Monthly Archives: March 2015

McKee Branding — Woolly Canyon 2015

Beautiful day for the last branding of the season. At this stage of the game, we don’t know until we wake up in the morning how we’re going to feel about getting a horseback or roping in the branding pen. I’ve long been demoted from the ground crew wrestling calves when I’m not roping, relegated to visiting and watching the action from along the fence — which suits me fine.

Followers of drycrikjournal will recognize Kenny and Virginia McKee in nearly all the photographs of our brandings, and yesterday was our turn to try and repay them for their help all season. To be of help becomes increasingly important as we age, especially in this culture, and it’s been gratifying to see the next generation of cowboys mature as cowmen, horsemen and human beings. We’re truly grateful to be among them and this cattle community. Robbin was able to take a few photos between vaccinating calves that highlighted a day of fun while we got the work done.


Fresh Calf

September 5, 2012

September 5, 2012


We calve in the fall and brand in the spring. As newborns go, this calf is fresh, only minutes old and yet to stand and nurse. Robbin and I are off this morning to help our neighbors, Kenny and Virginia McKee, brand the last of their calves.




Ithuriel’s Spear Triteleia laxa – March 18, 2015

Ithuriel’s Spear Triteleia laxa – March 18, 2015


When the angel’s touch
spills with long-stemmed purple blooms,
no room for deceit.



Wiki: “Ithuriel”




Ithuriel’s Spear Triteleia laxa - March 18, 2015

Ithuriel’s Spear Triteleia laxa – March 18, 2015


We jump into spring
without looking or thinking,
craving wild nectar.





Pretty Face, Triteleia ixioides - April 11, 2014

Pretty Face, Triteleia ixioides – April 11, 2014


Steep east slope damp,
tall green grass slick,
pale Pretty Faces hold their grins
beneath Buckeyes and Live Oaks—

                    heavy thatch of fallen limbs
                    holds the old fence down,
                    shelters a rat’s nest.

Nature has been winning
since I was here last
with the chain saw,
packing posts afoot
and splicing rusty wire
to keep cattle straight—
pretending to be in charge.

I see my mark: old cuts
with decomposing rings.
                    Not near as near
                    as in my mind—
four years since the low snows,
ten more for this six-inch growth.

Steep east slope damp,
tall green grass slick,
pale Pretty Faces hold their grins
beneath Buckeyes and Live Oaks.






Beneath the blankets
of fuzzy bloom, arms and legs
serve dinner for two.





Sulphur Peak - March 3, 2015

Sulphur Peak – March 3, 2015


For most who don’t know, my family purchased the Greasy Creek Ranch from Earl McKee, mentor, surrogate father and good friend for nearly fifty years, where Robbin and I run our cows and calves. Upon seeing the photo of the two bull calves that escaped a simple gather to the corrals for branding, he was moved to write the following poem:


                               My mind recalls this precious glade
                      Where these two youngsters lived and played,
                          And like years ago their ears would hear,
                         The trumpeting wails of their fathers near.

                                That trail close by, I long have trod,
                        On a favorite horse, these hands have shod,
                       We both know the song that the Robins sing,
                 And the sounds of the cattle, where the cowbells ring.

                       Where the blooming Chaparral smells so fair
                            And the scent of wild flowers fills the air.
                      Who wouldn’t come back to this peaceful place,
                             To see Sulphur Mountain’s Majestic face?

                                I too, wish I could return once more,
                           To what these two calves, were longing for,
                           God planned for this place to be left alone,
                      And like them, I will always say, “That’s Home”.

                                                E. A. M. — 3/13/2015




                                       Now in the quiet I stand
                                       and look at her a long time, glad
                                       to have recovered what is lost
                                       in the exchange of something for money.

                                            – Wendell Berry (“The Sorrel Filly”)

Looming closer, a swirling darkness just beyond
the thought of summer’s water that is not
frozen deep in the Sierras to feed our rivers

and canyon leaks—of brittle fall and cattle
gathered at an empty trough. The creek dries back
and sinks in March, lifted to new canopies

of sycamores dressing. Skeletons of old oaks
stand out between greening survivors, some
wearing only clumps of yellow mistletoe

hanging like reasons, raisons—like raisins
clinging to a leafless vine. Each season
spins the same dry song, yet we find our place,

harmonize and sing along, lifted like precious
moisture to tender leaves, a basic ascension not
available in the big box stores, unrecorded

in the history of our presence. This may be
the new normal for old people—that daze
of amazement we have been working towards.






Two centuries of women
gone beyond
healing and grinding,
needing shade
away from men—

dead Live Oak place
to roost for years,
our pair of crows
make familiar
flutters of love
balanced on a branch,
know one another’s
every feather,
preen and quiver
with how it feels
into the gloaming






Leftover cedar
logs from the house
twenty-five years ago
                                          paid for
frame a loamy mix
of decomposing granite and clay
            with horse manure
            stirred and piled
            fine as sand
            three years fluffed
            with the skid steer
and fill what could be
a feeder along the fence—
a sixty-foot trough
for bare root raspberries
border of red onions
come summer
and it not yet spring.

Like finches building nests
we enlarge the garden
in two half-days,
tend to instincts
warm air brings
and flesh demands
like plowing fingers
in fresh-worked dirt.

We lift another glass
and see colored fruit
years from here



WPC — “Wall”