Saturday, July 4, 2009

Riding for the Brand

Not surprisingly, many narratives, books, poems, and ballads have been written about brands. One such poem called "Ride for the Brand" written by Paul Harwitz is included here for your enjoyment.

Ride for the Brand

The dismounted young cowboy asked the old hand,
"What does it mean when they say 'Ride for the brand'?"
The grizzled old-timer's age seemed to drop years,
And he sat straight up in the saddle as he surveyed the steers.

"It means a lot of different things, son.
It has a lot to do with what's lost and what's won.
I ain't talking about gambling, but earning a living,

Hard work, trust, respect, taking, and giving.

"It means you don't never foul up the land,
And you don't take unfair advantage or rob.
You work hard, even when the work's rough as a cob.
That's part of what it means to ride for the brand.

"It means you help your neighbors and your friends,
And you help even strangers just passing through.
It means you hire on a hungry saddle-tramp
Who needs a place to winter past the cold and damp.

"It means you don't let the poor folks go hungry
Just 'cause they're down and short on grub and luck.
And it means that you don't work just for a buck,
But 'cause you need work like water's needed by a tree.

"It means you can be trusted, and that you trust each pard,
To do the chores that are needed, no matter how hard,
'Cause you're all riding for the same outfit,
And you're all striving together to benefit it.

"It means you keep searching for that one last stray,
Even though it's the end of the day,
Even though you'd rather stop and go to town.
It means you don't lay your responsibility down."

"It means you give an honest day's work for an honest day's wage,
Whether you're in the corral or out riding the range.
Every job's important, and there ain't none that ain't.
It's not the cowboy way to quit though it'd be easier to say 'I cain't.'

"It means you'll not complain when you help dig a well,
Nor even have to be asked to spell a tired cowpoke who's stove-up.
It means you'll work with others as well as you'll work alone,
And that even when you're tired to the bone, you'll cowboy-up.

"That's what it means, that, and a whole lot more.
It means that you've got pride in yourself, your job, and the land.
So saddle-up. Toughen-up. Cowboy-up. Be a man.
Ride for the brand."

Note: The following is an excerpt from Rangelands Magazine’s article titled “Branded Customer Service.” written by Les, Nunn, Assistant Operations Manager of the Padlock Ranch.

Ranch brands hold a rich and vibrant place in American history, as well as a unique position in today's ranching industry. Commencing in the late 18th century, cattle brands were in many ways some of the first trademarks used in commerce. These brands were a mark of ownership, termed the ironclad signature, distinguishing one rancher's livestock from another.

It was the livestock industry that implemented the use of brands. Many brands were simple; others were more descriptive and complex. Today brands are used by nearly every industry and play the same key roll as ever; that is to distinguish one company's product from another and to tell a story about the product.

The Padlock brand was purchased by Homer Scott shortly after he started putting the ranch together during the 1940's. This brand is the ranch's trademark and represents pride, duty, and stewardship while inspiring loyalty, dedication, and cowboy camaraderie.

Brands take on an entire legacy and contain the underlying story about the ranch they represent. As a result, the saying "riding for the brand" has a deep meaning to cattlemen and cowboys. Riding for the brand signifies a way of life and a depth of character to which people in the ranching business aspire.

Over the years, The Padlock brand has taken on a legacy of its own; one in which many have been and are still proud to ride for….. Reminiscing over the days gone by and looking forward to carrying the Padlock legacy forward and passing it on to future generations.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Cooking in the West
Guest blog written by Susan Metcalf of the Lower Deer Creek Ranch, Big Timber, MT.
Dated: Saturday, May 16, 2009, 10:10 AM,

As I write this, my fingers are shaking so badly I can barely type. I am more terrified than I have ever been in a car wreck or a horse wreck. Why? Because next Saturday, Anthony Bourdain is coming to our ranch!
OK--I admit I didn't know who Anthony Bourdain was until this morning or I never would have agreed to this lunacy. Just 24 short hours ago, we were scheduled to brand next Saturday. Into this mundane plan, entered our ranch vacation booking agent, Karen Searle of Montana Bunkhouses. Doing business with Karen is like living in a spontaneous tornado. She had booked Christine, a 38 year old German lady, and Brandon, an 18 year old boy from Tennessee, to come for branding. That arrangement seemed challenging enough, but then an opportunity for stardom knocked, and Karen answered.
Now, branding has been postponed a few days, because our ranch vacations are going to be filmed for airing on the Travel Channel's show "No Reservations" hosted by Anthony Bourdain. When I agreed to it, it sounded kind of harmless and fun!
You see, I never actually get to hold the remote, so I don't get to watch cooking shows unless they happen to be on ESPN or RFDTV. Therefore, my nervous breakdown was triggered when I Googled "Anthony Bourdain".
He is a celebrity chef who was recently featured in Time magazine, he has his own cooking show, he has traveled the world, and he of course writes books. (Which I will have to read this week in my spare time!) He seems to delight in mocking Rachel Ray. My heart began to pound and I couldn't feel my extremities as I read on. He has eaten seals in the Arctic and cobras in Viet Nam. The worst things he has eaten were fermented shark in Iceland and warthog rectum in Namibia. I wouldn't even be able to find Namibia on the map!
Apparently this is what happened in Namibia according to Google. "Anthony Bourdain suffered quietly as he dined on wart hog--encrusted with sand, fur and fecal bacteria--in the African country of Namibia. Bourdain, host of the Travel Channel’s 'No Reservations,' finished the meal knowing he would become terribly ill. But who was he to complain as a VIP guest of the same arid landscape where Angelina Jolie delivered Brad Pitt’s baby? Spitting out nasty bits of wart hog would be rude to the locals he was dining with. 'The chief is there in front of his whole tribe offering you his very best,' Bourdain said. 'Show respect. I’m lucky to be there. I’m lucky to see that. I’m lucky to have that experience. Chewing some antibiotics is a small price to pay'."
That actually made me feel a little better. I am sure some Rocky Mountain oysters, beef rib eyes, morel mushrooms, spuds, and raspberry pie will slide down easier than wart hog in fecal sauce. However, the antibiotics might still be a good idea just in case!
Not only do we have to feed Anthony breakfast and lunch--shall I call him Tony?--so many questions--but we have to take him riding through the cattle and let him try his hand at roping all between 8:00 A.M. and 4:30 P.M. according to his tight schedule.
I really don't know if my heart is strong enough to survive the anticipation of his visit. Maybe I should just have the food catered. Maybe we should buy a different house or at least new silverware. How can I lose 40 pounds or who should I get to play my part? All of these thoughts are reeling in my mind. I think I am having a stage 5 anxiety attack if there is such a thing!
If we all survive next Saturday, you will hear all about it in this column! If I don't survive, I am sure Karen will find someone to play my part and maybe even write this column! Wish us luck, because we are going to need it!

[Note: Susan’s article will be featured this week in her regular column for the Western Ag Reporter entitled “Cooking in the West.” Be watching for the next installment!]

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Yellowstone Geotourism MapGuide 2009

Hello and YeeHaw!

I've just returned from The Governor's Tourism Conference which focused on geotourism. The highlight was the unveiling of the new map "Greater Yellowstone Geotourism MapGuide." It was really nice to have the representative from National Geographic demonstrating features of the map on the overhead screen ..... especially nice for me because up popped Recommended Destinations and Montana Bunkhouses Working Ranch Vacations was on the list. I just sat there mesmerized and the people at my table were elbowing me saying "hey, look!"

National Geographic defines geotourism as "tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place--its environment, culture aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents." The MapGuide helps direct visitors to the authentic experiences they are looking for.

National Geographic partnered with Travel Montana (and others) ..... The outcome is this map and an amazing interactive online site. Check it out: go to type in ranch vacations and see what comes up!!!! You need to click a couple places to get it to open up as text but that won't slow you down! And you can order a copy of the map or download a copy right from their home page.

Being recognized by National Geographic is validation that we are on the right track with our agri-tourism cooperative. We have now grown to over twenty ranches. Encouragement like this inspires us to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Glad you are on the journey with us.
You are darn good company!
Happy Trails,

p.s. The photo selected to represent working ranch vacations (both on paper and online) was taken by a photojournalist named Kwok from Hong Kong while he was a guest of Lower Deer Creek Ranch covering a story on Montana Bunkhouses Working Ranch Vacations. You may have already seen the article on our website "In the News".

Friday, March 6, 2009

Sheepdogs- March Ranch Report

March Ranch Report

With the first cycle of calving behind us we are down to tagging only a couple of new calves a day. Still on the watch for breech or backward calves or heifers who need an assist, we continue to make the rounds throughout the day and night. But mild temperatures have kept pneumonia and scours to a minimum and it is fun to watch the calves run tails-up through the bunch, playing in the trail of hay that unrolls behind the pickup.

Lambing will start early next month. We’ve been graining the ewes so they have a good supply of milk for their newborns. Grandpa fills two grain sacks with just the right amount of barley-corn mixture. He knows without measuring what it will take to give each ewe one-half pound a day. I drive and he pours the grain from the back of the pickup into the track the wheel makes in the skiff of new snow.

We always watch for the sheepdogs and count them to see if all four are still there. On occasion they will pair off and seemingly say, “you keep watch, we are going for a stroll” and then it will be the next day before our count totals four. We are relieved when we can spot each of them because it is one more day we can be thankful that the wolves have not made it to our ranch. With a lump in our throat we realize the sheepdogs will sacrifice their lives when that first wolf attacks our sheep and we know it is just a matter of time before it happens.

On this day we are surprised to find six Great White Pyrenees dogs guarding the sheep. Six tail wagging swaggering companions making their way to our truck for pats and words of praise. We are so enamored with them for their devotion to the sheep, out here in the wild with no comforts as they protect the flock day in and day out. I am puzzled by the two extra dogs but Grandpa says the neighbors to the east are shearing today and maybe their dogs did not like the commotion or maybe the dogs from the ranch to the west just came for a visit. He hopes that we always have neighbors who are tolerant of an occasional visit by these dogs because they don’t necessarily stay in the fence lines.

Cheyenne is the first to arrive, excited for pats she leans her body on mine, caressing me as she bends around my leg. Next comes Zac, the only male; he is one-fifth larger than the others. We purchased some sheep from friends who live near Yellowstone Park a little over an hour away from our ranch. They live in wolf country and after suffering numerous losses, sold their sheep … Cheyenne and Zac were part of the deal. When Zac first came to the ranch he could only tolerate being touched from across the fence but now he trusts us and has been a friend since those first pets. More gentle and more friendly than ever before, he has put on weight and his coat is thick and shiny. He looks regal as he lifts a massive paw to get my attention.

Yukon enjoys life more now since she is feeling better. Two winters ago she was in poor condition but the vet treated her for parasites and now she comes playfully prancing and jumping up and down just out of reach of Grandpa. She has not forgiven him for rides she made confined in the cab of his pickup on her way to and from the vet. Or for the times he enticed her with hot dogs and retrieved her from his cousin’s ranch when she strayed across the Yellowstone River. However she eventually accepts a pat and then scampers away.

Last to come swishing her tail seeking attention is Zsa-Zsa the matriarch. The ranch has been her home since she was one year old and that was over ten years ago. Grandpa was having a lot of coyote problems in those days and he was willing to try guard dogs. David Myrstol raised some Pyrenees Dogs on his sheep ranch just down the river. He said Zsa-Zsa was the pick of the litter.

Today Grandpa’s affection for Zsa-Zsa is evident as he takes her head in his calloused hands. He recalls how before the guard dogs, he used to have a 30% predator loss by the end of the season even when he was putting his sheep in during most nights. The government trapper would come and kill three or four coyotes and he would think it would be ok to leave the sheep out and then coyotes would again kill three lambs. Always three lambs, never just one.

Back in the ‘80s Grandpa completed the week of school necessary for him to handle the toxic collars filled with 1080 poison. In those days he would carefully brand 20 or so sacrificial lambs, fit them with 1080 collars, and leave them out at night. Each morning he would count the lambs and document, document, document the kills and send in reports. There was comfort in the loss because with each death of a collared lamb, you knew you were getting a killer coyote. Just having the government trapper kill coyotes often made matters worse because he did not know which the killer coyotes were. You are always going to have a certain number of coyotes around and eliminating the non-killers just made more room for the killers to multiply. However all of this did not eliminate the killing, it just kept it manageable.

The sheep were grazing up on the bench when Grandpa turned the first young guard dog loose in the fall of ‘93. The sheep took one look at the big dog and they never stopped running. They ran until they could not run anymore. That first day was a mess; Rick did not know if it was going to work. Zsa-Zsa was not socialized to humans so he could not simply catch her to stop the fracas. The dog stayed right with the sheep…kept running with them where ever they went and it took the sheep almost a week before they could relax a little. Eventually they accepted her and now follow her lead into the sheep shed or to new pasture. She is always on a lookout nearby when the sheep bed down atop a knoll overlooking their pasture. Always on guard.

Grandpa is filled with emotion as he strokes Zsa-Zsa. He talks in soft tones telling her that she is a good dog and he is proud of her. He reminds me that he has not had a sheep killed by predators since she came to live and work at the ranch over ten year ago.

And then he is quiet for a time looking off into the hills before he clears his throat and says with a husky voice, “the forecast is for snow showers later in the week with some wind in the next day or so but they’re not really expecting cold temperatures.” I nod.
He gives a final pat. We both know he is not thinking about the weather. He is thinking about Zsa-Zsa and her years of faithfulness. He is thinking is about the love and respect we have for the dogs that guard our sheep.