By Braden Whitehouse
7th Grade, Siskiyou County
Grenada Elementary School - Debbi Hoy, Teacher
I was sitting in class waiting for the final bell of the day. I knew that Grandpa would be waiting out in front of the school with his pickup and stock trailer. Today we were going to ride through his cows out in Quartz Valley. As I rounded the corner of the school I could see the big IX on the front of the stock trailer.
"What does ‘IX' stand for?" my buddy Ty asked, looking at the front of Grandpa's trailer.
"It's I-X," I responded, "our family brand!"
After unloading the horses at the Burton Ranch, Grandpa and I set out across the fields to check on his cows. "How many cows should there be?" I asked.
"All together we should have 89 cows and 84 calves," he responded.
"No bulls?" I asked.
"No, they're at the home place, it's calving season right now," Grandpa replied.
After crossing a number of ditches and sumps and opening and closing at least a half dozen gates, we had seen all the cows. Like we always do, I count the calves and Grandpa counts the cows.
"How many did you get?" Grandpa asked as he closed the gate to the last pasture.
"Eighty-one," I responded, a little unsure of my count.
"Well good job, because I am missing three cows as well. So there are three pair missing, we will need to find them," Grandpa said.
"How are we going to do that?" I asked.
"We will need to ride through the neighbors' pastures and see if we can find the missing cows."
"Is it all right with the neighbors if we do that?" I asked.
"Sure, it happens all the time, sometimes their cows come into our pasture as well," he answered while we rode.
This didn't seem like it would be very easy I thought to myself. After all, most of Grandpa's cows look the same. They are mostly black, because they are Angus or Angus-cross. Unfortunately, most of the neighbors' cows looked about like Grandpa's I noticed as I looked across the fence while Grandpa got off his horse to get the gate.
I already knew the answer, but I asked anyway. "How are we going to tell our cows from the neighbors'?"
"We will look for those with our brand," Grandpa said.
As we looked through one bunch of cows after another I asked Grandpa why he had the IX brand. He told me he had gotten the brand from his old friend, Emmitt Roberts. Both he and Emmitt liked the simple I and X because it was easy to identify. He explained that every rancher has to register their brand. In addition to the brand design, you have to register a location for the brand on the cow. Grandpa's IX goes on the right hip of all his cows. He says that he likes the hip because it is easy to see from a horse's back.
"So, other people could have the IX brand, but not on the right hip," I said.
"That's right. Emmitt always had the left hip and your aunt has the right rib. Someday your cows will have the IX on the right hip, if you take over my brand." I was so excited just thinking about continuing the family brand.
I noticed as I looked more closely that some cows had more than one brand. Grandpa explained that every time a cow is purchased by someone new they put their brand on the cow. Branding cows has a long history in our country. It is taken very seriously, as it is your only real way to prove ownership of a cow. Grandpa told me that there is a person called a brand inspector that checks the brand of most cows that are sold.
Most ranchers also earmark their cows to help identify them. Grandpa cuts a half moon out of each cow's ear.
After just a few tries I got pretty good at identifying which cows were Grandpa's and not the neighbors'. It didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would to find the three missing pairs and herd them back into the pasture.
As we loaded our horses back into the stock trailer I felt a sense of pride in the family brand and realized for the first time just how important it is to a cattle rancher like Grandpa, and hopefully someday, to me.