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Branded This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     I put on my gloves and leave the toasty house, cringing as I feel the bitter Kansas wind. It sure felt nice inside, but it’s time to do the day’s work.

I walk down to the rusty barn where Steve is already preparing for the day.

“Throw me that extension cord over there,” he says. I glance at the syringes filled with antibiotics and ask, “How many head do we have today?”

“Oh, not too many, about 50, so go round some up.”

I look around for a weapon, since it and my voice will be my only defenses. A plain old fiberglass prod will do the job. I walk toward the pen and open up the gate. All 50 calves are startled as I enter.

“Yip! Come on now, I only need five or six of you,” I yell, as if they can understand me. Five curious calves finally run into the barn. I am relieved that they are moving quickly since my body is longing for the barn’s warmth. Now I have to separate them so only one goes down the narrow alley to the working chute.

“Which of you wants to be first?” I ask. I move slowly, hoping not to get kicked or trampled. With some frustration, I eventually get one where I want it. I slam the gate behind as I push the calf up toward the chute. Steve is ready on the head gate to make sure he doesn’t miss the approaching calf. The head gate slams and the calf moans; he knows he is caught.

Now that the calf can’t get away, he’ll go through a lot. Steve is always in charge of the implants that act like steroids to stimulate the calf’s growth; as he inserts them in the ear under the skin, I let down the panel on the chute so the calf’s neck is accessible. I get my syringes ready and jab the shots into his neck. The long syringe goes straight in and the short one goes in at an angle. Once done, Steve tags his ear for identification. I walk behind the calf and make sure we don’t have a bull on our hands.

Now it’s time for the gruesome part. I take the red-hot branding iron off its hook, and believe me, I’m really careful with this. Then I push the iron on the animal’s front shoulder. The poor thing jumps and moans. I do it again to make the brand more defined. With the second strike the animal collapses, but I keep pressing firmly. I smell the hide burning and cringe. My eyes begin tearing; they cannot handle the smoke. Finally, the brand is clear and I can take the iron off.

There is one last thing to do before we release the calf from the chute - we pour liquid de-wormer on his back. We do this last because it is flammable and could catch on fire during branding. Steve is ready to release the miserable patient. I laugh as he says, “Welcome to Gfeller Cattle Company. Please enjoy your stay.” One down, 49 to go.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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