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Friday, 29 April 2011

Round-up with ropes and horses





Keep those dogies rollin’… Raw-hide!!  This came out of the blue, for me at any rate. In amongst all the turkey excitement with the Struck family, Marge mentioned that they were popping over to Kitty’s dad’s ranch, for the branding. Branding? What branding? Nobody told me…

It was a flying visit in the end. I hitched a ride in the Strucks’ truck (try saying that after you’ve been toasting the royal couple!). We bumped our way to the paved road, crossed it and drove another four or five miles over dirt, looking for – well, nobody was quite sure, because nobody actually knew where the cowboys would be. So we zigzagged along in a generally easterly direction until we saw a gathering of pick-ups, and the outline of men in stetsons on horseback.

To be honest, this is one of those occasions where the pictures really do tell the story better than any words I might come up with. Besides, by the time we got there the show was almost over. There were maybe three dozen little black calves still in the pen, and a very slick, well orchestrated operation was running like clockwork. Everybody knew exactly what their job was and got on with it, quickly, neatly, as if they had another appointment coming up in half an hour.

They had four or five guys roping the calves. Each one in turn was dragged, squirming and protesting to where a pair of cowboys wrestled it to the ground and held it perfectly still – one at the head end, the other at the rear - while a third applied the red-hot brand and someone else gave an injection. For the girls, that was it; they could stand up, shake themselves and trot away to find mom. For the boys there was the man with the knife, and their sex life was over before it got started.

I was surprised how little noise there was. Somehow you expect there to be a lot of yee-hawing, like in the movies. There was some bawling from the heifers looking for their babies, and some from the calves, but the loudest sound beyond that was the roaring of the two propane burners where the branding-irons were constantly being re-heated.

It was all over, far too quickly, and we were on our way back home. Nobody had seen Kitty’s dad, but the general opinion was he would be back at his place cooking. I wondered whether the infamous prairie oysters might be on the menu, but nobody wanted to talk about that.

I mentioned toasting the royal couple back at the beginning. Forget it. I did no such thing. In fact, I’ve written four emails this morning, and in each one I’ve complained volubly about the enormous amount of coverage the ‘royal event’ received on NPR. And this on the day that my Car Talk T-shirt arrived, their thankyou for the humble subscription I coughed up after their spring funding drive had bludgeoned me senseless.

The one part of their coverage that did amuse me was when they interviewed a woman from Georgia or somewhere who’d been up all night having an “English” day with her friends. They were eating toad in the hole, she said. ‘And what is that?’ asked the reporter. ‘Way-ell, you git yourself a slice of toast, an’ you cut a little bitty hole in it and you put an egg in the hole; then you grill it.’  Hm – you live and learn. We had toad in the hole regularly when I was growing up and it involved sausages. And more sausages. Toast had nothing to do with it, and as for eggs – the only eggs are the ones that are beaten up in the Yorkshire pudding in which said sausages nestle.

Talking of which… the Strucks kindly left me some deer sausage in the fridge.  I feel an early lunch coming on.