Saturday, August 3, 2013

Times are changing again. Traditions go away for new and innovative ways of doing things. You just don’t realize the impact that computers have had on the human way of doing just about everything, even cows. Yes, the ritual of branding a beast is fading away to numbering and bar coding a beast where it can be scanned and all sorts of information can appear on a monitor anywhere. It is no longer just a ownership symbol on a cow. Now cowboys carry smart phones on their belts.

We lost the language of Morse Code and even SOS symbolism for emergencies to computers for communication. We lost the language of stenography where a long legged beauty would come into your office and jot every word you uttered on a pad with long graceful lines with curves and could read it all back to you. Now we have a small cold MP3 player that can go from voice to type. No secretary needed, no stenography anywhere. We have computer technology at our fingertips.

Cattle ranchers have been leaving their mark with branding iron for generations. It was the cowboy way of identifying their livestock. The ASPCA and the Humane Society oppose the practice of identifying ownership by burning a permanent mark in a live animal’s flesh. In West Texas, they still brand cows the old fashioned way with a hot iron. At the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association in Fort Worth Texas, they monitor more than 110 thousand registered brands just in Texas alone.

Many ranches from the 1800’s are still in use still using their traditional brand symbol. In the old John Wayne movie called Red River made in 1943 he talks about his brand symbol before he even has any cattle. Your branding symbol was part of the cattleman’s American dream. Now there are ear tags that can make branding obsolete. Each tag contains an identification number that is registered and is kept on file in a computerized data base. The tags enable ranchers to store information about an animal’s history and care from birth which helps with quality control.

Because the information now on every animal is so accessible, some states including the federal government are moving towards wearing ear tag ID’s on all cattle traded , sold or moved between states. Hey! How long is it till we get a bar code tattooed on our ass and they know everywhere humans have been too? Ugh! This is a development that can make the old-fashioned way of branding irrelevant.

Ok Stapling a tag to an ear has to be painful but not as painful as a hot iron pressed to your flesh. The old time ranchers still defend their ways though. They just say poke them carefully, quickly and right. Many ranchers now are tagging and branding. They say a cattle thief could just cut the tag off but a brand on the pelt never wears off. A Texan ranger will still look for branding symbols to try to find the 4 to 5 Million dollars in cattle that are stolen every year.

We all need things for sentimental reasons. The cowboy and the branding iron is part of America. Let’s not let it fade away like the Morse Code did and the long legged beautiful secretary faded away to administrative assistants in the form of a tape recorder and an ugly computer monitor. Traditions were beautiful.

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