The branding iron is arguably one of the most important and iconic ranching tools passed down from the American West and the days of open-range grazing.
An ancient practice that predates the Americas by more than a few hundred years, livestock branding is as important today as it was to the ancient Egyptians. But, we have to thank Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortes and his vaqueros for delivering a small herd of branded cattle to the New World and ultimately introducing Mexican and American cowboys to the custom.
Characterized by letters, numbers, pictorial and/or geometric symbols the modern brand serves the same purpose it did centuries ago. And it doesn’t matter if that mark is crazy, lazy, reversed, walking, running, hanging, tumbling, flying, swinging, rocking, includes a bar, a diamond, or a circle one thing is for sure – brands are incredibly personal and worth protecting.
In fact, many Western U.S. States have strict laws regarding brands, brand registration, and brand inspection. According to the Oklahoma Cattleman’s Association a brand is defined as, “a permanent mark, not less than 3-inches in length or diameter burned in with a hot iron or method commonly known as freeze branding.”
Lucky for me, my good friends the Drummonds own and operate a Black Baldy cattle operation in Osage County, Oklahoma. The 70 square mile chunk of tall grass prairie with rolling hills has been a continuous cattle operation since 1890.
With over 120 years of ranching heritage in their blood the Drummond’s enjoy a true brand identity well documented and deep-rooted in Oklahoma history. And like a lot of ranches that have stood the test of time there is an incredible sense of pride in their mark and the herd that bears that symbol.
So when the opportunity to brand something presented itself last weekend at the ranch I jumped at the chance. It’s my understanding that the art of branding livestock was easily mastered by even the greenest cowhand. But since I have never touched red-hot iron to live hide I figured I better practice on something off the hoof. My new 17” Aged Regina Chippewa snake boots (that I hope to wear in South Texas later this year) were the perfect proving ground!
My good buddy Jackson Drummond pulled out the propane tank, lit the handmade burner, placed Frederick Drummond’s (1864 - 1913) historic reversed F - D iron in the fire, and then we waited patiently for the red glow. A well-placed board slipped inside the leather upper and we were in business. Two strategically placed brands later I was the proud owner of a pair of custom Chippewa snake boots.
The instant the hot iron hit the leather I felt a closeness to all those old cowpunchers – past and present. Even if I was only playing cowboy for the weekend. A healthy puff of smoke, a small burst of flame, a quick 5-count, and the indelible mark was done.0 Comments