Bob and I left Elko Monday at 5:00 in the dark and drove straight through, stopping only for fuel, to Dry Creek ahead of last night’s storm that threatened to close Tehachapi Pass. Montgomery Pass was 4 x 4, touch and go, but we made it home by 4:30 p.m. 2.74″ total rain while we were gone.
Sunday a.m. at the Pioneer was a special treat listening to Mike Beck and Denise Withnell make Robbin’s guitar sing above the goodbyes of poets and performers leaving for home. We brought the guitar to Elko so Denise would not have to wrestle her own on the airplane. She and Dave Wilke were backing-up several Sid Marty performances. (Oh what a fine singer, songwriter and poet he is!) The Canadians were a well-represented bunch that included Ian Tyson and a spectacular new voice to Elko, Colter Wall.
WOW what a week, what a blur! Good to be home.
Between rains when we couldn’t go anywhere on the ranch, we began extricating boxes of books from the house that have been published by Dry Crik Press since 1989, including every issue of Dry Crik Review. Boxes were stashed throughout the house, office and attic that we sorted into plastic containers, now half-a-pallet in the shop—the first time that Dry Crik’s offerings have been in one spot.
Certainly not a job I relished, Robbin decided to replace the carpet in the living and dining rooms while Bob and I are in Elko. Once we started clearing the floor space, we found box after box of books that had to be dealt with. All of the Dry Crik Review issues, and Dry Crik Press publications prior to 2008, were printed in Craig Lindeman’s garage in Visalia. Craig collected leftover paper from the other print shops, and sympathetic to the cause, didn’t charge much for his work.
The books and memories were overwhelming.
You can tell by the tracks, including the down fence, that the bulls have started running out of work. It appears that a discussion with the neighbor’s bull took place at 3 locations on the downhill side. Testosterone in the air, our 2 bulls on the uphill side went head to head for a while before one was pushed through the wire. The real battle that crippled our bull took place on the neighbor’s side where we retrieved him. Good news is that the fence is repaired and the crippled bull is in a pasture by himself.
Snow accumulation is just short of ‘normal’ for this time of year as we head into four days of forecast rain. Going up the hill to help the neighbors get one more bunch branded while we can still get to Mankins Flat, just on the other side of the near ridge.
California Weather Blog: “Wet and stormy week ahead for all of California”
Believe it or not, there are thirteen, or parts of thirteen, people in this photograph taken at Jody Fuller’s branding on December 15th—two calves are down. One of the things that has changed dramatically since I was a boy about the size of the two, (can you find them?) in the photo, is the processing at branding when the only vaccination we gave back then was a two-way clostridial. Everyone in this photo has a job.
The youngest boy with the purple glove has the pine tar to apply to the area of castration, the other has a syringe of Enforce 3 to apply in each nostril. Their mother, outside the pen, is keeping track of tag numbers (yes, there’s a tagger) and the sexes of the calves. Additionally, modified live vaccines to ward of respiratory illnesses and a broad spectrum of clostridial illnesses are given to each calf, plus a separate dewormer. Jody also gives her calves an injection of vitamins.
Because of the concern for antibiotics in beef, vaccines have been developed to limit the necessity for antibiotics in feedlots, essentially placing that responsibility, and cost, on the producer. The media is currently focused on the residue of antibiotics in most all the major hamburger outlets—old cows and bulls. A very small percentage of BEEF cows and bulls ever get an injection of antibiotics.
As neighbors, most of us are used to working together as we brand one another’s calves, but I think it’s remarkable that the job goes so smoothly, especially with two, unpredictable live calves on the ground.
Another circle ‘round the sun—
ride the ridgeline
to blind my eyes.
I am not the center of the cosmos,
just a passenger
on the planet
for a moment.
Green shadows reach into the Buckeyes
to bluing skies beyond
these dance hall girls
Another circle ‘round the sun
between miracles of rain:
instant grass, instant future—
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Though we weaned our calves last spring in these pipe pens, we branded our first bunch of calves here yesterday. Earl McKee began construction nearly 20 years ago, and only with my sister’s help could we finish the job. In the upper pen, it feels as if we’re working on top of the world. With the camera on the table, multiple photo credits go to Audrey Maze, Allie Fry, Terri Blanke, Maggie Loverin and Robbin.
To make the handling process easier on the calves, we incorporated a head pen.
It’s a dance—
concentrate and relax,
guide the feel
of your horse
with your legs, find
the feel of your rope
at your fingertips
swing in rhythm
with the calf.
Like everything else,
it’s a dance—just
concentrate and relax.
Fuller Branding, Dry Creek – December 15, 2018
While waiting for the irons get hot, the first brandings of the season are like social events, a community of neighbors catching up with one another, great help from the first calf to the last. Thank you all.
It could have been dreams
in a young man’s sleep,
lightly listening for the bell mare
high in the granite scree
that glows under starlight—
a celestial showering
from a leaky bucket sky
that came over me
to be a cowboy.
I did it well-enough
to stay in the same place
to become a cowman.
But it could have happened
at a branding, watching good
young hands just come to help.
Photo credit: Audrey Maze