Monthly Archives: April 2014

Rites of Spring



On our loop of Greasy Creek to check the cattle last Sunday, we interrupted some strutting wild turkey toms busy with their rites of spring in our Gathering Field.






Ode to Motherhood


For most people, a cow is a cow, but the grace of this native pair despite their good flesh, a seven year-old Hereford cow and her heifer calf, approaches the perfection of motherhood for me, reminding of an ode included in “Poems from Dry Creek” and published by Starhaven in 2008.



On the horns of an infant moon,
the creek shrinks and pools
between sycamores and live oaks

as babies come to first-time mothers
bringing the bear tracks downcanyon
on the scent of spent placentas.

Black progeny of the river nymph –
white heifer driven madly by Hera’s
gadfly Oestrus to cross continents

and populate Asia – find maternity
perplexing at first. Yet, lick and nuzzle
the stumbling wet struggle to stand,

suckle and rest that enflames instinct
in all flesh. Worthy timeless worship,
no better mother ever than a cow.

WPC – Letters


Weekly Photo Challenge

Robbin and I made the loop in Greasy Creek yesterday to check on our cattle and feed conditions. Robbin photographed this roll of used barbed wire and granite patch of Bush Monkeyflowers that reminded me of David Lee’s entertaining poem:



                    You just cut that sombitch right here
                           – Karl Kopp, Yarbrough Mountain

It isn’t no easy way
to find the endpiece of wore
onct it’s in the roll
you can pick it up bounced it round
like this or roll it
upside the barn hard
mebbe it’ll pop out
most times not
don’t cost nothin to try
it was this man back home
name Johnny Ray Johnston
a inventor
he invented this thing that could help
find the endpiece
and sent it off to Warshington

he had this brother
name Haroldwayne Johnston
a blind gospel preacher
he wasn’t always
he’s a mean sonofabitch young
all filt up with sin and equity
fighting raising hell
had three four of them girls
his age up to the doctor
all before he’s called
it was this other brother
name Leonas Timothy Johnston
he neve learnt to read
so he got a job with the highway patrol
got shot by a shiner
i seen that worefinder
it worked my brother he bought one
where’d them pliers go?
so Haroldwayne one day
he’s out in this field
where the neighbors run his hogs
hiding in the shinery
shooting a pellet gun
to watch them squolt and run
I guess he was lesse
it was two years before he tried to heal
Mavis Tittle’s one that died
of the toothache so he must have been twenty-four
goddam watch it
worell tear the hide right off
your hands you seen them gloves?

this storm come up a sudden
caught him out there
looking like a cyclone
he had to get home so he run
by the time he got to the fence
it was hailballs coming down
he tried to climb through with the gun
poached hisself
shot right up his nose
made all the blood go in his eyeballs
he’s blind
that fence caught him
he’s straddled of one wore
the top one had him grapt by the butt
here comes the storm
he sez he could feel that wore
go green when the lightening struct
made him a eunuch
he could look right at a naked womern
wouldn’t nothing go down
nor come up after that
you find them pliers? look
in the jockey box or under the seat
sez he heard God call him

he’d been hollering like a sonofabitch
they heard all the way to the house
and was fixing to come but he quit
they waited till it quit raining
sez they’d of thought he’s dead
and that would of made two
only one brother left for a seed crop
all that blood out his nose
except he’s praying to hisself out loud
he never even heard them coming up
it isn’t none there? look
in the back see if it’s some sidecutters
or something so they known he’d got religion
and they never seen he’s even blind yet

he’s a gospel preacher after
and Johnny Ray’s a inventer
Leonas Timothy was arredy shot dead
what it was was a piece of wore
it could be fixed on the end at the store
except it was red paint on it
wherever the red was was the end
when you’s through using wore
then fix the red one on
next time there’d be the endpiece red
Haroldwayne he saved hundreds of lostsouls
come all over to hear him heal
best on headaches and biliousness
it was one family had this crippled boy
come about eighty miles to see him gospel preach
brung this boy up front
he taken and grapt his head
hollers the words and sez now walk
but he fell on his ast still crippled
they sez it wasn’t Haroldwayne’s fault
them people didn’t have the faith
I heard he drownt a year or two after that
the govament never did send Johnny Ray
no patent agreement we figured
he kept the invention for hisself
so Johnny Ray he made some up
and sold to his friends around town
you caint buy it nowhere else
I wisht I had one now
I’ve waste more damn time on wore today
then I have to lose
bring them pliers here
let’s cut this sonofabitch it don’t matter where
we gone set here all day
won’t never get this damn fence done.

“Barbed Wire” from Porcine Canticles
©1984 by David Lee, Reprinted by permission
Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Box 271 Port Townsend,
WA 98368 (360/385-4925)





The earth like a clean sheet waits
for dawn through cold, gray cumulous
stacked atop hillsides of bare, dark clay

after a thunderstorm’s harsh scouring—
each thin blade stimulated, invigorated
to meet tomorrow with alacrity,

reckless grins upon every face
and we, foolishly, have no choice
but to imitate the mob’s delight

and forget the dry for a moment
to consider the range of this miracle—
of our goddess-come-home-late

and gone-so-long we have forgotten
what she looks like—what we
have taken for granted, and why.

Puddles in the Pasture


One measure of yesterday’s rain event, the largest all season long, are the puddles in the horse pasture the Wood Ducks have yet to find early this morning, many of which have left Dry Creek without nesting. Two related thunderstorms poured through the afternoon and into the night to leave 1.91″ in the gauge, roughly 25% of our season’s total. This will prolong our feed in the granite above 2,000 feet for two or three more weeks and add life to our stock water ponds. I don’t expect much impact to what’s left of the feed on our clay slopes at the lower elevations, but anything that may be still green will appreciate the moisture.


Dry Times


The past two dry years have been tough on the Great Blue Herons here, resorting to year-round rodent hunting to sustain themselves. With a measureable flow for only 18 days this year, absorbed before it made it to the Kaweah River, Dry Creek peaked at 9 cfs on April 3rd, compared to the 2010-11 season when Dry Creek ran until September 4, 2011. It’s too late for the chance of showers (and thunderstorms) today and tonight to help our feed or the herons much other than settle the dust and temporarily change the smell of things with only 5.67” of rain since October 2013. Those are the numbers, but one look at our April feed conditions says it all.

An image branded in my brain during the devastating Drought of 1977 is that of a Great Blue Heron fishing from the concrete bank of the Friant-Kern Canal near Exeter that gave me hope, that demonstrated their adaptability to me. No wonder they have become our totems—now if we can just take their lead.



                    How comes it that he wrote a book
                    of five thousand words?

                               translated by Arthur Waley (“Po Chü-I on Lao-tzü”)

“Let them talk,” old Tom Davis said,
“to see what they don’t know.”
has worked well-enough for me—

yet I write incessantly: lay bare
my innocence and ignorance
on recyclable paper no cowmen

dare read. Out here, the approach
to good or bad speaks for itself,
and is remembered—but in between,

the indomitable art on the wing
is humbling and leaves us speechless.
Already, I have said too much.




“Po Chü-I on Lao-tzü”

Scalebud Revisited

Anisocoma acaulis

Anisocoma acaulis

Still blooming!




Most days, they can’t see
outside the fort, foothills full
of native ghosts in wild skins

and fine feathers, or the clouds
that boil, fume and sometimes
storm for the fun of it.

Busy with new rules to keep
the stockade safe, they can’t hear
the coyote’s wail in the street—

we live outside its walls
by the same laws
the bird and animal people left us.






This side of darkness,
we bring them closer
from beyond the pagan deep.