Sunday, November 21, 2021

The Gathering

Poem Day 22

Photo from iStock

The Gathering

When I was younger, working for Bud,
a single man over sixty, he had me gather
the cows and calves for branding
in the spring on my red and silver Hodaka 100,
sometimes louder than the cows wanted to hear.

They heard me coming before they saw me
and knew I meant business.
The Herefords, including the bolly-faced ones,
looked at me, then looked at each other,
knowing the gathering was coming
and headed haphazardly in bunches
for the corrals off in the distance.

It didn’t take me long to maneuver them
to where they needed to go.
Even some of the stragglers balked
at first until I rounded on them,
pushing them forward.

Soon, they were all congregated
in the corrals, bellering, stamping about.
Then the separation of the calves
from their mommas began,
and the bellering reached a noisy
crescendo, heard clear over to Cottle’s
hundreds of acres and a fence line away.

We lassoed them one by one,
dragged them into a pen, held them tight,
inoculated, tagged, dehorned them,
and completed other life-changing tasks.

The branding seemed simple enough
with an iron hot from a burning heap of coals.

Once the brand was burned
into the flesh, we released them
back to their mothers, still bellering,
still stamping around, now mad
as they smelled the burned flesh,
reminiscent of their own branding,
now emerging and burning in their minds.

It dawned on me that branding
would not have been necessary
if thieves weren’t always lurking about,
trying to steal calves that weren’t theirs.

Ironically, the brands protect them
from being taken clandestinely away
from their mothers and the ranch.

After we finished the many hours of branding,
coals doused with water, everything put away,
we watched the herd from the pole fence
in the corner of the corral,
listening to the mamma cows
as they munched fresh bales of hay,
scattered along the bottom of the manger,
while their little ones skipped and skittered
around the corral, frolicking through freshly laid straw
as if nothing had just happened to them at all.

Photo by Wallshaven


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