It’s been hard for me to accept that I’ve worn my body out, always able to do any job on the ranch, feeling secure with the strength of my arms, back and legs. I’ve been lucky, but my knees, among other things, are gone. In the past 45 years, I’ve probably handled, loaded and fed, 15,000 tons of hay with Robbin’s help, but looking back, it was the 500 tons in 2013 that did the real damage.
It’s been a blessing having Lee Loverin and Terri Blanke feed for the past two seasons, as well as fix and build fence, help gather and work our cattle. They know the ranch and our routine and take it seriously.
Cropped and shot with a Canon 100-400mm zoom, I should have known the girls were separately counting cows and calves to make sure everyone was present and accounted for—it’s part of our job when we feed. But at 300 yards away, I took the photo for a different aesthetic. With the photo enlarged, imagine my pride, and my relief, knowing the girls are getting the job done right, and that the ranch can get along fine without me being a part of every single thing. Now that’s a treat.
Weekly Photo Challenge (2): “Treat”
Enough rain to give the grass a good start in most places, we’re still feeding hay, a treat for these second calvers close to the house. We were especially glad to see this calf on the ground, its mother spending most of the month of August uncomfortably in pain, having difficulty walking with slow, short strides to hay and the water trough. A week or two before it was born, the calf must have shifted within her, as she began getting around again as if nothing was ever wrong.
Ambushed by her calf while on the alfalfa yesterday, this mottled-face Hereford is becoming a little rough-haired, showing the effects of raising a calf. If the calf were thin, we might be concerned and increase the hay, but right now she’s giving all to her calf, taking better care of it than herself—the kind of mothers we want.
The bare south and west slopes struggle as they have dried out since our first good rain on the 18th, but all the weathermen promise another good storm for Monday and Tuesday. With a little luck, we’re near the end of feeding hay as the cows move up into the hills for fresh green grass—a real treat for everyone.
Weekly Photo Challenge (1): “Treat”
After the first inch rain
I work the road
with big Cat loader tires—
three towed behind
four wheel drive
low range crawl
like icing a cake
keeping gutters clean
and runoff into draws.
down the middle
two round trips
four miles clay, rock
and some d.g.—
plenty time to think
and look for life:
deer and bear,
this fresh day.
Through the open window
scent of milk and cud
in the flats—
cows and calves
I’ve grown wild
since college and the Sixties:
hauling hay loads up,
with fat calves down
our dirt road lifeline.
I’ve added a third part to the YEAR OF THE BEAR for the nearby mountain town of Three Rivers currently inundated with bears. A good many of these bears are habituated Park bears, adept at breaking into cars for a bag of potato chips—mommy vans with sliders are the vehicle of choice. Breaking into a house is much easier. The bear population in California has more than doubled since 1982.
Believe it or not, some residents have been feeding the bears and are vocally indignant and dismayed that some bears have been destroyed. Without thinking, Three Rivers has all the ingredients for a tragedy.
own the moonlit mountain town
rummage door to door,
wait on the porch for more
of anything to eat.
Trick or treat.
Hanging with the does
that lick the last alfalfa
leaf behind the cows.
We are savoring the seasonal changes since the spectacular light show and rain on the 18th. The grass grows quickly in places with temperatures in the low 80s during the day and 50s at night. With softer ground and cooler weather, the cows have moved up the hill and to the ridges for fresh green grass, leaving their calves behind in the flats where we’ve been feeding hay since they were born.
Expecting dinner, there was quite a bit of confusion among the calves Sunday evening when the cows weren’t home on time, still high on the hill filling up before dark. Despite their instinctual training to stay where they last sucked, the calves went looking for their mothers in the only geography they knew. Robbin and I couldn’t contain our laughter as the chorus of plaintive bawls on either side of the house became overly urgent and dramatic—and just as humorous when the worried cows returned to finally find and chastise their offspring in strident tones.
Now a month or so old and growing, the calves have become more independent, running and bucking ahead of the plodding cows to the water trough at dawn, butting heads as they emulate their mothers, some of whom have begun to cycle. A sign of good health, it will be six weeks yet before we put the bulls out.
After four years of drought and a long hot summer, we welcome the changes, and as always this time of year, we wait for a little moisture to freshen-up the new grass on our bare west and south slopes as the clay dries out without the protection of old feed. I had to cut a load of dead Manzanita yesterday to celebrate all these welcome changes.
Gun in the scabbard,
shooting with a camera,
the world stays the same.
Too tame to survive
the last day of the season
but with careful luck.
Weekly Photo Challenge (2): “Careful”
“listen to that music.
The self we hold so dear will soon be gone.”
– Gary Snyder (“Anger, Cattle and Achilles”)
I’ve packed a rifle since I was ten
following cow trails in these hills
listening to music: the Red Tail’s cry,
its feathers rush overhead,
plummeting for fun—a calling
to another life without accouterments.
In time, we collect clear moments
of ourselves, fresh glimpses stamped
and saved that weigh nothing, cost
nothing, yet live behind our eyes.
No word for the first murmur
of a cow to its wobbly, wet calf
forever branded in our brains—
no word for the outside music
played with poetry and song.
Weekly Photo Challenge (1): “Careful” / “Full of Care”