Category Archives: Ranch Journal

A NEIGHBOR’S HAND

It’s not easy to get glimpses of myself

among the young men in the branding pen,

awkward young bulls bellowing

as they wrestle fat calves to the ground.

 

Yesterday, I carried the nut-bucket

and dope instead of riding with a rope,

instead of sliding a wide loop

beneath two feet. I can feel it, see it

 

in my mind, the smooth dance and dally

round a cotton-wrapped horn, rolling

calves and slipping slack when needed—

but my metronome has slowed.

 

I don’t wish to be among the old chiefs

who stayed too long to become obstacles

in space and time just to be aboard,

just to lend a neighbor’s hand, like always.

AT SUNSET AFTER CHRISTMAS RAINS

Last flash of limbs

in a pagan dance

as shadows crawl

across the creek

to pull night’s curtain up

into the stars.

 

The canyon has come to life

with promises of spring—

birds and trees are talking

above the bulls’ primal bellowing—

tension spills with energy.

 

Shrill yips and howls

in every draw ignites

another all-night

canine celebration

to exasperate the dogs.

 

Even the old flesh perks up

with fresh strategies,

just in case the market’s up

and we get more rain—

just enough to do it over again.

CHRISTMAS GIFTS

Long dark shadows in the canyons,

cattle hard to see.  They don’t need us now,

heads down somewhere on the mountain,

 

ground too wet to help them anyway—

all the excuses I need to write poetry.

We fed hay all last year, filled the barn

 

three times waiting for a rain. These Christmas

storms: miracles to rejuvenate the earth

for man and beast, birds and insects,

 

steep hillsides begging to explode in leafy

salad greens—iridescent gifts in the sunlight,

like the old days, for years in a row that

 

have since gone dry and farther in between.

Nothing stays the same, just ask the skeletons

of old oaks where the natives ground acorns.

FANTASY

Last night’s rain left a glistening

on the leaves of limbs at dawn,

 

beads upon the redwood silver

twinkling like a Christmas tree.

 

White icing shines upcanyon,

dark chocolate in the creek flow,

 

first light ignites the sycamores

and cottonwoods to flames,

 

aged sorrel geldings buck and slide

in mud like fresh colts finding legs.

 

Last night’s rain left me dreaming

beyond this canyon—all a fantasy.

Winter Solstice – Wagyu X Branding

Though no one dares complain about the rain, we’ve been working towards a branding between storms as the corrals dry out.  Yesterday began cold and foggy as the sun broke through occasionally.

With an exceptional crew of neighbors, it was fun and relaxed for our first branding of the year, a good opportunity for Allie (Fry) Fox to sharpen her skills.  She’s been part of this ranch since she was a baby.

 

It’s always a pleasure having Douglas Thomason in the pen bringing his quiet and calm expertise to the party.  Bodie, his young son below, looks ready to follow in his footsteps.

What a great day!  Robbin and I are thrilled. Thank you all!  With wild and varied predictions of rain (Atmospheric River) through New Years beginning this evening, we’re ready to enjoy the holidays. 

RESILIENT MOON

We make rules

to keep ourselves in line,

orderly before

whatever captain

steers our ship between

calm and storm.

 

Out here

unpredictable weather

calls the tune

we must dance to—

navigate this landscape

come hell or highwater.

 

The rules change

before our eyes—

nothing stays the same

no matter what—

but we were never taught

to quit the game.

RAINBOW

A promise from forgotten days of rain,

bold whites and blues and greens

flush the flesh clean as a hawk’s cry

 

in spring.  When we were children

here, we walked within our dreams

of endless rivers crashing and cascading

 

from the Sierra snowpack into the Valley

ditches and furrows, row upon row

to fill the cornucopia of the world.

 

But we have pumped the ground dry.

Is this a harbinger of better times, or

have the gods returned to say goodbye?

Rain and Snow

Sulphur Peak

2.16” of rain the past two days and snow down to about 2,000 feet yesterday have been a game changer for Robbin and me.  So long dry, it’s not been easy to think in any other terms than drought, but we’re getting there as the south and west slopes fill in with green.  Forecast for more rain on the way through Christmas. 

DECEMBER 14, 2021

I’ve worked hard on my imperfections:

hobbled anger to the point of giving up

my passion.  The drought has beat me up

into a zombie retracing small circles

from house to barn for hay to cattle

and back home for years, it seems.

 

I gathered ghosts and local wild gods

to hope upon a waxing moon for rain,

for a superfluous verdancy to untrack me,

clear the air and make mud of dust—

it’s beginning now, a standing ovation

of applause upon a metal roof.

THE BOTTLE

Before my time

an empty bottle cast

where there was no road,

 

pink with a lifetime

of blistering sunlight

and I wonder who

 

a horseback threw it

now in the short grass—

legends in these hills,

 

weathered men,

drinkers all

coping with the times—

 

with bankers and buyers

betting on the market

and little chance of rain.

 

Or what couple when

lay naked then

in wildflower sunshine.

 

Not much has changed

except for the price

of a cheap bottle of wine.