Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Language of Cattle Ranching

We headed out from Sargent towards Valentine, Nebraska on Thursday. On our way up north we stopped at Johnstown where Hallmark filmed O Pioneers in 1991, based on the book by Willa Cather. Several of these empty buildings and a bar comprised downtown Johnstown.

We stopped for a quick one at the bar with Al and Ruth Smith, Bob's cousins, and Bob's sister Nancy. My eyes traveled immediately to the trim around the ceiling and the branding marks all around it.
The barkeep, sister of the owner, told me each brand represents the name of a cattle rancher in the area. They design a unique brand and file it with the state. In the state of Nebraska, all cattle must be branded.
She walked around the room pointing to all the different marks and telling me whose ranch each brand represented. For her they were a language that she could read and had meaning. For me they were intriguing marks burned into a surface.

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