1st of 3




We’ve been busy returning our replacement heifers to the Wagyu bulls after we could ford the creek, 40 or so scattered over our neighbors with no watergaps between us. Moving some cows and calves away from the creek this morning before the first of three storms arrives to linger through Tuesday, about 3 more inches of rain predicted, but the the bulk of the storms are aimed at the wet and icy Northwest. Here we go again.






High cold wet fog after rain
puts a lid on summer’s cauldron
earth wet to rock, each crease
leaks rivulets into the canyon
to join a muddy creek.

Curiosity burns in his belly,
lone winter coyote edging closer
by different approaches
                    mid-day or night—
                    dogs hold him at bay
                    until he leaves the edge
                    of our territory.

Young downstream cowboys try
clay flat, pickup, gooseneck
just inside the gate, diggings
piled behind the drive wheels
as I pass by.
                    Twenty years ago
                    I’d have stopped to help
                    got stuck
                    and they learn nothing.
                    Two hours back from town
                    with a burn permit,
                    they’re hooking up
                    on muddy asphalt.

High cold wet fog after rain
creek too high to cross
I clear my desk, bag years
of paper files for proof
                    of our busyness
                    for the burn pile:
                    dry summer prunings
                    up in smoke
                    lost in fog.






When the clouds form low,
the gods of rain climb onboard
to recuperate.


Rain Update




Dry Creek is running over 500 cfs this morning @ 6:00 a.m., after over an inch of rain in the past two days, over 6” for the first half of January—10 consecutive days of measurable precipitation—it’s wet! Any plans to cross the creek to fix fences and sort cattle won’t happen today. Furthermore, the moisture is deep, a good thing, but the only vehicle we have to get to the fence work will be the Kubota and I’d prefer to wait until Dry Creek is running less than 100 cfs.

Oh, I know the stories when Earl McKee and his sorrel horse swam the channel to ride five miles to free cattle locked in his Greasy corrals; or Clarence Holdbrooks swimming his red horse to move cattle stranded on the other side of the creek fifty years ago. They are my heroes still. All we have at risk with our current cattle mix-up is that our replacement heifers are running with the neighbor’s steers, at a time of the month, unfortunately, when the majority will be cycling, yet not exposed to the Wagyu bulls. But no livestock is at risk.

According to the 10-day forecast, we have a 5-day window to dry out before the next series of storms begin on the 18th, then 5 more days projected to leave 2.5” of rain. But no one’s complaining, yet, no one’s hollered ‘uncle’.

Not unlike the drought, Robbin and I have been making contingency plans. It dawned on me last night that making a ranch work within all the variables of the weather requires some hands-on creativity—that the art of cattle ranching starts with thinking well-outside the box. C’est la vie!


Weekly Photo Challenge: ‘Ambience’


Best of the Dry Years






Paperback: 196 pages
Publisher: Dry Crik Press
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1883081084
ISBN-13: 978-1883081089
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
Shipping Weight: 11 ounces






The ’56 International
was almost indestructible
when the straight-six fired
and the six-volt starter
got beyond slow groans
to ignite a spark,
explode the vapor
in the piston chamber
to run on her own.

She was temperamental
with smooth hood up,
heavy round fenders
and running boards—
a tough country woman
easy to personify
wanting procedures
                                        in order
you had to remember
or become superstitious
with only juice enough
for two chances
to start over.

I never locked her up
when I left,
but always a toss-up
which way to go:
take the longer asphalt mile
and hope for a ride
or wade the creek
straight cross-country
in my wet boots home.

                            for Tim Loverin & Richard Barkley



Dry Creek Brush Catchers #2


Too wet for us to get off the road or cross the creek, but Kaweah Delta was back on Dry Creek cleaning the lower brush catchers this morning before the next storm starts about 4 p.m., forecast to bring 1.5 – 2” of rain through Thursday. Dry Creek: 236 cfs. Operator: Erik Avila.







No other love song, only
the comforting sound of fury
rumbling, rolling, churning

upstream like an old lover
returning to hold and stay
awhile with sycamores,

waist-deep, remembering
the boy with single-shot .410
reaching from the far bank

for dove in the top limbs
before the floods of ’67 & ’69
enveloped them, before

our high-water kisses in ’97
shared tears with rain—pure
ecstasy after so long dry.


Dry Creek Brush Catchers


Dry Creek peaked at 7:00 a.m. this morning @ 2,526 cfs at the gauging station immediately above the lower brush catchers, minus a couple of teeth, despite the cleaning of debris by the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District yesterday between storms.





10:00 a.m., January 8, 2017: 629 cfs

10:00 a.m., January 8, 2017: 629 cfs


Not quite the storm of the decade, Dry Creek peaked at 1,390 cfs early yesterday morning. As of this morning, accumulated rainfall since the first of the year on lower Dry Creek has been a little over 4 inches, with yet another storm forecast to bring about 1.5″ due midday tomorrow—all welcome.

The continual gray clouds and rain of late seems miraculous when contrasted with the bare hills and dust of the past four years that have been permanently imprinted in our minds as more normal than not. The drought changed our thought processes and how we operate the ranch. And despite the ample availability of water streaming in nearly every canyon, I have often caught myself still worrying about stockwater. It’s how we lived, day to day, for a long time.

It’s good to see the creek running, the literal lifeblood of the canyon, a psychological lift as we inhale the moist air and relax a little before addressing the work that waits ahead of us. We have calves to brand and watergaps to fix as soon as we can physically get to them, when the roads dry out and creek goes down, which probably won’t be until next week if tomorrow’s storm materializes.