This time of the year is a highlight for many, and for good reason. After a long and often lonely winter, after the discouragements that can come after months of cold and dark and solitude, after dealing with the extremes of life and death during calving, branding season is a bright spot, a relief, a respite. Even a rough calving season can be followed by the best of branding seasons, and this has been a good one.
Some parts of the state and the country have modernized how they accomplish ranching tasks throughout the year, in ways that minimize the need for outside help. Even after my short time as a part of this community, I can understand the thought behind that, or how it might be necessary in some situations. Sometimes for whatever reason a whole community steps back from trading help and goes to a more independent model, so you don’t really have a choice but to follow suit. I get it. But what a loss!
Thankfully the majority of ranches in this community along Spring Creek, Battle Creek, and the Foothills, still participate in trading help, preserving a way of life that goes beyond the profession, preserving a way of life that necessitates the forming and maintaining of neighborly relationships, relationships that only serve to strengthen a community. Branding season is perhaps when this shines the most, and everyone not only reaps the benefits of having good neighbors, but of being a good neighbor.
Branding season is when you really see the importance of people stepping up and stepping in, sometimes last minute because life happens. Of communities working together and coming together in a way that has been lost from the culture at large but is still alive and well in the agricultural community.
It is a time when skills are taught, learned, honed, or re-learned. And no one ever qualifies out of all four of those categories. There is always something you can teach someone else, learn from someone else, do better at, or re-learn. Information is exchanged and even the most seasoned can glean from the hard-earned wisdom of others.
I’m thankful for those old ways. Old ways of learning skills and trading knowledge, of sharing work and life and fellowship. Thankful for neighbors and friends – old to my husband and his family, new to me. Thankful for this way of life.