That love story, you know the one. The one that’s glossy and charming and filled with soft lighting and flowers.

Mine is not that story. Mine was covered in cow manure.

Six years ago, I took a guy I had just met up on an offer to come to his family’s branding.

It seems a bit gruesome, but it’s a necessity in an open range state and I had never been to a branding.

The event was an up-close introduction to both ends of the cattle business and my future husband’s family and friends (complete with a long explanation about how artificial insemination works from Jared’s grandfather and the moment when I adamantly declined to hold Jared’s two-month-old niece).

Branding is a physically exhausting day. You have to sort the calves and then push them through the chute to the table, where they are all flipped on their sides and branded (and some of them are castrated).

The air in the barn in acrid with smoke from the burning hair and everyone is covered in grime and manure and urine — and laughing and joking and sharing in the camaraderie that comes from doing hard work well, all followed up with a hearty meal shared from folding chairs in the shop.

This year was no different, except it felt like coming full circle.

 

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