The Southwestern Cowbelles’ famous brand quilt is up for grabs again.
Raffle tickets are being sold for the traditional queen-size quilt, which features 41 local cattle brands. Coincidentally, it can be viewed at Brand Central on Main Street in Cortez.
The raffle will be held Feb. 13 at 8 p.m. at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds. Tickets are $1 or a book of six for $5. Tickets can be purchased from committee members or any Cowbelle member.
The money raised from the brand quilt raffle supports Cowbelle projects that promote beef and the agriculture way of life in the area, said Cowbelle member Bunny McComb.
Some of the projects include producing annual calendars with historic photos, hosting bereavement dinners, working with 4-H youths and putting on the luncheon for the annual Southwestern Colorado Cattleman Association convention.
The brand quilt is a team effort. The top portion with the brand squares is put together by a team of three Cowbelles, and the quilting, batting and backing is assembled by a Cowbelle quilter from Cahone. Some brand holders hold onto the tradition of creating their own square to be added to the quilt, but not as many as in the past.
Owning a brand quilt is a kind of badge of honor for community members. “It has become quite a keepsake for families,” McComb said.
One is made around Christmas and raffled off to Cowbelle members so they have a chance for the quilt. Also, when a Cowbelle turns 60 and is still sans brand quilt, one is made for them if they have been a member for at least five years.
McComb explained some of the history of the quilt and the tradition behind it.
The Southwest Cowbelles formed in 1954, and members have made the brand quilt for more than 60 years. The first quilt was auctioned off in 1959 and was won by Lila Zwicker.
Cowbelle and Cattle Women organizations across the state make their own brand quilts as well. Organizations are changing their names to Cattle Women, McComb said, but Southwest Cowbelles is keeping the traditional term.
The quilt features cattle brands from Montezuma County that are registered brands with the state of Colorado. They are still in use today.
Cattle brands identify owners and are inspected if the cattle are moved over along distance or when butchered. Calves are branded so they can be identified at the feed lot. When ranchers buy cattle, they will put their own brand on them.
“Brands are passed down in the family,” McComb said. “Everybody’s favorite brand is their own, of course!”
Some brands become valuable enough to sell if the owner gets out of the cattle business.
If a Cowbelle with a brand passes away, that brand may go off the list. In one case, the surviving husband will join the organization and pay dues to keep the ranching brand on the quilt.
Hot iron brands typically use propane to get them hot enough. But electric brands are becoming more popular. Simplicity is the key for creating a new brand that shows up well.
“The fewer irons needed to make a brand the better,” McComb said.
There is not a location to buy tickets, but people can call 970-560-4807 or 970-759-1332 to make arrangements to buy tickets.
For more information on the Southwestern Cowbelles, visit their Facebook page.