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branding headerOf all the paths you take in life, make sure at least a few of them are dirt. I grew up in the country, on a sprawling farm and ranch at the end of a dusty road. My father and uncle acquired the operation from my grandfather, who had taken over for my great-grandfather and, well, I guess you could say that agriculture is a family tradition of ours.

Part of that tradition includes “working cattle” which generally means gathering the herds back to the homestead in order to be sure each of them are properly recorded, have been administered necessary vaccinations, and are branded. It’s a big job and requires lots of help, which is why many of my siblings and I head home to join in the process.

This year, we were especially thankful to have beautiful, sunny weather. While I’ll admit I am a lot less helpful when I am behind my camera, I thought it was important to capture some of the moments that we take for granted. The American cowboy is a dying breed and traditions such as these are not as common as they once were. It’s funny how sometimes you have to grow up and move away from something before you can truly appreciate it. I’ve always been proud of my roots, but as a child, I had no idea just how special my family really is.

It makes my heart glad to see my nieces and nephews pitching in to sort the cows and calves and relieve the older generation of some of the physical demands. A lot has changed over the years, but some things stay the same, like the way my uncles like to good-naturedly banter with the youngsters, or my dad’s never-ending wisecracks. Abundant laughter and good conversation are what take this from being a hard day’s work and change it into something lively and entertaining.

I love watching my family work together and I’m grateful to be a part of these experiences. There is something infinitely satisfying when, at the end of the day, your hands are dirty, your body is sore, and your boots and jeans are splattered with mud. It’s about more than just the task at hand, it’s about taking pride in what you do. It’s through that pride and the lessons that come with it that help the legacy to live on.

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