Author Archives: John

OUTDATED CULTURAL DEPICITONS

 

The B-Westerns’ barroom brawls

have spawned a herd of wannabes

with renewed gossip among the locals—

 

and every year someone dies

with too many horses powered

by alcohol.  And all the young wranglers

 

stay sensible, until they forget

the promises they made to themselves,

their wives and families.

 

A century and a half ago,

a horse knew his slow way home,

and if his rider fell off

 

it usually didn’t kill him.

 

COYOTE TREE

 

Along the road the CCCs

chiseled in the 30s, men and mules,

wheelbarrows and Fresno scrapers,

miles of sidehill on perfect grade

while the old oak watched

from the saddle

before the place got a name.

 

Coyotes trapped or shot

were tied with baling wire and hung

from a long, horizontal limb

through summer heat and rain

before becoming skeletons.

How many bones beneath it now

howl from its hollow limbs?

 

 

Wind Event

Major wind event continues at noon today originating from a cut off low off the coast of Southern California, a pre-monsoonal surge of subtropical moisture bringing lightning and thunderstorms to the Southern Sierra and Central Valley into tomorrow. Little moisture. A.M. wind blew the top of a sycamore across our electrical service line to our pump at the corrals. We’ll have to haul water to our cattle.

Meanwhile we have cows and calves gathered in Greasy awaiting weaning planned for today if a tree hasn’t fallen across a fence up there. We’ll have to take some hay and check the damage tomorrow. We’re not done with the wind gusts.

BUMBLEBEES

                                   

 

                                    Judges in California’s Third District Court of Appeal

                                    ruled in late May that the bumblebee can legally fall

                                    within the definition of a fish when it comes to the

                                    definition of endangered species. “Although the term

                                    fish is colloquially and commonly understood to refer

                                    to aquatic species, the term of art employed by the

                                    Legislature in the definition of fish in section 45 is not

                                    so limited,” the trio of judges wrote.

                                                – Western Livestock Journal, June 13, 2022

 

After work they like their G & Ts,

drawn to tonic and Tangueray,

slice of lime in an iced-down glass—

but some drink too much!

 

 

 

BENEATH THE EAVES




We’re talking cattle

with a rising moon in June,

making plans for cows and calves—

 

the gather and sort to town,

where old friends shuffle

across the sale barn’s catwalk,

 

boot soles sliding, glad

to be moving among the living

when so many are not.

 

No one cares about our conversations,

the moon eavesdrops when it wants

just to measure our progress.

 

 

LAST LOAD TO IDAHO

Photo by Terri Blanke

 

Say good-bye to your mothers

for the long ride

all you children—

the truck is clean

shavings on the floor.

Driver said it snowed

before he left,

needed chains on Donner

rolling empty here in May.

 

We shake our heads

about the weather,

damn little rain,

the creek’s gone dry.

With a week of winds

the oaks have come alive,

tree limbs dancing

like separate tongues

trying to lick the sky.

 

 

We shipped our last load of Wagyu X calves to Snake River Farms on Tuesday as we continue to gather and wean our Angus calves.  Both cows and calves have done well despite the extremely dry spring, in part because of our heavy culling that cut our cow herd by a third after only six inches of rain the year before. With drought across the Western US, cow numbers are down everywhere resulting in a stronger market than we’ve seen in years. With unpredictable weather, higher costs for grain and inflation, we may be raising beef we can’t afford to eat.

AFTER TAO TE CHING

                        What calamity is greater than no contentment,

                        And what flaw greater than the passion for gain?

                                    Tao Te Ching (“46”) Book of Songs)  

 

Following ten years drought,

gusty evenings under gray clouds

add depth to blond hillsides—

contrasting tomorrow’s summer feed

 

that begs embracing,

that begs old flesh to awaken,

 

but begs no mention but to look

with an empty mind.

 

 

MOWING

 

After I mowed the lawn, I opened the gate for the cows and their Wagyu X calves to the horse pasture to eat the grass and weeds horses don’t like to lessen the fire danger and make it easier to spot a rattlesnake at a distance.  A treat for the cattle as we wait to process their calves on Tuesday and a treat for us to see them in the evenings. 

 

We let our big dog Buster, a Great Pyrenees/German Shepard X that was part of the litter dumped on Dry Creek Road several years ago, loose to work at night keeping the coyotes, feral pigs, raccoons, skunks, etc. out of the yard.  We don’t want him to make a mistake while we’re sleeping, so we move the cattle out before dark.

 

Last night, Robbin walked and worked our Border Collie Tessa on commands to gently ease them toward and out the open gate—a great exercise and confidence builder for them both.  Tessa has been with us enough around the cows to know how we work them (old people slow) and plenty of herd in her breeding.  I’m guessing they’ll do it again tonight, it’s been good watching.

 

BECKONING

 

Yesteryear calls out of the blue

in these piebald canyons turning brown

yawning across a shrinking creek

 

to leave a confidential message—

not in words, but deeds.  Faces,

always faces.  Big George Hubble

 

in grade school who loaned me a dime

for a lemon bar popsicle

I never paid back. Some call

 

from out of the ground

that I never knew had gone on

to find their relief.

 

Some faces leave no names,

or none I can remember,

to console me as I did them

 

during the paisley days of a jungle war

I missed for a football knee

trying to be a hero.

 

 

OUT OF HIBERNATION

 

Stealing the warmth of gravel

an inch at a time, famished

after winter’s long dream

 

of what’s on the menu:

blind hatch appetizers

or a full-grown squeeze.

 

https://drycrikjournal.com/2021/09/04/tight-squeeze/