Most people sleep in on Sundays don’t they? I honestly wounld’t know since I married a rancher.  Sunday is just another work day.  And this Sunday, after being up all night with a little boy who just broke his arm, we all headed up bright and early to the branding in Graegle, California where Darrin calved out his fall pairs.  Did that last sentence make sense to you? 15 years ago it wouldn’t have made sense to me either! “Calving out” refers to the cows (already had a baby) and heifers (never had a baby) giving birth. Think of it this way… I was a heifer when I had Eva and then I was cow when I had Dominic.  These calves were born from July of this year until about 3 weeks ago (that’s the “fall pairs” I referred to).

darrin ropes

Darrin roping

Cowboys roping

Cowboys roping

And in this day and age when I can type on a wirless keyboard, post to the internet from my couch and see who’s calling me just by looking at my TV… yes, branding is still necessary in the ranching world. It seems like it should be more hi tech to me too, but it’s not. Brands are the only sure way to tell which animal belongs to which rancher. And while fences separate pastures, cows have a huge knack for getting through those fences… not to mention the people who leave gates open.  Darrin winters some of his cattle in the desert near Fallon (about 1 hour east of Reno).   So half of his herd is released onto tens of thousands of acres in the middle of Nevada. Yes, you still need brands in 2012.  So here we are in Graegle branding 500 head of calves (this is the second weekend in a row we’ve branded).  The Damonte brand is an L-D.  It evastands for Louie Damonte.  That’s my father-in-law.  The guy who has worked his ass off his whole life to grow this operation.  After the calves are gathered from the pasture, the branding starts with cowboys roping the calves.  It’s like a chaotic team roping event at a rodeo.  One guy tries to get his rope around the calves’ head.  The second guy tries to rope the calves’ feet.  Once that happens, another cowboy pulls the calf down onto it’s side.  The ear is marked specific to the Damonte herd, vaccines are given,  rubber bands are put around the “nuts” of the boy calves (called steers) and finally, our hot iron is branded into the right hip of the animal.  Eva is learning the family business and doing a helluva job.  Domi is usually out there, but Mom said, “ABSOLUTELY NOT UNTIL HIS ARM HEALS!!!” 


He’s still mad at me.  Once all the calves are branded, the cowboys push them back into the pasture or God’s Country as we call it.  They’ll stay in the pasture until the snow is so thick on the ground the cows can’t dig down to the natural grass.  At that point, Darrin will truck them to warmer pastures in Paradise, California (near Chico) or out to the desert I mentioned before.  Oh yes, my husband is also a trucker.  More on that in a future post.  So as you can see, a day in the life of a rancher is a week in the life of most men.

God's Country

God’s Country, Graegle, CA

About Wendy D

I was born in San Francisco and ended up marrying a rancher in Reno, Nevada. I have a big city job anchoring the 5 o’clock news but come home to the country where my husband’s family has ranched for 5 generations.

Speak Your Mind