We may be the gods
in a cow’s short life
of few interruptions:
water, shade to grazing
day after day, calf after calf—
we appear when needed
most with hay, a taste
to insure devotion. Horn
in her head, she remembers
the relief, the chute, the saw,
that assuaged the pain.
She prays for our arrival.
There is no escape for weeks
looking down on a small world
beneath a thatch of twigs—
no way to hide from sun, storm
or crow until the leaves come
to wait for shadows out of the blue
heavens with or for a meal—
no guarantees that what they see
is good or bad, just real.
Robbin and I had the luxury of looking at cows and calves in our upper country yesterday when she spotted this Golden Eagles’ nest.
I know what it cost, the price in time
it took to learn to pack a mule—
diamond or box hitch, how I envied
the tight cover of canvas matties tucked
beneath low loads on a string of sleek,
quick-stepping animals headed up
switchbacks cut in granite scree,
passes to lakeside meadows,
rainbow trout and starlit nights
as rusty bucket smears leaking
light from another, outside world
that envelops us all. Remember when
we lay naked chasing shade around
the puzzled trunk of a sugar pine,
our Roaring River honeymoon
where the was no phone or clock?
I know what it cost in time
to have everything we needed.
As we approach the end of our grass season, we’ve begun processing our Wagyu X calves before we ship them to Snake River Farms in Idaho around mid-May to be fed and sold as American Kobe beef. Each calf receives a second round of vaccinations and Electronic ID tags consisting of a unique 15-digit number that can be read both visually and electronically, denoting the country of origin and complying with the requirements of disease traceability. Calves destined for the export market must have EID tags.
Born after the first of September, the calves have had a tough start with only 3 inches of rain accumulated by the end of February, but seem to have done remarkably well since our March and April rains. However, I don’t expect them to weigh as much as in past years.
Once the Wagyu X calves are shipped, we will take these cows, mostly second-calf mothers bred to an Angus bull, up into the Greasy watershed as we begin weaning our English calves. With a little luck, we ought to be done weaning by the first of July. With temperatures breaking into the 90s, we’re bracing for our usual summer heat.
Mustard yellow greens
under a blue sky, cows wait
for some direction.
Already we prepare for war, hang
Irish Spring in orchard trees, clear
the battlefield of weeds before
their green turns brown as the latest
batch of baby ground squirrels
watch from the granite outcrops, little
heads peering from our uphill bleachers.
We cheer the appetites of hawks,
eagles and crows, their hungry, noisy
and nested young waiting on a thatch
of twigs, open-mouthed—even
the rattlesnakes these easy swallows.
We clean the .22 and pellet gun.
There is no talk of peace, sagging
hog-wire a poor border to defend,
to hold when we’re away at work
to satisfy the costs of living where
we will always be the intruders.
The blog has taken a back seat to springtime, repairing watergaps crossing the creek before we gather to start processing our Wagyu X calves, blading firebreaks along the road and various other maintenance chores as we try to stay ahead of trouble with San Francisco still on our minds. Robbin and the birthday boys at AT&T Park in the Audi Legendary Suite above with all the wine and ballpark food we could eat or drink provided by Trefethen Family Vineyards.
Native of the Bay Area, Dave Wilke was our tour guide. We caught the cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf and walked to Scoma’s for another superb seafood meal. Then off to the Buena Vista for the best Irish coffee imaginable.
The next day, nothing would do but to take us to the Tadich Grill, California’s oldest restaurant. Near the financial district, we went afoot from Union Square for excellent Bloody Marys and Cioppino. Then walked to Chinatown and on to North Beach to meet Gordon and Judith Stevens for dinner. A mile and a half one day, followed by two miles the next up and down San Francisco’s hills, I gained new confidence in my replacement knee, knowing that if I broke down somewhere on the ranch that I could make it home.
One last breakfast at Lori’s Diner with Dave and Denise, Robbin and I said good-by to our dear friends. A short trip we’ll never forget.
The untamed, the cultured and civilized
gone wild, hungry for power, rise
out of the cornfields and the canyons
of big city streets, from behind camo
curtains to poach another prize beyond
the reach of more common men and
women if they can—stars on their own sets
that upset the rest of us. That we envy wealth
and freedom, independence—the quick buck
gained by deceit as standard practice
for capitalists and politicians. Take down
the statues of Robert E. Lee, a horseback,
we have models of our own to cast
and enshrine in every city square
for our poor youth to look up to.
Short spring, the grass wants to turn
in the sand and shallow ground, a sunburned
tan, and the birds have turned to serious
nesting, feeding and breeding on the branch,
on the ground or on the redwood railing.
Immigrants, interlopers, the ring-neck doves
cry like babies before landing overhead.
One white female parades the rail
to her drab gray mate’s dance and croon
as we welcome evening with a glass of wine.
Flutter too quick to get a camera, they whine
together, ecstatic as coyotes across the canyon.
Towards the end of a delightful day in San Francisco at Fisherman’s Wharf outside Scoma’s. The Giants lost to the Dodgers by one run in the 10th.
Who knows what our tour guide has planned for today, but Robbin and I are ready, albeit leg weary, as soon as Dave and Denise check in this a.m.
Though the traffic may seem hectic for country bumpkins, all the varied ethnicities and languages orchestrate a fine example for humanity.
A galaxy apart from pastoral green,
clack and bell of cable cars,
from the granite bench
of Victoria Secret’s windowed underwear
as I exhale a cigarette
into a metropolitan herd
of expressionless humans
headed somewhere– white
knuckled drive into one-way streets
persistent Siri suggests wrongly.
I wonder what I’m doing here.