News from the Secretary By Larry Gabriel Do you have a brand?
There is a tradition among cattlemen that may look like a curious little quirk of human nature to outsiders. We like to put our registered livestock brand on almost everything we own: our cattle, pickups, saddles, belts, rings, chaps, boots, guns and even the rural mailboxes.
If you ask one of us about it, you get a practical answer that it proves ownership. �If my chaps are stolen or misplaced, everyone who sees them around this part of the country will know they are mine. If my wife goes to a potluck dinner, even the pans and dishes are branded. There may be more than one person with the same first or last name, but there is only one owner of each brand and everybody there knows who it is.�
It all started as a measure to prevent rustling of livestock. Branding still serves that purpose, but has become much more than that. We love our brand. We like seeing it. It instills pride and a sense of place.
In the process of branding our things with a unique mark, I suspect we are really doing far more than marking ownership of the objects. Psychologists might call it building our identity or defining our self concept.
Whatever the reasons for our affinity for our marks, you would be wise not to mess with a cattleman�s brand. (I use the term cattleman in the non-generic sense, by the way.)
Part of it is territoriality. Cattlemen tend to be that way. They may be the most ardent advocates of private property rights in America. Some of that has to do with the nature of our lifestyles and a lifetime of putting our brands on things.
The registered brand is a unique mark. Nobody else has it. We protect it and it protects us. Outsiders would do well to respect it and all our private property rights.
When I was in grade school, children were graded on citizenship. One of the elements was �respects the rights and property of others�. That was not a whim. The concept is actually the cornerstone of our nation.
�The true foundation of republican government is the equal right of every citizen in his person and property and in their management.� (Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Kercheval, 1816.)
When you see stories about landowners fighting against environmentalist or sportsmen, don�t get the idea that the fight is about who cares more for the environment or wildlife. Without question we care more. We dedicate our lives to them.
Those fights are about lack of �respect for the rights and property of others.� We view our property rights as being on par with freedom of speech and other fundamental civil rights. We took Jefferson at his word.
We need respect for property rights and the brand concept, because everyone needs something they�d be proud to defend, whether it�s a home or a �brand� like a family name, a school name or an �American.�