In the shallow ground and clay,
mats of filaree cling like crimson moss
after frost as if holding their breath for rain.
Yet warm enough for mustard bloom
in ungrazed traps for cattle, bits of yellow
at the tender tips of leafy greens—
all of the same seed that natives came
from Badger to gather when I was young.
White heads of Shepherd’s Purse nod
in bloom above the short-cropped blades
of lusher grass as if already spring.
Steep south slopes struggle, more mottled
brown than green—we beg and wait for rain:
busy fixing fences, branding calves, feeding hay
to bloating cows after years of drought
as high-pressure herds a warm jet stream north
to feed Alberta Clippers East with unwanted snow.

We crave some sort of normal
that has become a hazy dream:
of cattle fat and happy, of time
to idly wile and waste
that old men will never see again.
Yet full of trust, trailing tidbits
from the gods, we chase it
like the feed truck still believing—
and that is normal despite extremes.


2 responses to “RANCH JOURNAL: JANUARY 9, 2015

  1. Peter Notehelfer

    ‘We crave some sort of normal / that has become a hazy dream’ . . . Terrific line in a poem grieving how things once were, yet if they could speak from the clay they might well say their times were far from some sort of normal as well . . . Everything changes, all the time, and we despise change . . . Everything’s dying, all the time, and in some way coming to birth . . . Thanks for asking your readers to think! It’s a gift . . .


    • Thank you, as always, Peter, for chiming in.

      We try, in this business, to make some kind of sense of our circumstances, and our emotions, at the same time. Talking to a neighbor who had just lost two cows (w/calves) to bloat this past week, despite the hay he was feeding and the bloat blocks he had available, his frustration was apparent.

      “I’ve only been here 40 years,” he said, “but the last two years of drought were the worst — until this year, still feeding hay with grass but losing cows to bloat now. I know nothing’s ever normal, but I’d just like to get close for a change.”

      So if I make my readers think, they’re thinking along with me, reaching for some kind of sense I can live with — most often having to resort to the philosophical to stay sane. With the variables of weather, market and governmental policies, we know nothing’s guaranteed. So we have to ask ourselves why we invest lifetimes and remain in such a risky business.

      But we carry on like we’ve always done for a million intangible reasons. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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