Bringing up the next generation of Wyoming cowboys and cowgirls

Alaina Mathis of Douglas (left) and Emma Ruby of Wheatland (right) watch as the cowboys begin to clear the cows from the calves in preparation for roping and dragging to the vaccination and branding areas.

WHEATLAND – They roped calves. They wrestled. They vaccinated. They castrated. They branded. It was “all-things-cowgirl” for the group of young ladies that participated in the Kennedy Ranch’s Kid’s Branding Day, June 6.
It is an annual event held on the ranch of Kelly and Lexi Kennedy in Wheatland.
“It’s a chance for the next generation of cowboys and cowgirls to step up and learn how to take care of the calves,” ranch owner Kelly Kennedy said. “We do this every year and I guess the biggest challenge is making sure the kids have fun and that there are no injuries. We watch them very closely.”
The branding day which has not had a lot of publicity in the past took on a new look and a fresh idea this year as Lexi Kennedy, co-owner of the ranch with her husband contacted the newspaper.
“This was way out of the box for me to call you but I think those kids are pretty neat and what top hands they are,” Lexi Kennedy said.
Parents who were there were not only encouraged to watch their children learn new skills from some of the top coaches, but were also participants with them.
Alaina Mathis, a young teen from Douglas said, “I never really actually branded the cows, but I’ve wrestled and I’ve roped and I’ve castrated. We go to do a lot of these and it’s always fun and I learn something new each year.”
Mathis who had her knife sheathed at her side was not only proficient in wrestling and roping, but was like a skilled surgeon in the area of castrating, making clean cuts and amazed people at the quickness of her talents.  
Josephine Mathis, her younger sister was assigned to roping and dragging for the day and not only threw a tight lariat, but roped and dragged many calves to the areas where they were being vaccinated and branded.
More the quiet sibling, she let her amazing rope work speak for her, and when she wasn’t roping, she was taking care of the youngsters like Emma Ruby who was riding most of the day in her mother’s chest carrier, getting her used to horseback riding. Roping is more than throwing a loop. You have to have the patience to re-circle your rope when it doesn’t capture a calf, and you have to do it while on your horse. Then there is the throw that is also done while the horse is moving and unfortunately so are the skittish calves.
Carley Ruby, mother of one of the young participants is a Kennedy neighbor, living just off of Highway 34.
“We try to go to as many as we can with our kids just so they can get the exposure,” Ruby said. “The most fun is watching them wrestle and hold ‘em down. At the last one they ate the Rocky Mountain oysters.”
Holly Kennedy, daughter of Kelly and Lexie has been participating in the kid’s branding day all of her life. She too mentioned that if the kids wanted to try the “oysters” they would be cooked for them.
“The biggest challenge is making sure everyone’s safe,” she said. “It’s not too bad when you have a lot of help.  We keep an eye on it and make sure we just take it slow.  Today I’ll be doing one vaccine which has both C and D and also be doing the ear marks today.”
The ranch gave three different preventative vaccinations helping to ensure the health of the calves. It would be their final shot until they become cows. Kennedy said that the cows will have another shot in the fall and then in the spring right before they calf.
She can’t remember not being a part of the kid’s branding day.
“Growing up we used to do it across a calf table instead of rope and drag but we’ve roped and dragged now since 2004.”
Madison Prescott who was born and raised in Michigan, graduated from Grand Valley State, moved out to Wyoming to teach kids with emotional behavioral disorders at Laramie High School and was a leader and also a learner at the event.
“I met Holly along the way and obviously branding is an all-hands-on deck family occasion and so she invited me up to help out and so that’s kind of how I got here.”   
She got her training around horses near Grand Rapids, Mich. where she was mentored by a trainer who owns training horses.
“I think I’m going to be wrestling today,” she said. “I think. I am still learning ranch style riding and positioning so that’s become my biggest challenge is figuring out how to get in the right position and where I need to be and everybody here is super helpful which makes it even better because I can learn.”
Tom McGuire 83, and one of the local ranchers that helps coach kids has been ranching all of his life in Wheatland with the exception of two years while doing his military service in Fairbanks, Alaska where they were monitoring missiles.
“My dad was a farmer and then he bought the mule chute in 1949 and I was raised doing this,” he said and continued as his eyes lit up, “oh I love kids, and most of the time just let them do what they want.”
The four-hour event always finishes up back at the Kennedy dining table where a full meal is prepared for the kids, the coaches and the cowboys who participate in the event.


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