On the edge of fog, we’ve been gathering Greasy to brand Thursday, while the forecast for rain varies from from a few hundredths to a quarter-inch from a half-dozen Internet weather sites. Above the fog, we shed all the jackets it took to get there, a true inversion layer. Time to fish or cut bait.
As of one of two old men among some good young cowboys at Tony Rabb’s branding yesterday, the importance of bringing young men along was self-evident. Schooled at home before the branding pen, a young man must ride, rope, roll a calf, dally, slide slack and stay out of trouble. This was Brandon Huntington’s first branding on New Year’s Day and he managed to do it all!
A beautiful day to start the New Year. No parades. No football games. We spent the day with our community of neighbors and friends branding calves on Dry Creek.
What a great surprise to see Brigid Reedy on the cover of Alta Magazine, Journal of Alta California. Accompanying her in this issue are also perspectives from my good friends Amy M. Hale (Auker), Ramblin Jack Elliott, Andy Hedges and Don Flemons to round out “The Herd Word” by Meredith Lawerence, a tribute to the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!! (Branding calves this morning)
Despite local forecasts for rain, we made the trek up the hill with our neighbors to brand our first bunch of calves for the season. Over the years here, we’ve dealt with fog, rain and snow, but yesterday the sun broke through the gray to complete a beautiful day.
Additional hazards are these two Blue Oaks that Effie Hilliard incorporated when she built these corrals many decades ago, one of which is now a casualty of our 4-year drought. Though we’ve threatened to remove them, consensus has been that they remain.
Though we see one another individually throughout the year, the first branding of the year is always a special get-together for all of us.
One of the benefits of trading labor is that everyone knows how we want the job done, whether a horseback or on the ground. You just can’t hire any better help than our neighbors.
And one of the drawbacks, as we age, is that some of us have now outlived our horses. Finding a replacement gentle and trustworthy enough for old men is not easy, but Tony Rabb brought a young buckskin mare to the branding pen for the first time with impressive success. Robbin and I thank everyone for helping us get the job done.
Robbin caught these little fellas with her cellphone while we were putting the bulls out on Tuesday between rains.
Bob has been waiting for this cow to calve for a week, checking her and her tribe of first-calf heifers in the evenings. I am impressed with the iPhone’s ability to capture a wide range of light, and if held still, its sharpness. He’s also captured the maternal instincts of this new mother #8118, a Hereford-Angus X cow, with her fresh Wagyu X calf – exactly what we’re looking for in replacement heifers.
On the horns of an infant moon,
the creek shrinks and pools
between sycamores and live oaks
as babies come to first-time mothers
bringing the bear tracks downcanyon
on the scent of spent placentas.
Black progeny of the river nymph –
white heifer driven madly by Hera’s
gadfly Oestrus to cross continents
and populate Asia – find maternity
perplexing at first. Yet, lick and nuzzle
the stumbling wet struggle to stand,
suckle and rest that enflames instinct
in all flesh. Worthy timeless worship,
no better mother ever than a cow.
“IO” is included in POEMS FROM DRY CREEK, Starhaven, 2008.
Followers of the blog and and Facebook friends may be bored with our photographs of cattle, but it’s the most exiting time of year for us and our crew as the weather changes. It’s essential that we keep our eyes on our coming two-year old heifers that are having their first Wagyu X calves by recording their tag numbers and any other information that will help inform us as to whether they’ll make the cow herd or not—and to a less anxious degree, our second-calf heifers as well.
The twin bull calves from cow #3054, a mature six year old cow, appear to be sired by our Black Granite bull from Tehama Angus Ranch, spitting images of him at this stage of their short lives. We think that she can raise them both.
Though not short of feed in the flat below Terminus Dam, we keep plenty of alfalfa hay in front of our replacement heifers this time of year. The old feed is mostly filler without much strength and we want our yearling heifers to continue growing and be in shape to cycle when we turn the Wagyu bulls out three months from now. Protein licks and balanced minerals are also available.
In addition to the yearling heifers on the flat are some first-calf heifers bred last year to Wagyu bulls. Close enough to keep an eye on, all this special attention, (I’m afraid we spoil them), will help with the health of these coming first-calf mothers. It’s what we do before our rainy season begins, that time of year when it might rain.
This photo was taken Monday, September 16th as the clouds rolled in, confirmation of our second weather change of August, based on a thirty-day cycle.