Each year it seems as if there is one certain sign that winter has come to an end at last, and that it is officially spring, and for many that is the first branding of the year. It seems as though the smell of a hot branding iron and burnt hair bring back a different memory for every rancher.
Although much has changed in ranch practices, this photograph resembles a present day branding pen. The way that calf is wrestled to the ground, the roper in the background and the hard grip on the branding iron look the same then as they would today.
This photograph was taken by photographer LA Huffman near Miles City while branding for the Iowa and Montana Livestock Company. Huffman arrived in the Miles City area in 1879 and was post photographer at nearby Fort Keogh.
Huffman saw the change in the west from the decline of the great buffalo herd all the way up to the first streets in Miles City. He had a great respect for the cattle industry and worked alongside the people he photographed, putting his experience in ranching to work. He photographed the beginning, the heyday and the end of the open range days in Montana.
Photograph courtesy of the Montana Historical Society