Monthly Archives: December 2018

Calves at the Gate

 

 

We began baiting our cows and calves on the Paregien Ranch into the gathering field, yesterday, with the Kubota and a little alfalfa hay. We plan on branding tomorrow, trying to take advantage of our drying roads after 2.5” of rain last week. Fortunately, the Valley fog was not a factor until midday when it rose to cloak landscapes up to 2,500 feet. We’re going back this morning with horses to collect a little bunch we missed and sort the dry cows and late-calvers from the bunch. It’s still too early this morning to tell where the fog is.

With ample dry feed, we haven’t had to supplement these cattle this season except for a little ‘hello hay’ when we’ve checked them. Though the cows know our gathering routine and are camped on the hay we’ve strung-out through the gathering field in the photo, it’s a brand new experience for the calves. I found their confusion looking longingly beyond the gate, to the ground they knew, humorous enough to pull out the camera.

 

PAREGIEN PLACE

 

 

The Valley fog has risen
to high-ground hillsides
leaving light on peaks,

warm islands enflamed
to cord limb wood
for branding and cook fires,

and a load of Manzanita
through a layer of gray
to the woodstove below—

as the generator pumps
tank and troughs full.
Up here, we’ve been rained

and snowed upon,
sorted cows from calves
in fog so thick

you couldn’t see
across the corral.
Up here, you brand

as soon as you can
with a crew of neighbors
who’ve been here before.

 

WELCOME WINTER

 

 

How I welcome winter now
as the sun slides south
towards Arizona,
towards old friends
that graze red rockpiles
we will meet in Nevada—
too far away to worry,
livestock on its own.

I can hear the harmonies
reverberate, cat gut
atop thin slices of spruce
from Canada—I feel
my heart lift away
from the maladies
our fears and guilt have made
insurmountable.

How I welcome winter’s
gathering, branding smoke
on weather-slick roads,
bull-stretched fences
and dear neighbors
gearing up-for one last holler
to all the gods
that have sustained us.

 

Home

 

 

I’m fasting before I have to brave the dark, foggy drive into Visalia this morning to have some blood drawn. I woke at midnight on the 9th of November with excruciating abdominal pain that put me in the hospital for a week with an infected gallbladder, an errant gallstone stuck somewhere in my plumbing beneath my sternum.

At my age, ambulance paramedics and emergency personnel are trained to assume chest and abdominal pains are likely to be a heart attack. Despite X-ray and a CT-scan, the correct diagnosis required two trips to Emergency before beginning a regime of antibiotics and pain killers. Too infected for surgery at the time, we’re currently working towards a date to remove my gall bladder, a month or so away at best.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we got rain, the grass is coming, the Angus bulls are out and the Wagyu bulls arrive next week—it’s time to brand, our annual dance around the weather with the help of our neighbors. It’s good to be back home.

 

BARE GROUND GREEN

 

 

After a good rain, the cows have left
the feed grounds greening, grabbed their calves
and headed for the ridgetops where raindrops

slowly settled to weave fast growing
blades between the matted hollow stems
to make a mouthful, a musty bit of old

with the fresher taste of a new beginning.
We feel the same searching hillsides
for black dots of grazing pairs, oblivious

to the feed truck’s throaty idle,
way down in the flats, close to the hay barn,
now wearing a dark empty hole.

 

Cowboy Crossroads, Podcast 41

 

A recent podcast from the landmark series of interviews recorded and edited by Andy Hedges, Cowboy Crossroads,Episode 41: John Dofflemyer

Nicely done, Andy. Thank you.

 

WARMER TOMORROW

 

 

I am still not well, but contemplating the chill wind
and my energy-level knowing that if I cut another Kubota-load
of drought-killed oak, limb wood with loosened bark
likely to shed chunks on the carpet on the way to the stove,
I’d feel better—that luxury of choosing what old men want
to do. How I’ve yearned for this status, newly claimed without
a feather-weight of guilt. Calcium clod stuck in my gut
surging with pain and infection, I think about giving-in,
giving-up until the morphine lifts me to unreality, but
before the Norco illuminates dreams of a partial silhouette
chiseled in stone in the paddock behind my hospital bed
while it grows a second head upon a dark Ongole idol,
ears and nose appearing where the tail once was.
I am scared awake to withdraw from this primal energy,
imagery lying deep within my fragile, disconnected
psyche—not knowing, not caring what any of it means.

 

AT DAWN

 

 

A little snow up the draw
beyond our foothill ridges
stuck on Redwood Mountain

and I imagine quail
puffed-up in the bare spots,
on fractured rounded rocks

with dull moss, motionless,
plump little generals
braced against the cold.

It is so easy now to escape
the pain of hopeless human
matters, of tyrants, despots

and the deranged waiting
to fill the next breach
in time. Perhaps a precursor

to senility, I practice slipping
              out of formation
to draw upon a different truth.

 

AT THE GATE

 

 

End and beginning
punctuated by a puddled rain
and a fiery flash of leaves—

by the green along the road
and beneath the old blond feed
done for another season.

The cows and calves have left
the feed grounds for the ridges,
mud soft between their toes—

they have told us everything
we need to know. The bulls
at work, the ranch so close

to perfect, so predictable
for the next three weeks,
we want no where else to go.