After a few hours the cows and calves have been herded into corrals and the hard work begins. First, the cows are separated from the calves, and since this is the first time that they’ve ever been apart, the bawlin’ and cryin’ creates a racket that words can’t describe.
Next, a fire is built in the center of one end of a corral in order to get the branding irons red-hot. Now, two Cowboys, one on each side of the corral, mount up and rope one calf at a time and drag it back near the fire where young hands, called flankers, have the job of grabbing the calf, picking it up, throwing it down, getting it laid out, then holding it down for the stuff that’s about to be done to it. Like what? Well, vaccinating, cutting horns, castrating, and branding. The flanker jobs go to the youngest Cowboys, usually kids who are still in high school. They always seem to be as thin as a stick and weigh about 110 pounds, but it is astounding just how tough and determined these kids are. The calves weigh anywhere from 125 pounds as a baby, to over 300 pounds for the ones that are a few months old. These kids who are doing the flanking get kicked in their shoulders and legs and sometimes in the head, but it’s all part of the job, and they know it’s probably not a good idea to let Cowboys like Chris Morton get kicked while they are vaccinating or cutting. It’s a very long day for them, but they are learning to be Cowboys, and once in a while, towards the end of the day, the Boss will let them take their turn on their horse, ropin’ calves.