2022 Ag Pride: Kids’ branding builds skills, confidence | TSLN.com

2022 Ag Pride: Kids’ branding builds skills, confidence

Lute Paulsen drags a calf at the Lone Pine kids' branding. Courtesy photo.

The pen of late calves bawls. The branding pot sends off waves of heat. The branding crew gathers, wearing shiny chaps–most with about a 24-inch inseam–and 15 different styles of hats.  

At the Lone Pine Ranch, part of the Silver Spur, managed by Roy Gollobith, the late calf branding is designated the kids’ branding. Start to finish, the branding crew is entirely kids from neighboring ranches and nearby Walden, Colorado.  

Gollobith, who has been a wrestling coach for 25 years, and has been ranching nearly as long, realizes kids don’t know things unless you teach them.  That’s why he started specifying the last branding of the year is just for the kids.  

“There’s a saying about, ‘If a boy doesn’t learn, a man doesn’t know,'” Gollobith said.  

At the rest of the brandings, when they’re working 400 or more head a day, the focus is on getting the work done. “Seems like everyone is in such a stinkin’ hurry, and the kids are standing around, or not allowed to go at all. This is our future. We can’t not teach these kids. That’s kinda why I did it.”  

Some of the kids from town–many from Gollobith’s wrestling team–have never ridden a horse, some stand back until the first few calves are done. “They’ve gotta get the courage up to wrestle a calf,” Gollobith said. “But once you get them in there, they’re hooked. Then you’ve got the best hands in the world when they grow up.” 

Lute Paulsen was 7 when he started helping with the kids’ branding. “I think the kids’ branding is pretty cool because at the big brandings there’s all the adults that get to do everything, but there the kids get to do everything,” Lute said. 

Lute is 11 now, and has done about every job–rounding up, sorting, roping, branding, wrestling, vaccinating and castrating. He practices dummy roping, so when he has a chance to get in the branding pen, he’s ready.  

There are lots of “coaches” in the branding pen, as Gollobith focuses on safety, above all. “The dads will be in there afoot,” Gollobith said, “to make sure if they do catch something they’ll get a dally, and it won’t get wrapped around a horse or under a tail or getting somebody bucked off. It’s a pretty safe deal. We haven’t had anybody hurt.” 

Every kid gets a chance to do every job. “We pick somebody to start, and switch off. As we go we just say, ‘Anybody who hasn’t done it, get over here,” Gollobith said.  

Lute’s mom, Katy Paulsen, said she thinks it’s a great opportunity for the kids to get involved, safely. “Anything horseback and with cattle there’s an element of danger. They have to be able to try those things safely, so as they get older they can get better at it.” 

It also gets kids involved and excited earlier, so when they’re old enough to be good hands they still want to be there. “If you don’t get them involved, it’s hard for them to learn,” Katy said. “The younger they are the more time to have to learn to do those things. They are becoming more proficient, and more confident. It helps their confidence, so when they’re put in a situation that might require more skill, they’ve had to that experience so they’re not afraid to go try it.”  

The kids get to roundup, and if a kid doesn’t have a horse, Gollobith provides one, so no one gets left out. One time, when they were rounding up, a calf got away and Lute had to rope it to bring it in. So his time in the branding pen, and helping rope and doctor calves with his dad, Chris, paid off. 

Lute also wrestles in Peewee wrestling, and Gollobith is his coach. “Roy is a really good coach because he knows how to explain it and teach it to us. In the branding pen he helps us learn and fix our mistakes, and how to get better at what we do,” Lute said. 

Gollobith has also “coached” the kids through building fence the “old-fashion way,” with posthole diggers and a tamping bar, Lute said. “It was really fun to learn how to do it, so if you don’t have an auger you know how to dig the hole and put the post in and make sure it’s not loose.” 

That should serve Lute well, as he want to be a rancher when he grows up, after going to school for animal science, diesel mechanics and welding. 

Gollobith has seen the effort he puts into these kids pay off, both on the wrestling mat and in life. One of his wrestlers had a tough home life, without much support from his parents. Gollobith made sure he had the opportunity to wrestle, and the funds to be just another one of the wrestlers when they traveled. “He could have ended up badly, but he’s doing good now,” Gollobith said, “Them kind of stories make it worth it. Changing kids’ lives for the better.” Some of his other wrestlers have come back to visit after joining the military, and told Gollobith boot camp was nothing compared to wrestling practice. When Gollobith celebrated his 20th year as a high school wrestling coach, they made a t-shirt for him that listed all the kids he had coached over the years. There were 180 names on the shirt.  

Some of the kids who showed up with shiny chaps at his first kids’ brandings are now working full-time on neighboring ranches. 

Gollobith’s favorite part of both wrestling and branding is watching the kids learn and improve, and have fun.  Gollobith’s wife makes a big dinner for the kids–often lasagna, one of Lute’s favorites–and they throw ice at each other chase each other with cake and frosting. They take a group photo every year, and one year the parents printed it on a canvas as a thank-you gift for Gollobith. It hangs in his living room.