Monthly Archives: December 2014


Wind Under My Skin 2

Collating life on paper,
pages in order
inside cardstock covers,
becomes humbling—

printer malfunctions,
ink running dry
while it rains real poetry
in the dark beyond me.

A chapter of drought
that forever changed
a thirsty landscape
rising into the sky—

an ascension of dust
we ingested and overcame.
We can close the book
never more the same.



December 18, 2010

December 18, 2010


If you want to feel whole again
sit with the creek and its meanderings
through the old sycamores here
before the Europeans landed
from another world
with new constraints and foreign religions
made to fit people and landscapes.

With this vein full in her flesh
flowing beneath green canopies
from shadows into light,
the canyon drinks
from yesterday’s dark clouds
as it reaches for the sky—
yearning for the source.

Lifeblood of the Bird and Animal People,
of the Yokuts and cattlemen,
it flows the same
when and where it wants—
washing the weak downstream,
yet bringing solace and sustenance
to those who can wait.





Coffee and cigarettes in the cold outside,
counting cattle on the hillside, black dots
on green, we wait for the sun to rise—

to break through the fringe skeletons
of oaks atop the ridge with blinding shards
of light. I lean into the shadow of the post

that holds the beam and roof together,
edging north towards the Solstice
most mornings in December, unless

it’s raining blurry streaks of gray
from a dark sky. Half-dressed sycamores
await the creek to run again, flash bare limbs

before the dancing tangle of nymphs
and hobgoblins. In the middle of a miracle,
I am awash with it while staying dry.





We waited through dry and dusty years
and prayed the only way we knew—
like tithing, throwing hard-bought hay

to the gods on the ground everyday.
Our muttered mantra clunked along
like an old machine, inhaling pauses,

exhaling groans until it came to turn
the earth around with a covering
of iridescent green, teasing the dead

and dying oak trees—like us or like
the cows we raised and had to sell—
with rain and one more promise.

New life lands on the open beam
that holds the roof and sings
in the sudden rain—a black and gold

Oriole on the edge of its Southwest
range—a happy song delivered quickly.
A sign in this downpour, an omen

I am to remember when season’s over
and the grass turns blond and brittle—or
just a promise of weather never normal.


Burrowing Owl


One of the guys I ran into on the way up into the Greasy watershed was this Burrowing Owl. I haven’t seen one on the ranch for several years, in part because they keep moving their colonies. I’ve run into this a owl a couple of times at the intersection of Pogue Canyon and the Mankin Flat Fire Road in past months, even hunted him with a camera once with no success. Yesterday, I caught him early in the morning with the point and shoot. Funny, funny little fellows.




I made a quick tour of Greasy yesterday before the current rain to check our cattle and feed conditions and to cut a Kubota-load of Manzanita. The lighting beneath the cloud cover and view of Sawtooth (elevation 12,343′), above Mineral King Valley in Sequoia National Park, from below Sulphur Peak was eerie and intriguing, enhanced by the 30x telephoto of my point and shoot. Only a light dusting of snow remains from our last storm, but the forecast is for three feet on the Great Western Divide.





He was headed up the road smiling,
wearing a short-sleeved 1950s Hawaiian shirt—
a faded, light print on heavy, coarse muslin
with cuffs—happy with heaven or
from wherever he’d come.

He had time, an eternity—
wanted to see the barren heifers
you grain-fed, killed and gutted,
see the color of the fat—stopped-in
to ask me to go with him.

Years mean nothing in a dream.
We can replay, edit as we like,
take time-outs to maneuver the maze
of surprise details and survive
the fears we’ve disguised wide awake.

Some of the close ones arrive to reassure us
that they are well after escaping life—
that all we had hoped for them,
and they for themselves, exists within—
and from wherever they’ve come.





Day breaks into rafts of red,
early weather precursors for sailors
and shepherds in any shade

this side of the Sierras
as the sun bathes Nevada
with long shadows.

How we crave the changing
light on green, yellow willows
set afire as white-limbed sycamores

undress beside the creek—
how we need the miracle
of moisture to hold us altogether

before this ballyhooed
Storm of the Century lands
somewhere north of here.


(Some) Branding Pix @ Paregien Ranch 2014


A beautiful day for a branding with friends, Teri heels a calf for her Dad.



Sid and Javier


Robbin and Lee Loverin


Tony Rabb


Kenny McKee


Break time between teams, we try to keep the work slow for us older people, time to visit, have a snack and a beer.


Clarence Holdbrooks and John


Virginia McKee, Craig Ainley and Kenny McKee


Bev Drewry, John, and Maggie Loverin


Teri Drewry and Lee Loverin


Bill Drewry


Brent Huntington sets one up for Teri


And the oak tree, one of two in the branding pen that keeps the pace subdued. Clarence renamed it “The Release Tree’.


Bill leads one for Teri.


For our first branding of the season, everything was just right. A good place to start on the ranch before the ‘forecast’ rain, still on for Thursday night and Friday, makes our road too slick to travel for who knows how long. Good to get the calves worked before they get too big.

In this ever-modern and high-tech society of work saving devices, we are yet a throwback cattle culture trading labor within our small community. Miles off the asphalt, the branding corrals become another world apart from the latest media hysteria, an opportunity, we like to think, to talk about important things.

Proud, pleased and exhausted, Robbin and I collapsed on the couch.

Gathering the Paregien Ranch


Across Dry Creek Canyon, a light dusting of snow on the Kaweahs and the Great Western Divide, from Alta Peak to Sawtooth, as we gathered yesterday to brand today on the Paregien Ranch.


Almost solid filaree in places, we’ve had a good germination in the granite at the 2,000 foot elevation. Not a lot of grass, but better than in the clay at the lower elevations, our south and west slopes still struggling.


Clarence and I watch the gate as the girls feed hay where the cows and calves will spend the night. None of our facilities is air tight, so we hope they’ll still be in the pen when we get there this morning.


Lee, Teri, Robbin and Clarence replay a good gather.


Forecast rain for Thursday and Friday, we’re hoping to get the calves worked while we can still get up and down the road.