Home is Where the Branding Irons Hang

By: Kynzie Rae McNeill

As spring break has finally arrived, I spend my time getting everything ready to head back home for the week. Most college students are packing their swim suits or ski pants while I am packing my wild rag and felt hat. You see, unlike the typical spring break for a college student, I am going back south to help my family for spring branding. My father is a big advocate for free labor so every year since I have graduated high school he plans our branding season over my spring break. 

In my first few years of college this really bothered me. I wanted to be going to be a beach or shredding down a mountain with all my friends. Instead, I spend it waking up before they all turn in for the night. I use to beg my father to let me have one fun spring break with my friends but he would tell me that to live this lifestyle that I am blessed with, sacrifices have to be made. 

Back then, I just thought he was being strict, but as the years have gone by I have started to see his point. The older I get, the more I realize how lucky I actually am to be able to partake in this western lifestyle. 

Many college students have the opportunity to go on vacation for spring break but very few have the chance to spend it carrying out their family’s legacy on a ranch that has been around for more than 100 years. Only a handful have the pleasure of watching the sun come up in the East while horseback or know the peaceful feeling of solitude that one experiences out in the middle of a pasture miles away from the next person. Very few are able to spend all day working with the ones they love in the lifestyle they love just as much. 

The recent devastating fires that tore across Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas have made me realize how truly blessed I am to have the opportunity to spend this up-coming week working our cattle on our ranch that we are lucky enough to still have. Many ranchers within the areas the fire hit will not have the opportunity to brand their calves this year or process their cows come weaning season.  Producers who depend on that calf crop to make a living were stripped of their entire year’s income in one single night. It is tragedies like this that give one a reality check. We are not guaranteed anything in this life and we need to be a lot more thankful for what the good Lord has blessed us with. 

This year instead of griping about having to wake up at 3 a.m. all week, I will be thanking Jesus for the opportunity to still have cattle to work and a calf crop to depend on for our family’s income. So as I finish packing up the last of my work clothes, I have a smile on my face with a slight feeling of anticipation of what this week’s branding festivities will bring!

Please keep all those that were affected by the wildfires last week in your prayers as we all come together within the agricultural industry to help the relief programs that are already being put into place to support those who lost everything.