By: Heath Larson
It’s the time of year that every cattle rancher has been dreaming about all winter. It’s time to take the cattle to pasture for the summer! “Going to grass” is the unofficial first day of summer to me. Before going to grass, each cow, calf, and steer is vaccinated to prevent disease, tagged and poured to prevent nuisance flies and pests, and given one final checkup before being hauled to pasture. This year, I was responsible for branding the steers. Brands, for being little more than a simple mark on an animal, are surprisingly complex. Each owner has a unique brand, registered with the government, that may be placed on one specific location of their cattle. But, considering the wandering nature of cattle and the ever present threat of rustling, a permanent brand is the best way for one to look at a wayward steer and say definitively, “This one is mine.”
Another unofficial sign that winter is over is the running of the Boston Marathon. As the world’s longest continuously run marathon, Boston is truly Mecca for marathoners, and I was fortunate enough to run it for the second time a few weeks ago. No matter how many races I run, turning onto Boylston Street with the crowds screaming “Go Team Beef!” and seeing the finish line after 26 miles is a memory I will never forget. Running up Heartbreak Hill, the most famous and difficult hill on the course, is a “gut check” moment unparalleled by any road race. While I’ve been to a fun college tailgate party or two in my time, there’s few that truly hold a candle to the rowdiness of college students watching the race at Boston College, Tufts, and of course, Wellesley, where the screams from the all-female campus can be heard 1/2 mile away.
Marathon Monday, with all its tradition and history, has also made its mark on the city of Boston…literally. The finish line on Boylston is permanently painted across the street and remains there year round. Marathon day is the first day of spring break in Boston, and it seems nearly every front yard becomes a cross between an aid station and a party, offering everything from oranges and bananas to donuts for runners. Then there are the signs. From funny (“Hurry up, the Kenyans are drinking your beer”) to inspirational (“Chuck Norris never ran a marathon”) to geeky (Darth Vader holding a sign saying “May the course be with you”), these folks have really taken the time to get creative with their support. But perhaps the most prevalent sign from this year’s race was a simple declaration stating “This is OUR marathon.” Boston forever bears the “brand” of the race that has come to define the resilience of their city, and as runners, we forever carry our memories from this iconic race. This is our marathon. May it always be so.