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Brand Project to Honor Mancos Valley Ranching Heritage

8/8/2022

What started out as a memento commemorating her late husband has turned into a major art project that honors the Mancos Valley's ranching heritage. This story is sponsored by Ute Mountain Casino Hotel and the law firm of Downs, McDonough, Cowan and Foley

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What started out as one woman's project to commemorate her late husband's life has turned into a community-wide effort to honor her former community's ranching heritage. You're watching the Local News Network, brought to you by the law firm of Downs, McDonough, Cowan & Foley, and the Ute Mountain Casino Hotel. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. Few symbols are as iconic as the cattle brand when it comes to depicting the west and a family's ranching heritage. Now, Marianne Griffin, a former Mancos area resident, plans to honor Mancos Valley ranching pioneers by creating a permanent public display of their cattle brands with the help of two Mancos artists. And it all started with a project to commemorate the memory of her late husband.

Well, it all started out with the fact that my husband, William A. Griffin, had a brand. It was part of his family tradition, and he kept that brand over the years. It was given to him as a child, and I felt like I wanted to keep that spirit alive. So I contacted a friend of mine, Steve Williams from Cowboy Forge, and I said, "Could you do a sculpture using his brand?" I was thinking yard art, you know, from a house. And he said, "Well, you know, I was on the Chamber Board of Commerce, you worked at the Chamber Board of Commerce and the visitor center; how many times did you have ranchers coming in and say, "Oh, we should do this or that to remember our brands and to preserve them?" He said, "Would you like to work on a project where we could do this for the whole community?" And I said, "You bet. Let's do it."

Although brands are associated with cattle in the West, they've been part of livestock husbandry for thousands of years. According to the Texas State Historical Society, the first known use of a brand was found in Egypt, and hieroglyphics dating from 2300 BC depict scenes of roundups and cattle branding. Cortez is believed to be the first cattle rancher in the new world to use a brand of three crosses. And as cattle ranching grew, so did the number of brands representing each family's herd. Formal brand registration programs took hold after the Civil War. Today, the Colorado Department of Agriculture website indicates that the state has more than 30,000 registered brands. And Griffin estimates that 40 families hold brands in the Mancos Valley. The Memorial will be eight feet tall and will display 40 steel panels with the brand and the family's name. A central panel will offer a brief history of branding, and the top will be decorated with a metal horse created by Raven House Gallery owner Marilyn Kroeker. Although the horse raised a few eyebrows, after all, a horse isn't a cow, Kroeker says it fits with the branding theme.

If you've ever seen a cattle drive, A: cattle are branded, B: they don't drive themselves. The horses are responsible and their riders for moving those cows in the direction that they need to go.

The Griffin family will cover costs for the brand Memorial, but with exploding steel prices, Griffin has asked families to help defray some of the cost with a small fee. Applications to include a family brand in the Mancos brand project may be picked up at the Raven House Gallery in downtown Mancos or the Mancos Visitors Center. Thanks for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I'm Wendy Graham Settle.

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