Good News Update

Trying to keep track of the twin calves since my “Good News” post took a little extra time and effort because their mother didn’t come into hay with all the rest of the first-calf heifers.  Several times I glassed the area where I found them on the 9th, but with little luck.  On Monday the 12that the place where they were born, I found her with two other heifers with newborn calves.  I spent some time with them while searching the down oak limbs for the missing twin only to report to Robbin and the crew that she’d probably lost one of the calves.

Two days later at my desk in the middle of the afternoon, I caught some movement on the hillside outside my window and went to the door to see a coyote chased by Buster, our German Shepherd/Great Pyrenees drop-off, disappear over the rise.  After a couple of minutes of prolonged barking, I was worried for the dog and reached for my rifle by the door as three coyotes came running down the fence at me.  So fat and big, I thought they were mottled wild pigs at first, then entertained a fleeting notion that they might be wolves, running by me so close I couldn’t find them in my scope before disappearing.  

But the old, old Border Collie Jack and Boo, a Blue Healer drop-off, had headed them off and brought two back.  In retrospect, the twenty-plus first-calf heifers may have helped turn them around. Long-haired and well-fed, these were not native coyotes, but refugees from the pines, either the SQF Complex or Creek Fires. They were lost, and more than likely, the cows north of the house had propelled all three in our direction. With no way of knowing, I wanted to blame them for the missing calf.

With cooler temperatures and older calves, the cows are edging higher up the hill for our remaining old feed between our twice-a-week feed days.  Yesterday, after Bob and Allie laid some hay down for the first-calf heifers, Robbin and I took the Kubota up the hill to locate the rest of the heifers.  As we came back down, we spotted three cows and four calves in an inaccessible spot as they were deciding which way to come off the ridge where I had photographed the twins on the 9th.  

We gathered up some flakes of hay and met them at the bottom, two new pairs, the twins and their mother.

OCTOBER

Nap-time nurseries
beneath the sycamores,
babysitting cows
relieve one another
to eat and drink.

Those without calves
recline with bellies bulging,
thrust painfully skyward
like over-inflated
black beach balls—

            all await the green
            soft-stemmed alfalfa—
            await new life,
            await a rain

to settle dust underfoot
as they graze short-cropped
dry feed into the dirt

            awaiting new life—
            seed awaiting rain.

The long range forecast
confirms our superstitions,
but like a no-hitter
we dare not mention yet—

until the dark hole
in the barn grows larger,
until the canyon fills
with echoing complaints,
the agonizing song
of cows begging,
calf solos in the distance.

Good News

Robbin reminds me that my last photo of the decapitated heron was not appropriate in these grizzly times of increasing Covid deaths and chaotic politics.  I thought it fit the poem, but…

Four days ago, I came upon two heifers that had just calved in a canyon well-apart from the bunch, one heifer with twins and a big coyote lurking within 50 feet, watching the process.  Any cow with new twins is especially vulnerable, ultimately unable to protect them both.  Fortunately, she had the other heifer nearby. I scattered a little hay.  Robbin and I checked on them that evening and all was well.    

More often than not, a cow will abandon the weaker calf to take care of the other.  I returned first thing Tuesday morning to see two cows and two calves from a distance, but as I approached them, I saw that the heifer with twins was gone, replaced by another heifer with an older calf for protection, I assume.  I scattered more hay and checked all around to find no other cattle.

Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning I checked all the first-calf heifers in the bunch, but the cow with twins was not among them.  We fed on Thursday, and still the heifer with twins was missing.  I assumed she left the area with her two Wagyu X calves, less than a day old, during the night, because of the coyote.  

This morning I went looking and finally found her and both calves secreted in the rocks on a steep slope, fine and healthy.  It occurs to me that she also needed time to bond with the twins that might have been lost and confused in the nursery of over 20 calves, had she returned to the security of the other mothers. After fifty years living with cows, I continue to be amazed and admire the intelligence of cattle, especially cows. 

On my way to town afterwards, I heard Elizabeth Cook on Sirius suggest that we look away from the news and focus locally instead.  How right she is! We’ll see how long it takes the heifer with twins to come off the hill, hopefully with both.

NOIR

The mysteries, puzzled
pieces scattered, most missing
and decomposed by the moment

linger, shelved in the back room
for future reference
awaiting adhesive connections

that seldom take shape.
The ranch and its inhabitants,
the wild and tame, the unknowing

hands of man and the malicious,
the well-meaning touch
that turns terribly tragic--all

scattered, stacked one upon the other,
clues that only true detectives
note in the dusty swirl of ambiguity

left to settle with experience--
an illusive sense beyond the tangible
that this old ground evokes.

*       *       *       *
   
Inspired by an article in the latest issue of Will Hearst's 
Alta Magazine: 

https://altaonline.com/private-investigators-san-francisco-phil-bronstein/

HARVEST MOON 2020

A perfect moon
for chaos,
I become the face

of an observer,
a skirmish
still raining ash,

but a tick in time—
I yearn for yesterday:
butterflies and squeaky gates

that turn cows
with unnerving ricochets
of change, a trap

to escape as I become
the face
of a smoking moon.

REPARATION

 

 

Shaking hands with my former self
in these chaotic times
may not be progress. The clock

ticks backwards to dust clouds
and loud hurrahs, to whoops of youth
and muscles flexed to hold

the heroic buck and run
of someone else’s dreams—
a reckless swagger into smaller light.

I could have died several times
and learned nothing—my grip
to meet myself eye-to-eye.

 

HELPLESS

 

 

On the other side,
all the current dangers rage
unseen that words cannot

assuage. Isolated here,
hands busy with simple
tasks, we cannot breathe.

On the other side,
an unknown future waits
to reshape us to survive.

Fifty years ago,
I was afraid
I would become proficient—

integrate guilt and hate
into my young soul
to become the best

at squeezing death
before a soldier’s
impromptu grave.

On the other side,
we pray for clarity—
for humble purpose.

 

First Wagyu X Calf 2020

 

Age & Source Verification: Cow 6151, September 14, 2020

The Source & Age Verification program is a USDA approved, non-biased, third-party audit that verifies the source and age of your calves. The source verification will enable you to meet COOL requirements, the age verification will make your cattle eligible for export to countries with age requirements on imported beef products.

 

TALISMAN

 

 

From out of the smoke
raining with ash, white egret
at standing water.

 

First English Calf 2020

 

Age & Source Verification: Cow 3005, September 8, 2020

The Source & Age Verification program is a USDA approved, non-biased, third-party audit that verifies the source and age of your calves. The source verification will enable you to meet COOL requirements, the age verification will make your cattle eligible for export to countries with age requirements on imported beef products.