On my mom's road, pot lucks bring out their fanciest shirt, hat, and neckwear combo. The local cowboys were my favorite guests at our wedding!
Julie! Congrats on the weekend cover double column above the fold spread!
Julie, this is just great! congratulations on the feature.
It is wonderful and well deserved!!
I've lived in southeast Texas over half of my life and I love these 'firsts' on the ranch. Thanks for sharing those moments.
Great writing. Wonderful theme. Horrible fence-building.
Having postholes full of water is an opportunity drop the post in and then pour in a bag of quick-setting concrete. Also, RR ties make great posts but please, please, please have your camera ready when you go to putting them up as rails. That is something I want to see! Also, whatever you decide to use as rails should be put on the "action" side of the post. The way you have them in your photos relies totally on the strength of the fasteners that you used (nails or screws) in the event of the "action" coming into confluence with the fence rails. A stumbling horse or a fractious bull, cow, or calf impacting the rails would pop the nails if they are outboard of the posts, but would have to push them through the posts were the rails inboard. This is friendly advice from a person who had to re-build about three hundred feet of fence many years ago. Arrrrggghhh !
Great story and photos. I live on a ranch and witness branding several times a year. You captured the flavor perfectly!

Ye---haww! Rated.
Julie, two more downsides to using RR ties as rails:

First, as you noted, RR ties are typically 9" x 7" so the fasteners that you use would need to be at least 12" long to penetrate the post to any significant degree. That is an awful long fastener. It would need to be a lag bolt which would require drilling a "pilot hole" and the use of a washer or the head of the bolt would pull into the wood as it moves with seasonal ground flexing and weathering. This could be remedied if you were to take the ties to a lumber mill and have them "resawn" in thirds to approx 3" x 7" but this would expose inner surfaces of the tie that may, or may not, have been penetrated by the preservative used in treatment, usually creosote in older ties but I think that environmental concerns may have changed that. Furthermore, resawing tends to relieve stresses in larger timbers leading to warping if the resultant planks are only fastened to structure at their ends. Great for dlooring, horrible for fence rails.
And, because of their length of 8-1/2 ft., your posts would need to be precisely set at that distance apart and you could not span more that one interval. You would lose the ability to "stagger" the splice points as you would be able to do with longer boards.

I'll be interested to see your solution.
spell check "Great for flooring..."
And, finally, (I promise), at the risk of seeming pedantic, a brand belongs to you and you can call it whatever you choose to call it but a purist would likely "read" yours as the "Lazy Rocking TC" or the "Rocking Lazy TC" because the rocker occurs under reclining letters rather than upright ones. Enjoy your hobby.
Hey, Julie. Nice pictures and I almost grimaced seeing the smoke from the branding. It is not a nice smell. We helped father in law brand for years and the smell is nasty. As a kid we never branded, so I was amazed people still branded. Eartags are so much easier but hard to see when they get all muddy and old.

My husband used to throw calf testicles at me and it was gross. It was fun, though in a sick sort of way. I learned to duck.
Horses? Ropes? Chaps? You guys do it the fancy way. We always had to run up behind the calves, grab them by the rear leg, while they tried to kick us in the face and then as we hung on for dear life someone else would grab the front leg and we would flip them over and hold them down. And my brother had the knack of always finding the freshest cowpie to force the person on the back to sit in.
After a day of branding my aunt would make a big pile of Rocky Mountain Oysters, aka calf fries, and everyone would dig in with a bottle of beer. I passed on both.
This is straight up animal brutality. What gives you -- or anyone -- the right to forcibly inflict this much pain on another creature? And to post your bragging rights. This is cruel, this is ignorant at best and selfish brutality at worst. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people who are outraged by people like yourself. There are hundreds of organizations that come to the rescue of animals who are in the control of you and people like yourself. This turns my stomach and makes me wish that someone would brand YOU. Do unto others, please, as you would have them do unto you. Read something about animal cruelty and try to educate yourself. Humans are not the only creatures who have rights on this earth. Our fellow four legged creatures have rights too. The height of selfishness is to assume that only humans matter. http://www.hsus.org/farm/
Loved this, especially the pictures! It's been too long since I've been on horseback...though I never did anything like this.
clearfield, do you not see the ridiculous and delicious irony in this portion of your statement?

This turns my stomach and makes me wish that someone would brand YOU. Do unto others, please, as you would have them do unto you.

So, are you saying that willfully choosing to ignore what you're preaching, or that you don't understand the golden rule?

(And, if you go to the source, the golden rule actually applies to people, n'est-ce pas?)
You cannot argue with faulty logic of animal rights fanatics. I hope that you don't let this person ruin the good spirit of this post. If they cannot be identified they'd run loose and die of starvation or get hit by cars... much worse than a minute of pain.
clearfield, it's a shame you feel obligated to share your ugliness here. You are attacking someone's livelihood, and your angry language is not well-calculated towards fostering dialogue. If you want to talk animal welfare, I suggest you use the proper terms. Rights are a human construct, and limited to humans.
I have a problem with cowboys who steal by grazing their neighbors' land. I've written about it here and even got the state representative's attention when I asked him if we couldn't change the law about that. His response was an ad-hominum worthy of Dick Cheney. Never once have I lost my affection for cowboying and the cowboy way. (I know firsthand that smell, thanks to the late Lewis Bright, cowboy emeritus in these parts.) I have repaired fence and had to double-check my tetanus boosters with my "primary care provider" (a longer term than "Doc"). The romance you describe, when taken for granted, can lead to strange political bedfellows. I'm really, really hoping you're the good kind of cowboys when I chime in with a knowing comment. Otherwise I just said "blapples" and that would suck flying oysters extra badly.

I'm rating just in case the commenting was too elliptical.
Great photos, and congrats on the EP! Very interesting to get an inside view of your life on the ranch. All the best -- rated.
Gotta love people that have never worked on a ranch chiming in about the practice- ::insert eyeroll here:: I always equated branding the bovine equivalent to getting your ears pierce.

For the record, trendspotting says that human tattoos are fast becoming passé - branding is suppose to really take off in the next few years. There are a couple of tat shops that are doing it here.
Clearfield is what happens when people get too far removed from the day-to-day processes that put food on their plate. This is a fascinating read, thanks for putting it up.
Clearfield--Branding and castrating calves are not painless for the animals involved, and no one pretends they are.

But, both jobs are hard, dirty, bloody, exhausting physical labor that no one in their right mind would undertake were they not also necessary.

Brenda Gail and others wrote about the purpose of branding--it identifies the calf as belonging to a particular ranch, making it harder for another rancher to steal and to make it easy to return should it become separated from the herd. Ear-tagging serves the same purpose, although it is not as permanent (sometimes tags do come off) or as easily visible as branding.

As to castration, like the males of many animal species, "intact" bulls will fight one another, often to the death, and will also destroy fences and other property. They are also very tempermental and easily provoked, creating a danger for humans on the farm. (Anyone who grew up in the country knows to never never never never never tease a bull unless you want to either be killed by the bull or killed by your mother when she hears about it.)
Fascinating essay and comments. I thought there might be more of the ignorant peta stuff in the comments-- glad there is not.
Wow! Thanks everyone! I just got home from Dallas and am surprised by the cover!

I'll try to get responses to everyone...

Michael - You're right, it's nothing like Hollywood - although, Paul is so into tradition, that most of what he does is pretty cool in that fashion - no four wheelers, etc. Plus, he looks really hot in all his gear! We were so stoked that Mrs. Michaels could come up.

Thanks Jodi.

Blue - We didn't do them. I'm not into that and thank goodness no one else demanded them. G-ross.

Thanks Ariana!

Ma - It still takes some getting used to. At our wedding, a few of the guests wore jeans - clean, new ones, but jeans all the same. But, the kindest people I've ever met.

Thanks Barry! And thanks for the screen save!

Gary - Always so kind...sincerely appreciated from you.

Blue - There are many let me tell you!

Motoring - I appreciate the concern. My husband's been at this for over 15 years, this is just our first place as owners.

Horrible fence building? I think maybe you saw a picture of the exterior - the side rails are fastened on the inside of the corrals. If they push while in there, the strength of the post holds it. You are correct, had they been the other way - they just pop the board right off.

We used up all our concrete quickly. But, that's exactly what I said! Just pour some down there and let it mix.

Thanks for dropping by Buffy!

Motoring - Yeah, Paul was explaining to me what it really encompasses to have the ties as rails also - crazy hard. Lag bolts, yes. Pilot holes, yes. Extremely heavy, yes. Since they are repurposed - I don't think that having them split or resawn would work either.

Each post is exactly 8 feet apart, except for where there is a gate/inner workings for a gate. It's doable - Paul's roped in a million of them. But, most of those were built back in the day. I'm pretty sure we'll have the 2x4s for quite some time.

The brand would actually read "Quartercircle TC" The pictures at an angle - not the brand. The TC is straight up and down. But, you are correct in that if it was "tilted backwards" it would be Lazy. The "TC" honestly needs to tilt forwards with the quartercircle normal. but, It looks better this way.
Brings back memories of growing up on the farm. Dad was lucky enough to find a cattle-squeeze at an auction sale. Made castration, dehorning and ear-tagging a lot easier. We branded some but over the years we switched to ear tags. Easier to identify individual animals. We didn't keep the calf testicles, the dogs always sneaked up and ran off with them.

And, yes, branding stinks to high heaven. Even worse than burnt hair.
Brenda - Paul was just saying that he doesn't even notice the smell anymore. WHAT??? It's awful. Just when things return to normal - there's another one! I too have been chased by calf balls - not fun. Well, I think it was for the two little girls doing it.

Ocular - You painted a picture there that I can't even imagine! This way takes all day - that must have taken forever. I refuse to fry anything's balls. I will, however, provide beer.

Clearfield - Animal brutality? No. Animal brutality would be to not vaccinate these animals and have them die of something like blackleg - can you imagine all your organs just slowly bleeding on the inside for a couple of days until your death? Seems pretty inhumane to me.

It really is pathetic that you don't know anything that you're talking about but yet posit it as fact. You're a radical plain and simple. What we do here at our ranch is care for them. They live here and eat as much as they want and drink as much as they want. We keep them clean, healthy and happy. You are simply pathetic. You should learn something about which you speak before you do it.

I mean, are you sincerely trying to threaten me? Some organization is going to come "rescue" my animals? Please. Check out a chicken factory you fucker.
George - Thanks for reading. Horses are simple fascinating to watch - way smarter than me! Get back up there!

Barry - ::curtsy:: True gentleman.

Brenda - I know, right? They're literally on hundreds and hundreds of acres just freaking eating! Oooh, I should be shot. How dare we?

Mrs. M - Thanks for having my back while you knew I was gone. I mean, are worms eating all they ingest somehow a better alternative?

Stacey - No blapples! That means you're really cracking up! I've read a couple of your posts and am very sorry that you neighbor people like that. That's not how we run things here, never have and never will. Plus, if you were our neighbor - even if it wasn't our cows - Paul would come and fix your fence for you.

Paul's never even heard of some of the stuff you've written, much less witnessed it. I think y'all just got the short end of the stick on neighbors. Sincerely, I'll talk to him and see if he can't think of a way to help you rectify something - without the brick-wall you've been running into.

Thanks Steve!

T&D - Right? It's over in a second and they forget it even happened.

I think a "Rockin' TC" would look super hawt with your cheetah nightgown, no?

JK - Hahahaha! She's squirrely! I tried to warn you. plus, I imagine that flat ass of hers didn't help in the placement.

Vin - Why thank you kindly. Paul laughs that people think meat just grows under those celophane wrappers. Or strawberries come in a crate. It's all magic...

Leeandra - You're exactly right. It's been done longer than we've been a United States. Last year ranchers lost more than $6 million worth of cattle due to theft alone. And your absolutely on point with the bulls. Another reason we do it is because they produce less hormones. Hormones will surge throughout the "meat" making it tougher. No one wants a hard as a rock Ribeye steak!

Thanks for the important points you made while I was away.

Thanks Jen! Conversely, I was really taken aback by there even being one. We may be liberals here, but we still like our meat! Or, at least respect people trying to make a living.

My sister is a vegetarian and she was right there watching. no tears or anything. Just respect for the job we're trying to do for the welfare of the animals.

Thanks everyone! And thanks, Zerry - much appreciated.
Hey archer - You snuck in there! We'll get a squeeze chute at some point - we only have a head catch now. We'll use that for the cows - much easier than roping a 1000 lb animal!

We do ear tags only for numbers. And I have a cattle specific software program to keep track of each individual animal - really fabulous.

I might be getting rid of the smell in my nose a week later. Maybe.
This is a fun and fascinating post. The pics are great. And the one with the leggins - we are talking serious cowboy profilin'.
Appreciated and rated.
To respond, this last time -- to just one of these posts which were so irritated by my original compassionate and concerned post for tortured animals -- here is what was said:
"both jobs are hard, dirty, bloody, exhausting physical labor that no one in their right mind would undertake were they not also necessary."
Necessary for WHO? YOU have decided that it is acceptable to take over animals' lives for your own exploitation. For YOUR profit, for YOUR "fun." YOU have taken the inalienable right away from other sentient creatures -- their rights. They have them. The fact that you don't recognize them only reflects your own selfishness. Educate yourself -- or don't. But for others who would like more information -- please check out a few sites -- like -- Farm Sanctuary -- an organization that rescues abused farm animals -- animals that have been found starved, beaten and/or managed to escape the death rows called slaughter houses. Please.

I realize that the mainstream thought here is that animals are simply here for us to use or abuse. That is evident by the brutality that is inflicted on them everywhere. There is nothing unusual in dominating animals, it can be done, it has been done and will probably always be done. It is unusual to think twice, wonder how that animal might feel, and decide to behave differently (move against the "herd") than all the other human-centrics around you.
Clearfield - I have never deleted a comment to a post - but am seriously considering yours. You are using my post to advocate for something that has nothing to do with what we do at our ranch. We are animal caregivers and nothing you have noted here can be inferred - even remotely - in regards to our management of animals.

" Farm Sanctuary -- an organization that rescues abused farm animals -- animals that have been found starved, beaten and/or managed to escape the death rows called slaughter houses."

Are our animals starved? They're fat, fucker. Are they beaten? What are you talking about? I would love to see you herd up 140 animals just to beat them. It's physically impossible.

Slaughterhouses are necessary for people to eat a nice, fat, juicy, dripping with blood steak. Fucker. Troll. Go gag on a tofu burger.

*I have nothing against vegetarians, as I've said, my sister is one, but I hope he chokes on a sprout.
Apropos of nothing in particular, I just got done reading an article about how too much soya can lower testosterone in men.

Also, I'm jealous of Sarah for being there for the roundup part, not that I've actually ridden in six years. How much actual ability did that require?

I think I might even be able to handle gathering them - not to downplay Sarah's role - all the tags are on perfectly straight and there's no way I could have done that. I think all you have to do is ride along side of them and a couple of them push them from the back and they all just mosey along.

Well, that's how it works in my head.

Can you imagine them doing this with hundred of thousands of acres? Paul used to have to ride for miles and miles just to get to the cows. They had to trailer out two or three extra horses, so they wouldn't tire them out.
Even the tags I loaded? She had to show me how to put the tags in the gun twice (because it was that complicated) and even then I kept worrying that a tag would wind up backward. Once after tagging a calf, they paused and looked at its ear and I was sure it was because the tag was on wrong.
Uh. Oh. You totally know more than me. I have no idea how that contraption works. You know, we still have the ones at our lease to do. You can be the tagger! I, of course, will need to stay home and make sure the ice machine works.
When you say "we," do you mean Paul and you? For a bunch of even bigger calves? And I only know how to load it. You wouldn't actually want me going up to the calf with it. Really, the only time you want me handling a cow is when it's getting ready to be marinated.
Grif - I didn't see you there! I know you wish this was you! Those leggins weighed so much. He actually had to take them off when he worked the ground. But, they look really cool in the saddle.
E - No, we're going to have to have help with those also. Probably much more necessary on those than this last bunch. You should read my post about us vaccinating them over there - no roping or anything. Scary!
I did earlier in the evening, now that I have a better idea of what I was supposed to be looking at.

And for this one I have two words: oyster nachos.
Just something to think about for Foodie Tuesday.
There is so much to say about the post.
I fear for Dan? If he gets kicked. Ouch.
He'll be nervous as a new-wed-hornet.
Getting hitched is okay. I get nervous.
Riding a horse is better than a lap top.
I'd rather sit on horses than therapist.
By the hat, leggin', I say:`Tyrone okay.
Those horses. Beautiful Beast. O tuna.
I love tuna casserole if I go to Cape Cod.
I'd drive thee bakery truck out to Texas.
I miss a gal who braids the pony tail. Ay.
I just a- jesting. That's no beekeeper hat.
Clearfield--If you're totally against raising any kind of animal for slaughter, fine, that's your opinion.

However, there are many people (such as myself) who do eat meat but are opposed to factory farming, which IS inhumane. Newsflash--these particular animals are not factory farmed. They're roaming pretty damn free--thus the necessity of ear-tagging, branding, and (even if it had no effect on the meat) castration of most of the male calves. Branding is necessary for both the rancher who has a significant amount of money invested in the cattle, and the cattle themselves, who would wander off and starve if they could not be identified, and castration keeps the bull calves from killing each other, killing ranch hands, or killing innocent bystanders.
I loved both yours and Mrs. Michaels' version but I'm with m.a.h. Just thinking about the poor calves in pain makes me a little sad. Great story and congratulations on the cover!
E - I totally forgot you were one of the first to comment on that one...

Arthur - I'm pretty sure Dan's been kicked more than he'll share. you're right about the horses - stunning. Paul's horse Monte has literally saved his life on numerous occasions.

Leeandra - Right again. Clearfield has the right to believe in anything he wants. As you validly pointed out, those beliefs have nothing to do with our ranch. I didn't like the correlation of the two. We're here simply to keep them fat and happy.

Cartouche - I don't like it either. But, honestly, it's a split second. For us to have recourse against losing $260,000 in animals (cows, calves and bulls) we're willing to do it. Plus, they are getting their "childhood vaccinations".

Thanks - really cool about the cover and surprising too.
Fascinating- amazing pictures- thanks for sharing!
Thanks for dropping by Juli - glad you enjoyed it.
I love this post! What an amazing opportunity to see a process - and read about it, in a hilarious manner - that I had no clue about.
I grew up riding horses - East coast, so English - but I was also a barn brat/mucker/groom. My friends keep a herd of Ayrshire's. which I LOVE to go help groom during county fair season, and they cull the herd every year.
My partner and I are conscious about where our food comes from. We live in Mass., which is having a great revival of traditional farming via CSA's, artisanal cheese, and fresh and local dairy and meat. There's a bison farm across from the Whole Foods - I kid you not.
Peta people can go fuck themselves - conscious people have learned that making careful choices makes more of a difference to the environment, the community and good health than any rabid animal "rights" movement will ever achieve. May they soon wander off a cliff while hunting for wild arugula.
Another cool thing that is happening here is community gardens in areas of urban blight - and farmers market in economically distressed cities that can accept food stamps!
I applaud what you are doing, and can't wait to read more of your blog.
(Sorry if I got a little long winded....!)
Yee hah! How exciting. What a wonderful photo journal of a cowboy tradition. Simply fabulous. Thanks for sharing your world with us.
Communities helping communities - I love it, aim. Paul always says that while we may have no money, at least we will eat well forever. I wish our community had more involvement like that, but it would basically be a market of beef.

You're right on in being concious about what you're eating. We take care of it for the people who don't. We pull out anything that has had any kind of antibiotic and sell it seperately from the rest. We use gentle weaning and handling practices. We can actually track our calves all the way through the process after it leaves our ranch.
Why, thank ya Leonde. (tipping hat brim)
Thanks Julie!
I live in a very small state - I've been to Texas and whoa!. So it is almost neccesary, at this point, to be doing things this way, because there's no big farms at all.
I hope you have good buyers for your product.
Sometimes I feel pretty lucky to live in overcrowded Massachusetts. The biggest crops for years have been corn and tobacco - the really good tobacco, sold for cuban cigars. Again, I kid you not. But Western Mass. would probably fit into your county....we're a tiny little overpopulated east coast state that has begun to realize we need to fucking get it together with buying local.
I hope you and your husband really appreciate the image of the bison farm right across the street from Whole Foods. (And their beef is sold everywhere and featured in local restaurants.) It's basically across the street from a mall - Walmart is three doors down. Moo! Snort. What do bison do? Bellow? Shoppers can hear them! I think that's a very good thing.
Ooh, the best piece of meat I ever prepared was a bison flank steak. What are the chances that y'all might branch out into bison some day?
The nuns that taught my mother, aunts, and all my female cousins on Mom's side of the family raise beefalo--a crossbreed of beef cattle and buffalo.

They run an "all-natural" farm (though they are organic, they can't afford the official certification process).

You can read about their farm venture here. Back in the old days, it was the source of meat and veg for a large community of nuns and a girls' boarding school!

Soory! I loved that link Leeandra and thought I could provide a hot link - but alas no, and all my comments got negated as well.
It's a link to the community farm in Holyoke Mass. - worth checking out.
Although we have now gone entirely off topic.
I was born in San Antonio. Your post explains why I grew up in Connecticut with a burning desire for cowboy boots and a horse.
Best of luck with your screenplay. When your are at the podium with the statue in your hand, remember to mention those of us at OS who gave you a laboritory in which you could experiment with your work.....
Now that I'm an OS member (and made officially famous by this post) - I just wanted to say how much fun that day was, and thanks for letting us be a part of it!