Monthly Archives: March 2013


We think of them with each lesson learned—
never too old until we decompose like they have
to reach from branches, look down from ridges.
We are a pagan lot, especially at brandings

when the sap runs uphill to flower and bloom,
color aspirations and more urgent dreams. They
remember how it was with dramas of weather
that with the local gossip could cost a ranch.

Not much has changed but the time frame,
our subterfuge of concurrent diversions
ricocheting, end over end, whining into space
from the rockpiles we’re huddled within—

that black and white Western transformed
in living color, high-definition details
that could still kill us—they are grinning
and amused—we are the entertainment now,

dodging bullets, digging deeper in the ground
that becomes our flesh, that becomes them—
just dirt dependent on whims of the weather.
And that’s the funny part—in the end.


It must be spring after the parade
of dry cold fronts and little rain—
even the cows look up
and down brown south slopes,
short-cropped and brittle blades
curled and fragile, given-up
to look like bare ground—
burnt hard dirt angled
to face the sun full-on. Done.

We needed rain, but
I don’t remember praying
much, mostly hoping the cold
would release its grasp
of cows and calves in snow—
our freeze-dried beef on the hoof
feeling betrayed with not enough
loads of hay hauled up the hill.
We, not God, feel guilty.

No young man’s game,
unless cowboying for wages,
no two years the same,
we look ahead desperately,
chase Accuweather to the equinox
to see how bad it gets to be—
how soon we wean and ship
light calves, cull cows deep
to stay another season.

Even the finches are confused,
flit nervously in the rafters
before courting—no one’s
making plans this spring,
                         except for Robbin
                         in the garden
                         planting seed.
                         It must be spring.
                         We must believe.

Young Bucks




Putting out salt and mineral yesterday, I met these guys at the gate.



For more spring flowers, see ‘March Bloom 2013’ > ‘Wildflowers’.

March Bloom 2013


It may be frightening to think
of a boy with rifle slung
from one arm, hitchhiking
with the other, or shotgun
laid across the handlebars
after school on country roads
to waterholes they knew
and had permission to hunt.

Farmers and ranchers were
in demand in those days,
sorted by disposition
outside the classroom—
we all knew who not to ask.
Small chores for only one
or two good boys was all
they took in exchange.

It was a simple time
despite the violence
of TV black and whites.
All our parents knew
of one another, weighed
rumor with responsibility—
and we kept them happy
just to have a place to hunt.


Greasy Branding 2013

This gallery contains 8 photos.


                         It was like a fistful
                         Of nettles.

                              – James Galvin (“The Red Telephone”)

Into a purple wine bottle from the bare shores
of Biarritz, I rolled and poked a note and corked it—
believed the currents that tugged within might deliver
me and proclamations of love. I was thirteen.

Before the telegraph sang eerily across the plains,
young men slapped leather to California, let hat brims
bend for pennies to deliver messages, a fistful
of nettles that when gripped tightly will not sting.

At the end of the party line, there were no secrets,
yet nothing was ever clear—very little love
or enlightenment—mostly static on one end
or the other, especially when it really rained.

No excuses left, no bare wire, no Indians—
I am now tethered: fair game, a sitting duck
behind an answering machine. Almost free,
I delight at the scratchy sounds of a fistful.


Living here, I have the time and opportunity,
the perfect chain saw and count the signs
on pressure treated 4 x 4s—make a night plan

to cut them in half. I love the details
of temptation and all the symbolic approval
any outlaw needs to speak louder than words,

than a letter distant authority will not read
nor even try to understand. I love to dream
so righteously, but have grown tame

in my old age, tamer than the vandals
who have preceded me to remove four,
and perforate another with a forty-five.

Living here, I have the time and opportunity
to ride temptation any where I want—
to fully appreciate the expression of others.




We stay our ground, claim our space
with shadows moving beside us, part of
the shade it takes to raise a cow on grass—
but of all the gods, we believe in rain.

Roots too deep to drink and chant,
to wave our hands at heaven, we wait
assured like old oaks certain, push
tender leaves like we always have—

despite the sounds of our unknown
future waiting in the dark ahead.
Blind faith becomes a habit for wild
inhabitants beneath the wandering path

of clouds, we fluff pillows and make
our beds as if we might awake
to the perfect season for native grass
that has adapted—like we always have.


Kenny & Tony

This gallery contains 10 photos.


                              I wasn’t being patient—just slow.
                                        – Tony Rabb (Greasy 2013)

His loop lays just long enough to pick-up a second foot
before going to the fire, an acquired art that we appreciate
when the calves are big and feeling good in the spring.

Most drawing Social Security, we’ve grown gray
in these corrals, not near as quick to get our slack
and dally as in the old days, our hoots and hollers

not near as loud—yet still in the middle of no where.
Eagles must wonder how much longer we’ll carry on
this ceremony, gathering cows and calves to brand

in these corrals, looking down from their rock
on the mountain. The old oaks have given-up
some shade, lost limbs corded-up for decades

of branding fires—yet remember the stories like
Homer prone to pontificate, propped against the trunk
as a rattlesnake slowly coiled between his legs.

A fine line between patient and slow, we know
our ground and where the cattle used to break,
but don’t try anymore—all pleased to find our speed.