Category Archives: Ranch Journal

American White Pelicans


(click to enlarge)


While photographing the wildflowers in Greasy last Sunday, I noticed the shadow of birds dancing on a patch of poppies. We found and watched them wheel and circle well above Sulphur Peak (3,400 feet) for ten or fifteen minutes, glinting in the sunlight. They are apparently migrating to the Northern Plains and Canada. During the latter part of the recent four-year drought, there were nearly a hundred in the gravel pits below Lake Kaweah, and from what I’m told, on the lake as well. Audubon Field Guide





Where wild remains
heavenly in spring,
where deer dance

and Golden Eagles nest
close to a generous sky.
Only God knows why.

                             for Earl McKee


Sulphur Ridge



Robbin and I spent most of yesterday checking the cows and calves in Greasy, scattering salt and mineral beneath the Golden Poppies on Sulphur. Colder and under quite a bit of snow this winter, the grass and wildflowers are just getting started. Note all the drought-killed Blue Oaks in the foreground.


Wooly Canyon 2019



Another bunch of calves branded for Ken & Virginia McKee in Wooly Canyon yesterday, the culmination of a 4-day gather of tough country by younger men than I, all good hands on good horses with good dogs. Much has changed since I first branded my own calves in 1968. Gooseneck trailers have replaced bob-tailed trucks, pipe instead of board pens, women in the branding pen, but the ground remains pretty much the same.

Robbin, Bob, Terri and I went to help our dear friends and neighbors get their calves marked as we’ve done for years. It’s a 45-minute drive up Dry Creek Road to the Mountain House and curvy decline down 245 to the corrals, a green, E-ticket ride of crimson redbud blooming and piles of wildflowers spilled like gold coins around every turn in road as the sun breaches the ridgelines—almost a fantasy.

And was I relieved to see them parting cows from calves when we arrived thirty minutes earlier than normal, but mostly to know I’d be in the branding pen with cowboys I’ve watched mature into cowmen with talents with a rope I strived for, but never quite attained, to watch my back. The cattle culture in this part of Tulare County is in good hands.


At the Equinox



Our Merry Christmas weekend—to utilize our time around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays for branding calves and/or feeding, we have moved our family get-together to the springtime. The weather is warmer, travel is less hectic, most of our cattle work is done while Dry Creek is usually colorful instead of gray. Though unconventional, it makes perfect sense to us.




Back to basics with the loss of power that lasted until late this morning due to an isolated thunderstorm yesterday afternoon bringing nearly 3 inches in an hour or so. Robbin and I got the dominos and candles out.



Cattle people trying
to manage grass
in the West

dare not cuss the rain
or otherwise risk
pissing-off the gods

that might be related
to the ones who care
for the ill and dying.


all the basic elements
we need
to continue living.


Time Out



A wonderful couple days with our dear Canadian friends, Denise Withnell and David Wilke of Cowboy Celtic as wildflowers bloom like paint spilled, growing puddles of color everywhere you look.


California Golden Poppies



Thank you, Maureen Sudlow, for making me aware that some people have not seen our Golden Poppies up close. This photo is from March 26, 2010.


Hills on Fire



It was difficult navigating Dry Creek Road over the weekend for all the photographers parked in this narrow thoroughfare. I have a feeling that the conflagration is just beginning.


How America’s food giants swallowed the family farms



How America’s food giants swallowed the family farms