Fans of the show already know the infamous “Yellowstone” Y is more than just a symbol. For the cowboys on the ranch its deeper rooted in a bond. It’s a pledge that stands for loyalty. So just how far does that loyalty go? And what does it mean once a cowboy takes the oath of the brand? Is it ever possible to leave after that?
Recently, some fans of “Yellowstone” asked these very questions in a Reddit thread. If Rip Wheeler is any example, the “Y” brand is a mark of utter obedience to the Dutton name. The leader of the pack, Rip controls the cowboys. But he’s also willing to get a little dirty and skirt the law to protect the Duttons.
Seemingly, the brand is a physical mark of family. A second chance. While Rip came to the Dutton ranch as a scared young boy, abused and abandoned, he was saved under the wings of John Dutton.
Similarly, Jimmy was a good-for-nothing towny before Rip plucked from mediocrity and put him on a horse.
The brotherhood vows to protect, work and even kill for the sake of the Duttons. In return, they’re offered protection.
However, like a cult, the cowboys are expected to devote their lives to the brand’s cause. It would seem leaving is out of the question.
What Happens When A “Yellowstone” Cowboy Has Questions
For a wayward traveling ranch hand like Walker, the Dutton ranch offered him a second chance after he caught a manslaughter charge.
But after receiving the brand by campfire light amid a testosterone-fueled group, Walker faltered in his devotion.
Telling John Dutton, “I’m a cowboy. Only a cowboy,” the Texan tries to leave. However, Walker is a branded cowboy which comes with a few asterisks and is instructed back into the bunk.
Tensions build as both Walker and Rip appear to have different definitions of what the brand allows you to do – or not to do, in this case.
Walker is eventually told if he wants to go, they’ll drive him to the “train station.” We all know what that means. He’s given a second chance but not before being told never to show his face in Montana again.
Additionally mysterious, is the selection process for who can receive the brand. Certainly, Kayce Dutton received the mark. But his defiance was made clear from episode one. He obviously left the ranch to live on the reservation with his wife and son.
So why not Jamie Dutton? Or Beth for that matter? The two have certainly taken hits – both physical and financial for the family name.
With an approaching season four of “Yellowstone” set to air this fall, and the show landing on TV Guide’s 100 Best Shows list, fans can mull over the brand’s meaning all they want. Only Taylor Sheridan – and maybe some of the cast – know those answers.