THE FAR CRY

 

 

A single pod of seeds, the bare
redbud volunteer, come spring,
will obscure my view of the road;

the world beyond this black morning—
beyond the owl in the oaks above me;
the cobbled mumbles of the creek.

With the hillside chorus of coyotes
and canyon’s replies, the ridgeline
holds-up heaven’s brilliance

in a sky of stars—unabashed
and unafraid of any circumstance
that may engulf us all.

 

2nd Branding Greasy 2020

 

Despite warm temperatures and no rain for nearly 30 days, the calves have grown since we branded last in Greasy on January 9th.

 

Father and daughter, Garth and Audrey Maze pose before we start.

 

 

 

 

 

With a great crew, we made short work of big calves and were down the hill by noon. Thank you all.

 

FEBRUARY 2020

 

 

Another cold dry front
rests upon the tops of hills,
shapeless clouds, a haze
upon steep south slopes,
red clay like brick—
green pales to gray

               as we brand calves
               one by one
               we may sell early
               with their mothers.

I brace against the familiar
drama, growing numb

               as my stiff new rope
               slides through the palm
               of time’s softened hand,
               warming as it searches
               for my frayed
               wrapped-cotton horn.

               I quote my elders
               dead and gone
               as they visit
               the branding pen.

Don’t worry, Dofflemyer,
               E. J.’d say.
It’s gonna rain.

It takes years to get here
with cows we like—
unwritten contracts
they understand

               as we discuss
               our options
               of who goes first
               and who gets what’s left
               of hay.

Of the two of us,
I am the dreamer
and believer—

a luxury
you have allowed me
               facing facts
as I grow gray.

                              for Robbin

 

PURE LOVE

 

 

She was there
always for her kids
and theirs and theirs

with open wings—
quick to feed
and defend them.

Scrappy daughter
of the Dust Bowl,
rest in peace.

                    for Ila Jean Fry
    January 17, 1926 — January 17, 2020

 

Obituary

 

Turkey Fight

 

On our way to gather the cows and calves for branding last Friday, we ran across two turkeys fighting within a rafter of twenty or so young toms along the creek.

 


                                                            (Click to enlarge)

 

It was a quiet combat for dominance, yet none of the rest seemed disturbed nor cared about the outcome.

 

 

But as I began to photograph the battle with my point and shoot, the group slowly dispersed to leave the two toms battling alone.

 

 

It’s that time of year, I suppose.

 

Cowgirls

 

 

We branded a little bunch, the last of our Wagyu X calves, yesterday. It was a beautiful morning, despite our hillsides turning as we wait for rain. Three girls roping, Corrine Ainley Manes and Terri Blanke above getting ready to bring one to the fire.

 

 

Corrine Ainley Manes catches two.

 

 

We even had time for Robbin and Heston Manes to get reacquainted, glove on his right hand just like Mom.

 

 

Audrey Maze throws a perfect loop to help the day run smoothly. With plenty of help on the ground, we got the work done and had lots of fun. Thank you all.

 

Elko – My Favorite Kids

 

 

Always a joy to see Brigid & Johnny “Guitar” Reedy at the Gathering, to see how they’ve matured both on and off stage. Performing at the Gathering since she was two, Brigid made the cover of Alta Magazine on January 1, 2020. Now 19, she and Johnny (14) have been writing their own songs and Brigid has been writing a little poetry as well. A great show Monday night! We also caught a set with them on stage with Ernie Sites and the Sagebrush Ramblers at the the Stockman’s.

All recent history, we’re branding calves this morning.

 

There Was A Day

 

 

Last night of the Gathering, I was surprised by this poster in a window of the Pioneer Hotel. Click to enlarge if your dare.

 

Elko 2020

 

 

On our way home from the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, Robbin and I replay a collage of meaningful moments, fragments of conversations, poetry and music as we cross the Great Basin. Avoiding I-80 and Donner, taking the longer, southern route over Tehachapi instead, it has become like Groundhog Day, both coming and going over the years as we cross the pastel sagebrush expanse of the high desert.

Since 1989, I’ve watched the Gathering evolve from strictly traditional recitations to more contemporary expression rooted in a hands-on, rural ethic of the livestock culture where a man’s word is still his bond, where neighbors trade labor and the land offers a living for those tough enough to endure the whims of the weather. With more hugs than handshakes, it has become a reunion where respect remains high, but we’ve lost a few of the best along the way.

With many new faces, an obvious effort to inject some youth into the offering, it was invigorating and inspirational. Included in a great session with poets Forest VonTuyl from Oregon, Jonathon Odermann from North Dakota and singer-songwriter Tracy Morrison from Idaho, I was assured that the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering will survive with renewed energy and originality. My kudos to the staff for locating so much young talent residing in the West.

I always look forward to visiting and reading with one of my favorites, Patricia Frolander, past-Poet Laureate of Wyoming, pictured above. Robbin and I will continue to replay the moments as we get down to the business of branding calves. It’s good to be home.

 

UNDER PRESSURE

 

 

                                                            every valve
                                                            leaks a little
                                                            there is no

                                                            stopping the flow.
                                                            – Gary Snyder (“Fixing the System”)

I worried once
about wasting water,

                              steady drip

at the trough,
at the hose bib,
at the gate valve

                              green year-round

gathering tree frogs,
snakes and cottontails.

 

Raining crystal drops
rising with Greenheads
from the tailwater
of the irrigated pasture

               on a Sabbath
               with my father
               instead of church:

he spoke into the clouds.

 

               With the gravity
               that holds us close
               to this earth,

                              always a little
                              leaks by
                              to remind us.