One Last Branding

One Last Branding

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From the hackamore to the two rein, from the two rein to the bridle

Steeping in Spanish tradition, he is every cow pony’s idol

 

Year after year he has made the push to this old cedar round corral

Held sliding reata dallies, watching rise and fall of crew’s morale

 

He has been rim fired, wrapped up, burned, had ropes between his legs like snakes

With each rawhide loop that shakes out, he proves what he can mentally take

 

Experience has taught him to pin his ears and shift his weight just so

For he has found victory in positioning for the perfect throw

 

Jerking slack from a head loop that settles right is only just the start

It takes patience to build up quiet, pulling to fire shows heart

 

Avoiding the trap’s dangers, trotting straight to set up the double hock

Taking slack out for the heeler, loop coming tight right at the calf’s sock

 

Facing up, holding strong, while rider slides coil, helping the ground crew

Ropes get set, build up short, hold tight until the bull-to-steer change is through

 

With a nod from the ground crew and the heeler, dallies are popped off clean

Grateful for the day, grateful for the anything but basic routine

 

He first gathered to here at two, watching the branding chaos unfold

He smelled the scorch of burning hide, watched the wrecks, heard bridle crickets rolled

 

In his third year he came to the fire on heels, guide horse beside him

That smoke was a lot scarier now as it floated up under limb

 

Time and patience, brought him through jaquima to freno traditions

Perfected by the Moors, the Spaniards, and the vaqueros of the missions

 

Each hackamore and bridle has brought with it a new expectation

A level of finesse understood across boundaries of nation

 

His eleven year teeth long gone, semi-retired status at best

No circles, only branding pens and sorting allies- boss’s request

 

The go to for youngsters and elders, guide horse for an upcoming colt

They question if he’ll make this next winter while I secretly revolt

 

Through his stiff, slackened moves I still see the cow horse that he was in his prime

I’m just asking for one more branding, just one more before his due time

 

One Last Branding by Jessica Hedges

2016 Winner of the Georgie Sicking Award, presented by the Western Music Association for a poem that represents traditional ranching.