Third-generation Nebraskan rancher, writer, and poet Lyn Messersmith shares her world through luminous prose and poetry.
I’m fascinated by fiction writers, but creative non-fiction and poetry are my long suits. My Sister Mariah is a book of daily readings that highlights how relationship with land enhances spirituality. Ground Tied and Downwind from the Smoke contain poetry about life in the not so Wild West.
As a third generation rancher, I’ve experienced many changes in our lifestyle, but dragging calves to the fire is one tradition that remains.
Branding is hard, dirty and dangerous work that requires specialized skills, but the day is about community cooperation, fellowship, and food, as well. Actually, it’s hard to capture in words. Perhaps pictures and excerpts from the books would better tell the tale.
About the time calving begins, Mr. and Mrs. Rancher go into a huddle go into a huddle regarding a date for branding. He lobbies for a weekend so the high school crew will be on hand to ease the work. She prefers mid-week for the same reason (reduction of spectators with large appetites.)
While the Missus plans the menu her mate worries over job assignments. Harry always wields the knife, but he’s getting on, and bending is hard on his back. If he’s assigned gate duty will he feel he’s being kicked upstairs? And these days women rope too, so it’s hard to be sure everyone gets a turn.
Relatives and guest arrived yesterday in a constant stream and stayed up half the night visiting, unconcerned that Mr. And Mrs. Rancher needed to be up at 4 am .
The babies are trimmed up , doctored up, marked up, and ready to go to grass. From now on they’ll be identified with their owner. If one escapes into the wrong pasture, a call will come asking for the stray to be retrieved. But the neighbor will note the critter’s condition and make some sort of judgment, which is more likely to be accurate when made by one who knows us personally.
It’s the same with folks. When I’m acquainted with the Landlord, I tend to cut his strays some slack.
(while cleaning mountain oysters)
I recall like it was yesterday,
Dad, sittin’ on this same stool,
engaged in after brandin’ chores.
Seems some things
don’t change all that much.
Hot irons, food neighbors,
washin’ down dust with cold beer.
Joe’s little gal missed a dally or so,
But in general
those two bit twine twirlers
of the opposite gender
can barely pack her piggin’ string.
with a knife. Somethin’ in her eyes
bendin’ over those bull calves
has me thinkin’ she knows
slippin’ out with that waitress.