A Montanan finding ‘brand’ new experiences

Dino Dave’s Adventures
Thursday, June 27, 2019
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I was born in Montana. I lived most of my life in Montana. My driver’s license headlines Montana. Yet… something was missing. It was as if I was Cooper Manning, the brother of Peyton and Eli who didn’t quarterback. Or that I was in an amazing orchestra, but I played the triangle. I called myself a Montanan, but I never really felt Montanan until last week when I was invited to attend my first branding.

In a state where cows outnumber humans 2 to 1, I admit, I’ve always had a bit of a bovine phobia. With good reason too. Cows killed five times as many people in 2018 than Sharks did. Steven Spielberg missed the mark with Jaws. Make a thriller called “Moos!” and that’s the moo-vie that will keep me up at night. I can see the plot now; there I am hiking or on my motorcycle and this beast will not move just staring ... staring blank at me like my first day of calculus. Why won’t you mooooove!

Anyway, the only thing I understand about the cattle world is that they taste good. But I’ve grown up with friends whose way of life are cattle. They do these things called rodeos. I went to my first one a few years ago in Las Vegas thanks to a free ticket. (I can’t wait to go to another one for the sole reason to yell, “Hey Buddy! This isn’t my first rodeo!). At this rodeo, for fun these guys would strap a rope around the “oysters” of a, big ol nasty bull just to make it mad. Logical. Then these guys would get on and ride them for a few seconds. The madder the bull the better. Hmmm ... even more logical. Then a clown would appear from barrel like David Copperfield and play with these raging bulls like they were cocker spaniels at the dog park. Makes complete sense. This is what happens when you grow up without cable. Needless to say, I was naïve to the cowboy way, but in some sort of Tom Sawyerian way, I was excited to finally attend my first branding. I feel like Montana should have check mark on their drivers license right between Motorcycle Endorsement and Organ Donor that says, “Have you branded?”. Then once the branded is checked the word “REAL” magically appears before Montana.

I showed up in my baseball hat and tennis shoes. I felt like a geeky freshman walking into a seniors-only party. There were cowboy hats, wranglers, boots, horses ... this was the real deal. I felt even more out of place. There were even old guys wearing chaps. CHAPS! I didn’t know anyone really wore chaps except for that Halloween back in college of my third sophomore year. I wandered off to where the cows were. At this point, I felt I had more in common with them. When I arrived, the calves were already separated, and they were as nervous as I was. I’ve never heard that much mooing since that annoying “what does the cow say?” toy in kindergarten.

The crowd started to move from lunch to the corral and I took my place on the fence doing my best cowboy pose with both arms over the rails with one leg slightly bent and little snarl. I saw it in a country music video one time. I still had no clue how everything worked. I kept hearing the word “wrestle,” pronounced “wrassle” if you were over 50. In my mind I was thinking, “Ok, if I go for the hind leg I could get a couple points for a take down, then put the little bugger in a half nelson with a little luck I can get the calf pinned on his back in a respectable time Coach Zody would be proud of.” Then ... in a flash they opened the gates and real cowboys on horses started roping these things just like that first rodeo in Las Vegas I went to. The little girl to the left of me got excited and said, “Hey do you want to wrestle with me?”

“NO! You do not want ME to wrestle a calf with you” I replied. I hadn’t even seen it done before. I felt out of place enough, now I had to have this little girl showing me up. Three at a time these calves were dragged out of the pen by a lasso. Each calf had the same expression I make after my sixth sit-up. Eyes bulging with the tongue out. The little girl to the left of me jumped on that calf with a smile like she was about to get on the tilt-awhirl. I had the wrestling thing all wrong in my mind. These guys did things fast. The expression on my face was still wonder, awe, and a little baffled when someone yelled to me “You’re next!”

“What do I do, what do I do?” I felt like I was on a NASCAR pit crew who hadn’t even changed a tire before. If the little girl can do it, so can I. PJ - another newbie - had the hind legs. I had the front with my knee on the neck. I thought it was cool that this was a technique that has probably been around for hundreds of years. I learned later, that they gave me the easier job. I’m ok with that. That little doggy was no match for me as his ancestors are responsible for the few extra pounds, I needed to hold him down. I could feel my baseball cap gradually turn to a Stetson as the singe and stink from the blazing hot brand dissipated. I did it. I’m officially a Montanan. Next, my rancher buddy invited me to another event called “insemination.” I’m not sure what that is, but if it’s as fun as branding, count me in! I think this cowboy thing is something I could get the hang of!

Dave Fuqua is a Glendive native. You can find out more about him on his youtube channel Dinodave Paleo Adventures. He can be reached at Makoshikadave@gmail.com .