Forecast dry, blond fuzz thin,
long black line of heifers camped,
necks bent to flakes of hay
at Halloween, it seems, like always.
Wood Ducks by the thousands
migrate to the base of the Sierras,
to Spanish Flats and the Live Oak
above the pond that waters cattle—
not room enough to float them all,
they come to harvest acorns.
Bleak weeks ahead, we grit our teeth.
Damn few poems hang on trees
shedding leaves, only crooked fingers
dripping crimson, Buckeyes beckoning.
We know where we are in the West
waiting for a rain, chasing forecasts,
feeding hay, thinking about praying
to gods and goddesses alike,
to the floating spirits, the old parts
of the whole soul that dwells here
with you and me, and with the souls
of dear helping hands on this dry ground
cut by canyons and grazed by our family
of cows—our circle of souls surround us
waiting for a rain. A faith so
commonplace, we take it for granted.
Is it fear
that draws us near
the barker’s bark,
flags and bunting,
Gray hair, State Capitol
bringing cows down
out of the mountains
needs no Internet
to ride reality
behind a bunch
of cows pausing
for their calves.
We can learn to think
for ourselves again,
turn our backs
on the latest act—
invest instead in
what gives us peace.
The crows are back
to claim their roost
on the service pole above
pump and water trough.
The quail are scarce
since the Sharp-Shinned hawk
has come to spend
winter above the fog.
The Sycamores have quit
drinking from the dry creek bed,
quit pumping moisture
to their yellowing leaves.
Even the old bucks think
their necks are swelling
after the first rain smelling
primeval, basic and good.
Evening conversation dwells
on a thin cow, vaccine
protocol and the dog’s limp
without a hint of politics
beyond the barbed wire—
beyond this ground and grass.
We don’t want to know
what makes the news—
what makes the outside world
tick with greed and power.
Evening conversation dwells
on more important things.
After a rain, everything is clean,
summer dust washed from leaves,
from the hides of cows and calves
gathered for church in shady shelters
to pray for the sweet scent of green.
We begin again to watch the sky,
look to heaven for perfect storms
and wait—dream of thunder
and draws of muddy water—
leaning forward into the future.
Our small part of the world is almost perfect with last week’s rain as cotyledons break the duff and dirt, a magic time that California natives, men and beasts, eagerly anticipate. Albeit a bit early, our beginning of grass will need another rain soon, but with plenty of old feed to protect the new, that window is open longer.
My niece and family have been visiting once a month to help us deal with the Kaweah River watershed’s implementation of the Groundwater Stabilization Act, 2014 legislation designed to improve water quality and sustainability in California. As a more interesting outing, Robbin and I took them up to the Paregien ranch yesterday as we checked on our cattle.
Her husband Neal is a videographer who is always looking for room to fly his drone. Though I’ve often thought of applications for a drone on the ranch, such as checking fences and looking for missing cattle, I wasn’t quite ready for the visual reality.
Robbin’s ready to record barking dogs and other assorted cowboy sounds to help us in the gather.