Routt County’s Darren Clever named Brand Inspector of the Year
Darren Clever picked for state award
Steamboat Springs — More than the thousands of cattle he works with every fall, it’s the ranchers and their families that intrigue Routt County Brand Inspector Darren Clever.
Despite differences, egos and geographical distance, Clever watches Northwest Colorado ranchers come together almost daily to help move herds of cattle through the brand inspection and weighing process on their way to a sale.
“Everybody has to work together to get it done,” he said about getting hundreds of cattle shipped off during the busy fall sale season. “Even if they don’t care for someone, they were all there.”
He picks up on the minute differences in rancher personalities, just like how he grows accustomed to the different kinds of cattle he works with every day.
His easy demeanor and quiet calmness haven’t gone unnoticed.
Clever was named Brand Inspector of the Year by the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, an honor he has nominated several others for but never expected to receive himself after 27 years in the field.
“I just got a letter in the mail, and I was thinking, ‘What the Cattlemen want?’” he said. “I was really excited. I couldn’t believe it.”
Routt County rancher Mary Kay Monger said she wasn’t surprised.
“Everybody likes Darren,” Monger said. “I’ve never heard anyone say a bad thing. I think it’s a great honor, and it’s great for us to have him.”
She said he’s always been kind and helpful when he visits her ranch, often helping out with other duties besides brand inspecting.
“You want to be able to get along with your brand inspector,” Monger said. “If you treat him good, he treats you good.”
She said that on occasion she’ll forget to call Clever until just before a sale and that he’s always made accommodations for her and her ranch.
“He truly deserves it,” Monger said about the award. “He can walk through those cattle and read the brands, and I just go, ‘Huh.’ He’s just very good, and good at working with the cattle. He’s easy on them and walks around them real quiet.”
He might be easy on the cattle, but he sometimes has to talk straight to the ranchers, telling them the brands need to be set more deeply to ensure they’ll show up properly.
“You need to lean on the cattle,” he’ll tell them. “Are you afraid you’re going to hurt them?”
But it’s not a cruel action, he said, because after a short moment of pain, that animal is ensured more protection.
“You want everyone to know it’s yours,” Clever said. “You don’t want it to get lost.”
Once he got a call from ranchers claiming they found two heifers, and the brands were so clear that Clever and the ranchers were able to identify the owners immediately on the telephone.
He’s in tune with more than 100 brands across Routt, Jackson and Grand counties, but reading them is another thing entirely.
He uses the location and angle of the sun to help him spot tough-to-read brands.
All brands are more difficult to read during the sale season because the animals’ hair is thicker in the fall, but a few show up really well, like his favorites, F-Slash and Bar-A. They’re simple, he said.
In winter, spring and summer, after all the 14-hour, 300-mile days of fall are finished, Clever doesn’t stop.
When he’s not out on the ranches, he said, he’s “fiddling” in his leather shop on his South Routt ranch, where he fixes saddles and makes chaps by hand.
He deals with cattle rustling issues, assists other ranchers with feeding chores and works on his team roping skills.
Clever said there are no frills about his work — his state-issued truck has no four-wheel drive, for example.
“You get into where you can read the cattle, how they work, what they’re going to do,” he said. “It just becomes second nature.”
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Explore a mix of in-person and virtual events happening this weekend in Routt County.