AMY KIRK: West River’s springtime tradition: Branding, food, shooting the breezeHere in the land of West River South Dakota, ranches are starting to host their annual springtime event. The general theme is branding and vaccinating calves but another popular activity is BSing.
By: Amy Kirk, The Daily Republic
Here in the land of West River South Dakota, ranches are starting to host their annual springtime event. The general theme is branding and vaccinating calves but another popular activity is BSing.
Every spring, faithful neighbors exchange help to complete the giant task of branding but putting together the big feed for it is an even bigger undertaking. Not counting the desserts, salads, and help that the neighbor ladies contribute, I spend two days in the kitchen preparing food that takes 20 minutes to consume.
Thankfully though, there’s not much preparation necessary for the main course. All I have to do is put the Budweiser and Bud Light on ice ahead of time. I make side dishes like roast beef, barbeque short ribs, mashed potatoes and gravy, cream corn, beans and homemade rolls that all enhance the flavor of the main course.
Serving food — and not just any food — the made-from-scratch kind — draws a big crowd after the work is done, usually around the beer coolers located in the back of the pickup. I make an effort to prepare a top-notch meal to feed our branding crew and go to great lengths to make sure our help gets fed extremely well and that the beer cooler is full.
Branding and working cattle in the fall are the two times a year that I actually make cinnamon rolls from scratch, cook savory short ribs using my homemade barbeque sauce and make my son’s favorite peanut butter pie. I could take shortcuts but I do it the hard way because cooking up a good branding day meal is the pride of every ranch woman.
But mostly, I know that the food can be the deciding factor in people choosing to come to our branding over someone else’s branding scheduled on the same day.
It’s important that the big meal I put on leaves a lasting impression because we’ll need help again in the fall. Putting on a big feed with savory foods like fork-tender roast beef and fall-off-the-bone tender short ribs does more than say thank you for coming to our branding and helping us out.
It brings people together and provides an excuse to buy lots of beer. It’s also the ideal environment for lengthy BS sessions.
Feeding our branding crew a redneck banquet that covers every countertop of my kitchen has been a long standing tradition here. Offering such a meal to good friends and neighbors is a highlight for us and we enjoy the chance to feed everybody all at once — after getting some work out of them first.
My husband does a great job of expressing our gratitude to those who show up to help us but I think it’s safe to say what really lures our friends and neighbors to come to our branding year after year is the beer.
In a society where human interaction is becoming increasingly endangered, food is still a mainstay of societal relations for us and cold beer washes it all down. West River branding day dinners remain the stronghold of neighbors helping neighbors.
As the cook, I still look for signs to tell whether our branding crew’s satisfied by inventorying what’s leftover. The most reliable indicators are little or no leftover beer.
Amy Kirk and her husband raise their two kids on a fourth-generation cow/calf operation near Pringle. She blogs at ranchwifeslant.areavoices.com.