ONE LAST BRANDING
by Jessica Hedges
From the hackamore to the two rein, from the two rein to the bridle
Steeping in Spanish tradition, he is every cow pony’s idol
Year after year he has made the push to this old cedar round corral
Held sliding reata dallies, watching rise and fall of crew’s morale
He has been rim fired, wrapped up, burned, had ropes between his legs like snakes
With each rawhide loop that shakes out, he proves what he can mentally take
Experience has taught him to pin his ears and shift his weight just so
For he has found victory in positioning for the perfect throw
Jerking slack from a head loop that settles right is only just the start
It takes patience to build up quiet, pulling to fire shows heart
Avoiding the trap’s dangers, trotting straight to set up the double hock
Taking slack out for the heeler, loop coming tight right at the calf’s sock
Facing up, holding strong, while rider slides coil helping the ground crew
Ropes get set, build up short, hold tight until the bull to steer change is through
With a nod from the ground crew and the heeler, dallies are popped off clean
Grateful for the day, grateful for the anything but basic routine
He first gathered to here at two, watching the branding chaos unfold
He smelled the scorch of burning hide, watched the wrecks, heard bridle crickets rolled
In his third year he came to the fire on the heels, guide horse beside him
That smoke was a lot scarier then as it floated up under limb
With time and patience, he was brought through jaquima to freno traditions
Perfected by the Moors, the Spaniards, and the vaqueros of the missions
Each hackamore and bridle has brought with it a new expectation
A level of finesse understood across boundaries of nation
His eleven year teeth long gone, semi-retired status at best
No more circles, branding pens and sorting alleys by boss’s request
The go to for youngsters and elders, guide horse for an upcoming colt
They question if he’ll make another winter while I secretly revolt
Through his stiff, slackened moves I still see the cow horse he was in his prime
I’m just asking for one more branding, just one more before his due time
© Jessica Hedges, used with permission
Cowboy, mother, ranch wife, and more, Jessica Hedges and her poem took home the Georgie Sicking Award (which included custom spurs by Tommy Thompson) at last weekend’s Western Music Association (WMA) convention.
The Georgie Sicking Award, offered by the Western Wordsmiths chapter of the WMA, “…is presented to the author of a single poem that honors a working ranch cowboy’s lifestyle and celebrates our Western heritage.”
Watch a video from Jessica Hedges in which she talks about the award and recites the poem.
The award is named in honor of beloved cowboy and poet Georgie Sicking (1921-2016). Read more about her and find links to her poetry here on this blog.
Jessica Hedges is also an entrepreneur and event organizer, and she performs across the West. This Friday she’ll be at the Temptations Cowboy Concert Series in Lovelock, Nevada, and in coming weeks she’ll be emceeing other shows there featuring Mary Kaye, Brenn Hill, and Andy Nelson.
Jessica Hedges also shared this photograph.