"We should have a ceremony, where we brand each other!" someone once joked. Over time, the idea was expanded upon... including chants, mantras, and certain... uh... "revealings".
Alcohol has a way of making grown men do strange things. One is drinking Maker's Mark whiskey. Another is drinking Arrogant Bastard Ale. Some are drinking Keystone Light, while others are drinking Pepsi. But, on this particular night, the consumption of spirits was drowned out by an outpouring of loyalty and manliness.
I've been going on yearly camping trips with the same group of guys for around 5 years now. We go up the St. Joe, almost to the Montana border. It's strictly for men only. I guess that's how I know I'm with an older group; I'm still at the age where I'd love to bring a female companion. Apparently, after you reach the ripe age of 50+ something, you take every opportunity to get away from women. So you can do strange things and not get yelled at, I'm guessing.
It's called the "herd" trip. A herd of men, who have all worked together at one time, converge in the wild. And become wild.
During the last trip, while sitting around the fire, one particular member of the herd had a presentation to make. He actually made an honorary branding iron in the shape of elk hooves, complete with a wooden case and a bite stick.
Everyone laughed. "Haha, what a funny idea!" everyone thought.
"I'll do it," I quickly said.
People got a little nervous. I don't think anybody considered that somebody would actually do it. After a moment of silence, C.C. (unofficial dominant male of the herd) proudly proclaimed "Well, I'm going first!"
Amidst stares of disbelief, and with help from the burner of a camp stove, he did. And he said it wasn't that bad. D.W. was next. I was third, and also the last. Surprisingly, it really didn't hurt. It was worse for the brand administrator, who had to watch the receiver's skin crackle and smoke.
Nobody thought any less of those who opted out. I mean c'mon, we were intentionally burning each other. I think being part of the experience was enough for them.
So, now we're a Brand of Brothers. But, after a bit of campfire mischief, I think we realized that we already were. :)
Unfortunately, I flinched a bit when getting mine, so I think it might end up looking like a butt. Although, we were glad the brand's maker didn't put his initials on it: B.J. That wouldn't have been overly manly.