February 10, 2016

 

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Temperatures in the single digits, we left blowing snow outside Tonopah a week ago in Nevada’s Great Basin. Since we have gathered our last bunch of cows and calves to brand this morning to a forecast high of 76°. Here the hillsides are green, spattered with early patches of golden poppies and fiddleneck, as white popcorn flowers begin to creep up the lower slopes. The visual and mental contrasts from Elko to Dry Creek are startling, two different worlds either side of the Great Western Divide within a week’s time.

 

WELL PLACED

 

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                                                            the world
                              lives in the death of speech
                              and sings there.

                                             ~ Wendell Berry (“The Silence”)

My time is here
within the details—
small tracks that whisper words

I’ve yet to say or spell,
a great expanse opening
new frontiers beyond

the clatter, the cacophony
of commerce, the pomposity
of puppets geared

to create more fear.
Talons latch and lock,
tumble carelessly

with confidence—young
eagles playing, practicing
pinwheels in the canyon

beyond the corrals.
There is no sound
from my open mouth

as they disappear
behind your hat, your horse,
Earl’s board fence

and our cows wanting
to get along.
No time to say

what will never be enough
or too much
before it’s over.

 

Got Weeds!

 

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Malva neglecta, Common Mallow, Cheeseweed, doing well.

We, as well as all of our neighbors, are busy branding or gathering to brand before the next forecast wave of El Niño arrives in the middle of next week. Hampered by the good fortune of past rains, we’re behind schedule. The grass is growing, cows milking well, calves now range over 400 pounds that is tough on ground crews and horses, as well as the calves. Depending on one another’s help to brand takes planning with an unmistakable sense of urgency in the air to get the work done. We’re planning to brand Wednesday, but not before helping a neighbor brand on Tuesday so he and his ground crew can help us.

But we’ve got weeds. The Common Mallow loves disturbed ground, and a scourge in places where cattle gather and chew their cuds. Not surprisingly, Malva neglecta has a long history of medicinal uses. Friday, I encountered a healthy patch that obscured the road as I left Dry Creek to scout the Top before meeting Clarence and the girls in our gather. All but one cow gathered or accounted for as of yesterday, we hope they stay until Wednesday.

How ‘bout those Super Broncos? What an intense defense!!

 

KAWEAH SNOW

 

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Cold awakening
to wide and generous gods
living in heaven.

 

BUCKEYE TO GREASY

 

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When hillsides leak,
it could be Kauai
less the rattlesnakes

denned nearby until
the first of March
to bathe in the sun.

When this draw runs
from Buckeye to Greasy
we have enough,

our measure of rainfall
filled with when
we fell in love.

 

EARLY SPRING

 

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We leave winter’s ice and snow
on the other side of the Sierras,
find spring colors waiting,

poppies and lupine in canyons,
yellow mustard claiming gentle
slopes of green, green grass.

How we worry with the bloom,
feel the leer of summer peeking
already to forget the drought.

 

SHADEQUARTER

 

We don’t imagine men
who live alone
in the mountains

of ever dying—
we seldom saw them
when alive.

Word trickles down
the watershed:
tracks in fresh snow

where he lay down
forever to become
part of our landscape.

 

Independence, CA

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge (2): “Vibrance”

 

Yesterday’s Eastern Sierras

 

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Weekly Photo Challenge (1): “Vibrance”

 

GROUNDHOG’S DAY: LAST BREAKFAST

 

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Robbin and I have made the trek to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, where we were married twenty years ago, so many times that it seems like Groundhog’s Day. We split the 720 mile trip into two days, laying over in Bishop, stopping at the same places for gas and a snack or a meal, the same motel, right down to virtually the same heavy coats and winter shoes. One almost instant replay after another.

Yet always something new, some detail or happenstance to change the course of events, to make every Gathering a little different, a little richer. This year the weather was a player.

 

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