The air was thick with smoke and the intense stench of burning hair. Easter season had officially arrived.
I grew up on a ranch in a tiny, speck of a town in southern Utah. I did anything and everything involved with farming and living the cowboy dream ranging from herding cows to baling hay. Needless to say, as a result of our lifestyle, my family's holiday celebrations were sometimes a little unorthodox.
Our holidays and life were dictated by the cows and growth of the hay. Easter season just happened to also be branding season.
Every spring break growing up, we spent the week at what we referred to as “the Desert” which was actually a strip of land in Arizona bordering the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Our cows grazed there during the winter and had their calves in the spring. A few months after they were born, my whole family (grandparents, nieces, nephews and all) would make the three hour drive to help with the branding.
For the entire week of Easter, we would brand calves in the hot Arizona sun, giving vaccinations, castrating – the whole nine yards. On the day before Easter Sunday, we would take a break from working and color Easter eggs in large quart-sized mason jars with food coloring.
Then my older siblings would hide the eggs among the cacti, rocks, and cow patties and we would run around looking for them. After all the hard boiled, colored eggs were collected, the “Easter bunny” (my mom) would hide the baskets of goodies in one of our old tin sheep wagons and we would race to be the first one to find the treasure trove.
Our untraditional celebration of Easter has always been a treasured memory and since I have moved away and started a new career path, I can't help but feel that something is missing every Easter holiday. As strange as it sounds, Easter just isn't Easter without the cacti and baby calves.