Monthly Archives: September 2018

THE LAST GASP OF MANIFEST DESTINY

 

 

Rivers of cars and trucks compressed
between houses stacked like cordwood,
between parking lots and mini-malls
ready to serve anonymous strangers

usurp more earth, sterilize and seal it
from the sun and rain—level the landmarks
for living histories of neighbors and families
lending a hand, sharing labor, teaching

one another how to give and live together
without the siren’s wail I hear
in the shrinking distance—from the lights
at night that blot out constellations.

My anger has become a sad acceptance
of human ambition, the relentless waves
of wealth and debt that may go hungry with
no landscapes left to feed their souls or flesh.

 

ON RIDGES

 

 

It could be an old photograph
beneath a younger oak tree
standing in wild oats—almost
anytime before I was born.

The sound of change
travels uphill, follows the slope
from the bottom of canyons
like an amplified alarm.

Here’s where natives rest
when the flesh gives in
to peace with the world—
you can only feel them near.

 

Buster’s New Digs

With his sister and three brothers, Buster was loaded into the pickup to go for his first ride. The sensation of traveling as trees flew by was nauseating as his eyes blurred and stomach churned to the sound of the radio and engine combined. Finally it all came to a stop at a wide place in a narrow road, a dirt turnout with a sign he couldn’t read, tall weeds and loose barbed wire fence beyond.

 

All five puppies got out, glad to be back on solid ground and feel the dust between their toes. They began to explore beer cans and potato chip bags with their noses, intrigued by all the new scents that preceded their arrival.
Engrossed in their roughhouse games in this strange place, it wasn’t until the pickup engine started, did they notice it leaving. Buster’s big brother Bert gave chase up the road, with the rest of the puppies trailing as night fell, squelching the day’s 100-degree heat.

Exhausted after the quarter-mile chase, they stopped to rest at another turnout while Bert went out into the road to greet the sound of each approaching set of headlights. The third car struck him and he crawled to his frightened siblings huddled around him until he quit breathing. Sally, his sister, led the pack away from the road to cross a cool irrigated pasture to find a mossy pond in the moonlight where they all got a drink and fell fast asleep.

Traveling only at dawn and dusk, the four three-month old pups spent the next week hunting for something to eat up and down the dry creek bed. The pack awoke a feral hog in the thick riparian of alders and willows, barking fiercely at its retreat; then gave a loud chase after four wild turkeys hens and later backed a lone coyote off. They were indeed a pack, but had nothing to fill their empty stomachs but an occasional drink of water.

 

Pack @ 3 months

Desperate and hungry, Sally led them back to where they had been dropped off. They looked like coyote pups to the man and woman who stopped. Buster overheard the man saying angrily, “The most humane thing we could do is shoot them all—goddamn people!”

Thirty minutes later, the man and woman returned with a big dish of dog food and water. “Their ears are full of ticks,” the woman said after petting three of the four pups. “Tomorrow morning, I’ll call Animal Control.”

However, the next morning, another woman stopped and caught all of the puppies with distended bellies pin cushioned with foxtails, and put them in her new car, bringing them to work where there were some empty dog pens. For the next two days, she and her sister picked ticks from their ears and between their toes, dunking them in a tick and flea bath before worming them all.

 

Within a week, all had found new homes.

 

Buster @ 4 months

 

LOOKING FOR TROUBLE

 

 

I’ve lost touch, deaf
to the muses, immune
to the need to wrestle
words into a gravid line:

               heifer down
               with a dead calf
               too big to bear—

                              winch
                              prolapse
                              bullet

               to feed the coyotes
               and golden eagles.

Our fuzzy recollection of the sire
               through the wire
surrounded by a milling herd
of virgins for a day—

               thick-necked brute
               whose dreams came true
               how many times?

No romantic whispers
in the breeze, acorns
and oak leaves falling—

we feed hay,
look for trouble
and pray for none.

 

Babysitters

 

 

Robbin and I were pleased to see the fresh calves at the Paregien Ranch, our mature cows already setting up nurseries. Though I have my theories, but exactly how the cows decide which new mother will be the babysitter is still a mystery. And who will replace her while she’s grazing?

The cows have broken up into bunches, the most expectant mothers hanging together. Especially vulnerable to coyotes during labor and immediately after the calf is born, struggling to stand and nurse for the first time, each cow depends on the security of the bunch.

It’s refreshing, reassuring, and almost inspiring to see such cooperation within a species without a fuss—an example of selflessness it might do well for humans to emulate. Until then, what better way to spend a Sunday.

 

JULY

 

 

High Sierra thunderstorm,
pagan drumbeats lifting
from the earth washed

with the heavy drops of old souls
ready to refresh the circuit
of humanity, or perhaps this time

stay to the granite bowls
as a reflection separate
from the watershed below.

 

TRACK OFF THE MOUNTAIN

 

 

Oaks and acorns, buckeyes turning
crimson in thin air, empty heads
of blond dry feed awaiting rain
for another crop of grass and seed—

the old soul that sustains itself
apart from the hazy world below
with its improvements, its notions
of success and progress that seal

the most productive off, choke
and forever neuter fertile dirt
beneath orchard rows of houses,
concrete and asphalt streets

to parking lots for millions of hungry
cars, freeway rivers stalled with debt,
gridlocked daily to pay the bills
to keep all the wheels turning

to more ground to improve, mine
and drill, extract value—suck
life and suffocate its soul into
an empty plate to leave the future.

 

First English Calf 2018

 

 

In keeping with Age and Source Verification for our next crop of calves, this calf was born August 29, 2018 and posed for Robbin and I on our way up to look at the cows in Greasy where we found two more new babies. With a couple of weather changes in the past ten days, it feels like fall now, but we know we’re liable for more 100-degree days this month and next.

Still somewhat understocked from the drought as we rebuild our cow herd from our own replacement heifers, we found plenty of feed and water and most of the cows heavy with calf. With bull sales all over California this month, we’re excited to add some new Angus genetics to our herd, hoping that sagging salvage values will keep bull prices reasonable.