Monthly Archives: May 2016





The trails are gone,
hats above a sea of wild oats
like navigating ground fog

blind to rocks and ruts
in a slow gather
bringing tunnels together,

cows and calves. All the brags
of tying knots above the withers,
dally wraps around the horn,

ring tame and distant—
even the best broke horse
can’t resist temptation.


Weaning 2016




As always, our primary concern during the weaning process is to reduce stress on the calves. Last week’s heifer calves above have adapted easily to their new routine on the irrigated pasture without mothers to comfort and direct them.




In the process of upgrading our processing area with a hydraulic squeeze and shed roof, we’ve also offered some shade in 100-degree temperatures. This week’s bunch of steers and heifers have found comfort in the new enclosure during the day, free to go to hay and water when they please.




In the interests of journaling, these steers and heifers averaged 722 lbs. when unloaded at the corrals after a 45 minute haul, heavier than last week’s calves: steers averaging 731 lbs. in the auction ring, and the heifers averaging 712 lbs. before turned out on the irrigated pasture.





courtesy: Wikipedia


My black and white
horseback heroes
still shoot it out,

subdue evil,
herk and jerk to leave
the hitching rack—

the Westerns Channel
as I lay down
to take a nap,

now knowing how
each episode
always ends—

familiar voices
comfort me
to believe the West

is wild and safe
from all the mean
and greedy men

we’ve seen since—
a lullaby guaranteed
for sleep.






Two weeks into weaning,
we celebrate real progress,
the gather, sort and haul—

the harvest down deep-rutted
dirt tracks, 4-wheel drive,
low-range gooseneck tow,

bawling calves to the asphalt—
our early peach
tequila margarita,

just-picked berry
and last season’s lime
juice frozen into a star.

Blank page and pencil,
this year rattles
everywhere we go.






We meet at the end
               of generations
               of pioneers
               after 160 years,

               all related since
               that first local election
               cast by 27 men—

               the tie broken
               by a trapper
               from Dry Creek

               wined and dined
               at Nate Vise’s fort
               a week before the vote.

Mom and pop cow outfits and farmers,
we tend and claim our space—
               our own language
               and hands-on humor
               handed down
               by surviving

               More and more
               we lean on
               the old sayings
               we were raised
               to recite.

Most of what we know
               we learned
               the hard way

               about ourselves—
               but most of all
               we’ve learned to laugh
                              at change
                              at last.





Gathering our lower country, we’ve begun weaning our calves where they’ll ‘soak’ in two different corrals for a week before the steers go to the auction yard in Visalia. The heifer calves will go to the irrigated pasture, open to plenty of dry feed, until the replacements are sorted in July.


This year, after separating the calves from their mothers, we processed all with Inforce 3, a respiratory booster to the vaccination received at branding that is administered nasally. It acts immediately and should relieve any respiratory problems during the stress of weaning. Also, the calves received a topical dose of Cylence for the control of flies. Due to the tall dry feed, we had a number of eye problems, primarily foxtails that we doctored as we processed them.

All of these calves were sired by Vintage Angus bulls and weighed an average of 700 lbs., the heaviest to date from our lower country. We are pleased, of course, with their weights, but happier yet to get started with our weaning. Lots of music in the canyon, cows and calves bawling for one another.






We begin to gather
all the good news
showered upon us
from the sky,
harvest the grass
in the flesh of calves,
and like every year
we will weigh them,
measure our good fortune
with a number
to judge a season by.

We will turn the cows out
back to grass, back to homes
they’ve made on ground
good for little else
but wildlife—four-month
vacation with the girls
gossiping in the shade
without bulls
or nagging children
to disturb them.

Not a bad life
when it rains.






Cultivating a native life,
we pause for totems,
let them tell us
what they think—
who they are.

Some count on us
to stir the grass
and follow,
and some to listen
when we drink
coffee or wine

Claiming the roost
of loving crow mates,
a Golden Eagle lights
for a closer look at us—
and we are blessed.

Finding his feather
left ahead,
we believe
in something
more common
of the wild,

of talismans
from moments
we never forget
and hope to leave
as much.




Photo: Terri Blanke

Photo: Terri Drewry


In a world tall with grasses,
wild oats and rosy thatches
of dry filaree, we seldom see

our feet upon the earth.
In frequented places
like water troughs and barns,

like vegetable gardens
saving trips to town,
we are prejudiced—

react without a thought
against a race of snakes
that want no trouble

to claim the space
in which we travel
with a shovel.

                                    for Terri





At their feet, I must leave home—
the house, the canyon, to see them.
At the overpass between Exeter

and Visalia, when at cloudy dawn
they became my mother’s rumpled
bedclothes as she courted death,

the Sierras cloaked in a gossamer mist
that embraced me. Or just south
of Lemon Cove, up the Kaweah’s long,

open throat, sharp-toothed peaks
of granite scree reach for the sky,
changing moods in every light.

A man must have mountains
to shed the nonsense to get to—
a distant and steep ascent

for the spirit, soul and flesh—
a place safe to wander fire to fire,
star to star, to drink from snowmelt.

Wide arms open, they welcome me
as I come home from town
to lay down at their wrinkled feet.