Greasy Creek Ranch Water 2


I went back up into Greasy yesterday to check the water situation in Section 17 and Sulphur, pastures we felt less critical when Robbin and I went up earlier in the week. We have left them open to one another to make what water we have available to the cattle from both.


I followed my neighbor Caleb Pennebaker up the hill, hauling water to his cattle. Each ranch has its unique attributes and deficiencies, and what works for one ranch doesn’t necessarily work for others. Furthermore, each cattleman develops his own unique perspective, and more often than not, shaped by the ranch he operates. Caleb’s cattle are not in dire straights, though his water is drying back, but he wants to stay ahead of real trouble and deal with the lack of water on his terms by augmenting his cattle early.


In Section 17, the shaded pool of water in Greasy Creek is holding remarkably well, water currently running at 1-2 gallons/minute for a couple of hundred feet to just above the fig trees.


And the water trough piped from Sulphur Spring near the corrals is full and not leaking


as is the trough in the Gathering Field that Robbin and I opened up to the cows in the Lower Field, about half of which have come through the gate.


In Sulphur, the Chimney Pond has been dry for three weeks, but


the pond at Ragle Springs is currently holding a few cows in the middle of the pasture. The cows have redistributed themselves through the open gate from 17 to Sulphur in the past couple of weeks, utilizing the Sycamore Spring that is keeping two troughs full, the overflow of which keeping another neighbor’s trough full.


We’ve had a long string of days over 100°, not unusual for this time of year, that’s impacting our stockwater already. With the balance of July, August and September to get through, we’ll use these photos as benchmarks as we go. Typically, our springs begin to recover by mid-September with shorter days and cooler nights, but as the second dry year in a row, there is no guarantee of that. This information may be valuable for those who follow us, like which springs held up and which ones didn’t in a drought, and though no two years are the same, help them make more informed decisions.


6 responses to “Greasy Creek Ranch Water 2

  1. Hello John and Robbin,
    Thanks for the email you sent this mornin’. I thoroughly enjoyed viewing all of my old haunts in these pictures you took in Greasy Cove where I grew up and spent most of my adult lifetime in the cattle business. You brought back so many memories when I was working on the water projects there myself, but in all that time I always had water enough on that ranch to make it through, even in 1976 when I had to take 150 pair to Bieber, CA., just to keep them from starving to death. You made my day!

    I needed a little cheerin’ up because at 6:AM this mornin’ (about when you sent this) I was in the process of puttin’ down a beautiful blue roan stud yearling that I really didn’t want to say goodbye to. Some how he broke a bone in his right shoulder, and after ex-rays, I got the word last night, it wasn’t any chance to fix.

    These are the necessary jobs very few people know about or understand and don’t talk about. I know you do, you’ve done it for me when I couldn’t.

    Anyway I loaded him with my Bobcat on a flat bed trailer, and drove him up Salt Creek and up the Holland Mountain Corral turnoff, past the upper Lake (almost dry as well). I placed him there beyond the flats where he and the other colts were born and played, to the Point over-looking the Kaweah Basin, a Beautiful Eagle’s View.

    Just about 10 minutes after I arrived, here came the Band of 15 beautiful mares and 1 gelding, roaring down the side of Holland Mountain hopin’ I might have some hay! (course I did) As I’ve done this job there many times before, I gave my friend back to the Mountain Lion, the Bear and the Coyotes, Truly Nature’s Way.

    All The Best,

    Your Friend, Earl


    • So sorry, Earl, to hear about your blue roan stud.

      And we know too that the ranch in Greasy is home to you, wet or dry—every water, every spring and every trail to get there—it takes a big part of a lifetime.

      Naturally as the water gets short, we’ve thought about you often, wondering which springs we can depend on. We’re confident we’ll survive this drought, and when the new Blue Oak leaves are translucent, we’ll take a day to tour your old stomping’ grounds. But until then, we’re tickled that these dry and dusty photos cheered you up. 🙂 Always in our hearts, J&R


  2. Caleb Pennebaker

    John, I’m not much of one to care what others think of me but it does feel good to know that you thought enough of me to share me with the world in a positive light. Thank you for that. Most people try to deny knowing me,ha ha.
    Your comment about using our knowledge gained this year reminds me of a butchered attempt at poetry of mine. We tend to think of everything purchased as ours and forget that this land has seen all of this before and will see it again after we’re gone with someone else at the wheel trying to reinvent the wheel. The rub is that we belong to the land and not the other way around.

    five strands
    rolled out by hand
    claim of ownership
    glistening in the sunlight
    in a place where paper means nothing
    and ownership is bought with sweat and blood

    old men’s faces
    where the cloud meets the mountain
    smile from under crumpled hats
    the land owns another man

    This one is for Earl. Mine was a registered cow earlier this year but I know how he feels.

    muzzle flash
    in pre-dawn light
    tough chore
    for an old softy
    not much
    on mercy killings


    • I really like both pieces, Caleb 🙂 The kind of poems not just anyone can write—you have to have been there. I leave blood just patching fence, but something about new and shiny barbed wire, it seems to cut a little deeper.

      Anyway, good poems and we’re glad to have you for a neighbor.


  3. Love that you are keeping such good records of what is going on there with each of your watering holes. Very interesting. Thanks!


    • In the 80s after the ’76-’77 Drought, we worked to improve our water resources. This is the first real test since. We’re going to learn something, Meg 🙂 Now whether anyone will benefit besides us, that’s another question altogether!


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