Monday, May 27, 2024

Texas Goes Cowboy

The beauty about being Catholic is that everyone is family. The fun part of that is meeting new members. Carson Kitaf is a seminarian for the Diocese of Fort Worth in Texas. Being from a rodeo family, he reached out to me seeking some advice on how to handle seminary. I shared with him some stories from the road and we've kept in touch ever since. Now that school is out for the summer, he took a little vacation through Wyoming and stopped to see me along the way. 

We started out by running the mission circuit. Three Masses in seven hours, spread over 220 miles. We moved our last Mass up so the People of God could more fully enjoy Memorial Day weekend. 

With the extra time, Carson and I ran up to Bonnie and Jason Kuhbacher's ranch north of Biddle Montana, to get a jump on the following day's branding and enjoy a little camp out. 

After hobbling the horses for the night, 

We got a campfire going. This fire pit was made by the 6th grade class at JPII Catholic School with the help of Ms. Abby Deprey. It was auctioned off at the annual spring fundraiser and purchased by Ryan and Alissa McGrath who in turn gave it to me. Thank y'all so much! We will do our best to enjoy it.  

Once we got a good bed of coals going, we put a grate over it and started cooking some LB T-bones. 

Mighty fine. 

Then we set up camp. Carson went with a tent. 

While I opted to sleep in the nose of my trailer. 

After a good night's sleep, we were saddled and at the first branding site by 7am. 

Once all the cowboys arrived, Jason gave us our marching orders. 

So we hit the trail to go gather the critters. Carson rode Ole Reliable. 

While I managed Mollie the Mare. 

Pretty picturesque. 

After the different bunches were gathered, we started the stampede. 

Being no stranger to this game, Carson fell right in. 

Once penned up, the boys kicked out the cows. 

But before the fire was started, we had a little breakfast break with Bonnie's infamous breakfast burritos. 

Then got to work. Sam and his dad jumped right into action.

So did Carson. 

After getting calf wrestling down, Jason sent him into the pen to rope. Good work. 

After Carson got Chief warmed up, I jumped in. 

Snagging a handful. 

And dragging them to the fire. 

Happy campers. 

We branded at three different spots. Breaking down the corral each time and moving it to the next one. Thank God for high school kids. 

Up here is what I call professional brandings. There is one opening into the corral and the wrestlers stand on each side of it. As a calf is drug through the gate, the next wrestlers in line run to it. 

Ideally, the calf is double hocked, roped by both hind legs. With the brand going on the left side, the guy or girl on the right goes for the tail and the one on the left goes for the rope. 

With a choreographed flip, the wrestler on the tail then grabs the front leg. 

Once down, they kneel on the neck and fold the front leg back on itself. This really makes the calf lie still. 

The guy on the rope goes for the hind quarter. To hold it tight, he strings out the upper leg with a good grip and pushes the lower leg in with his foot. Works good. When it comes to wrestling calves, it's not the size of the man in the fight. It's the size of the fight in the man. 

The roping styles in the branding pen are varied, as well as the saddle horns cowboys use. Most common is a smaller horn with rubber around it. One dally around and the rope stays tight.

Another style is a slick horn. These are usually bigger and require an extra dally or two. But when done right, they allow the rope to slide if the rider wants to let off some slack. I'll just say, they take an extra set of skills to use well. 

By 3pm we were all done. 

And headed back to the ranch to dine. 

Definitely not disappointed. 

This could quite possibly be my favorite day of the year. Any time I can spend horseback and chase a cow or two, I'm a happy man. Put roping and wrestling calves on top of that, then life is good. This year was extra special because I had a Texas Catholic Cowboy riding along side me. Fun time. Keep up the Good work, pal. The world could use more Catholic Cowboys. And the Church could really use some more cowboy priests!

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