We tend to keep the old ones close,
float their teeth, feed more hay,
measure strides from manger to water,
give them everything we think they need.
These great beasts with tender hides
we’ve held between our legs that we
no longer ride, we watch ourselves
getting older. How many will we
outlive trying to get it right?
No longer dust, this musty earth
wants to steam upon the breeze—
as good a day as any to let go.
Though steamy early, it’s a delightful gray day in the making for man and beast, 78° at 8:30 a.m., bred heifers on the top of the ridges taking advantage of the cool weather. We may break our string of 100° days. It’s all about the weather today.
Twenty-eight straight days
over a hundred degrees—
after lightening cracks
upon the ridges
I grab a cigar
and a glass of red to celebrate
the change: a blanket of gray
flash flood alerts. I’m ready
with all the excuses
I’m going to need today.
Making the loop up Ridenhour Canyon through the Paregien Ranch yesterday to check stockwater and put out mineral and supplement tubs, I photographed a few trees to record the impact of our dry spring and prolonged heat spell. At the 2000-foot elevation it seems the impact is slightly less, but more apparent, in the less-healthy trees, or those that seem less-healthy to me, no expert. The only green in the tree below is mistletoe.
Paregien, July 20, 2013
Since the July 8th post , we’ve had a couple of windy days associated with monsoon flow into the Sierras that has denuded many of the oaks whose leaves had turned.
Paregien Ranch, July 20, 2013
Hawk’s nest exposed in the top, mistletoe to the side.
Looking towards the Great Western Divide, these young trees on the initial east slope that falls into Dry Creek seem especially hard hit.
Paregien Ranch, July 20, 2013
‘Into the Dawn’, July 20, 2013
We were shipping cull cows two days after Robbin and I returned from Oklahoma City on the 21st of April, and only now as we try to decompress from our three months of processing, weaning and shipping since, do we recognize how intense our pace has been—like stepping off a merry-go-round, it takes an awkward step or two to slow down. Neither of us can do what we used to, so we tend to string the workload out rather than try to get it all done at once, a mindset that’s ostensibly easier on the cattle, but tailored to fit our decreasing capabilities.
Weaning a pasture at a time took six weeks of gathering, sorting, feeding a little bunch each week. The dry spring took its toll on the calves, more uneven and lighter than in past years. Typically we’ve been able to put together two loads of 7-weight steers, but this year we were hard pressed to have two loads at 625. As we weaned them, we took our later steers and heifers, our lighter end, straight to the auction yard to utilize our irrigated pasture for our replacements heifers and the steers we would sell on the Internet.
As we shipped the steers on July 8th to Hereford, Texas, I thought about J.B. Allen, night feedlot man and friend many years ago. Back in the early-90s when contemporary cowboy poetry was fairly fresh and exciting and I was publishing Dry Crik Review, J.B. would call, perhaps two or three times a week, with a new poem to read over the phone. Hoping to make a connection, I was not surprised that neither truck driver was from Hereford.
The real sigh of relief came the evening after we processed our replacement heifers on July 11th. The load was off and we were done. This past week we’ve been addressing all the things we’ve postponed for the past three months, maintenance issues of one sort or another. Out early to irrigate and feed the bulls and heifers to beat the heat, today we head into our 26th straight day over 100 degrees. Back to business as usual.
When a young man’s luck is good
he tends to crow and take chances
while pretending to be invincible
that feels good, and so it goes.
When an old man’s luck is good
he is careful not to offend the gods,
whoever and wherever they are
living everywhere he looks.
It takes time and lots of luck
to get older, to survive nature
and the nature of others who
leave little room to chance.
And in the center, greenheads rising
from the cattails into Sabbath skies
with no starched sermons, but instead
a winged ascension from the tailwater
pulling hard for heaven. Just white sand left
by the Kaweah after the Flood of Fifty-five.
Within a year, Dad had two hundred pairs
on pasture, pumping water every summer.
Mountains of white sand and empty pits
where the gravel miners quit pulling
the last dollar out of ground we irrigated
for thirty years, when it cost too much to dig.
Unleveled and abandoned now, nothing
left to grow but willows, cottonwoods
and blackberries so tangled and thick
that only the wild can make a living.
You must look closely
from the corners of your eyes
to read wild minds
unsure of who you are
and why you stopped.
Do not stare,
do not let fear take hold.
Relax. Do not wait
too long to speak.
Make your voice a song.
Under the gooseneck,
Cottontail, Ground Squirrel
and Quail share summer shade,
play cards and gossip
about the sunshine.
Flycatchers ride the ridges
of cattle backs
like a high Sierra
this side of the sunset.
God has already been here—
no bad guys,
no guilty parties
making a living
before you came along.
Met this juvenile Red Tail while moving my irrigation water Saturday morning. He appeared to have lost a garter snake in the pasture and endured the photo shoot. Photos with the little camera: Canon Powershot SD890 IS Elph.
Part of our evening entertainment: