I spend a Saturday in June, down in the quaintness of Sublette County, not far from Daniel, Wyoming, home of the famous breakfast burrito. Daniel Junction is 67 miles from Jackson Hole, and the ranch another dozen miles or so from there. The Double J offers such picturesque scenery that I can scarcely believe it. How did I not know this place exists? We have arrived.
Branding…it’s a springtime ritual for ranchers, and the more hands to help, the better. We climb in our boots and sit on the fence. We watch and listen. The frenetic energy of the mothers and the calves inside the pen is remarkable. It’s like they are conversing in a chaotic sort of way
Creating something yours, that’s what I ponder when I think of cattle branding. You are proud of it, you don’t want to let it go. And in this case, the calves are administered vaccines and lay down before the hot irons. Marking them with the Double J brand.
It’s a grand party that follows, with hats off, and kids playing atop a four-stack of hay, cut and built into a tantalizing play structure. The jack rabbits skitter off, chased by the smaller children, and the newly minted calves are turned out to pasture. The smells from the party wagon include steak, cheddar potatoes and crumbled fruit pies and there’s the aroma, thick with chocolate brownies. All a welcome reward after a morning of hard work. In the barn, the picnic tables fill up. Everyone shares in the talk: Remember the one branded calf that just can’t see clearly? He wants to return again and again to the pen with the unbranded calves, the ones waiting, to tell his story. It’s not so bad. When it’s all over you belong.