It all started back in 1981with this identity-marking device. I bought this at an antiques store in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter when I was an exchange student there during my senior year in high school. At that time, I didn’t know the connection between this instrument and that thing called branding or the German linguistic heritage.

What was the draw? My maternal grandfather had a farm after he retired as a boilermaker, and my paternal grandfather was a farmer his whole life. Both had cattle. On several occasions I helped my Grandfather Reed prepare the ear tags for his four-leggeds. I don’t recall why I didn’t get two, but it’s likely there was no iron with an “N” on it. I remember they did have other long-handled ones there, but they would have proven more difficult to get home.

Imagine how quickly one of these would be considered a weapon in post-9/11 think, even if you innocently bought it as a souvenir. As a matter of fact, I collect old wrenches and gears, so a branding iron is merely a natural addition to my other tools of various trades of an almost bygone era.

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