At 5’4” tall, Charmaine Brannan often gets lost in the shadow of the 2,000-pound bulls she raises for rodeo. “I’ve been told that God protects children and fools, and I’m no longer a kid,” she said. “But a lot of things rely on me to stay healthy, and if I don’t show up with a hay bale, even in the middle of a Montana snowstorm, the livestock don’t eat that night.
“I wouldn’t call my bulls ‘pets’ in the domestic sense of the word, but they’re like family to me; and they’ll live out their life with me. I feed my livestock every day by hand and I’m alone with them a lot of the time, so I talk to them frequently because they’re good company. I can find solace and a feeling of serenity when I’m with them.”
Brannan, a member of the Chukchansi tribe, was raised in a tiny California town and grew up in a 100-year-old cabin where her logging family was no stranger to hard work. “My stepdad was a bronc rider, my mom was an old cowhand. It was natural I’d grow up interested in animals and rodeo.
“My mom was a strong cattle-woman who raised four girls on her own and I picked up her genes. Not that many women choose lady livestock contractor as a profession.” And for good reason. While her two working cowboy sons, Grayson and Nathan, help when they’re not competing, the bulk of the workload — breeding, calving, feeding, watering, loading, transporting, etc. — falls on her shoulders. “It makes for some pretty long days when you have to truck the hay, fix the fences, wrangle stock contracts and load bulls into the chutes by yourself.