Tag Archives: age

SIDE BY SIDE

Lesley Fry Photo

Spectacular weather yesterday on the Paregien ranch. Above 2,000 feet in elevation and twenty 4 x 4 minutes from the asphalt, it is a magic place rich with native and anecdotal history.  Currently, the feed is short but still greening since the 1.45” we got on the 6th, 7th and 8th of this month. The cattle have left the flats for the slopes and ridges where the new grass is growing faster, protected from frost by the remnants of old feed. Early last week the prognosticators canceled today’s rain, but have now forecast a significant amount for Thursday into the weekend.  (We’ll see.)

 

While pumping water, looking for the neighbor’s errant bull and measuring the corrals for a much-needed makeover, Robbin and I spent the morning with the Fry/Fox family cutting Manzanita and Live Oak deadfall for our woodstove because of my tendonitis. With our many hands, what fun we had!

 

It’s been several months since I carelessly cut a tree in the road that knocked me down, damaging the rotator cuff of my right shoulder. And about a month since compensating for it to pop a tendon, sounding like a gun shot, in my left forearm.  Enlisted now in medical protocol and procedures, it’s taken a couple of weeks to confirm the damage with an MRI.  Apparently surgery and long recovery is my best option. I see the Dr. again in 4 weeks, meanwhile I’m supposed to do nothing.

 

I am amused that only children and seniors measure their age in half-years, kids because they want to be older, and seniors, I suppose, eager to numerically reassure themselves of their existence. I’m 74 ½ and need to act my age.  My life, our life, on this ranch has always been physical and it’s been too easy for me to forget I’m no longer fifty or sixty building fence or bucking hay.  But to have our good friends and neighbors volunteer to help us get some firewood in was truly a wonderful gift on a beautiful day.  Thank you Chuck and Lesley Fry, Katy and Cody Hanson, and Allie and Shawn Fox.  You guys are the best!

 

HEARTWOOD

 

 

 

Chain saw heavier, I cut arms

off skeletons littering pastures

and canyons after years of drought,

 

a battleground where old oaks lost

touch with water—most barkless now

tipped-over or in tangled piles

 

beneath authoritative trunks

begging purpose, begging cremation

or stacked close to the woodstove.

 

Old habits and rituals finally slow

as the limbs grow heavier despite

the pleading of the heartwood.

 

 

 

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.

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.

MENTORS

The old timers built traps
with limp ropes
in small branding pens
 
before the team ropers showed
to take their place,
as time overtook them
 
and their steady horses.
Almost anyone can catch 
two feet going slow and easy.
 
Homer, Earl, Dave and E.J.,
I can picture them now
roping just like me.

INTO BLACK NIGHT

 

 

There are no dreams like this:
old man learning to go slow
without coming to a stop—

                    hand let run the smooth flesh
                    of a time and weather-worn
                    corral-board table top, sanded
                    and shellacked, splinters sealed
                    beneath to become functional.

                    Scars and crooked fingers trace
                    the deep grain without calloused
                    insulation, a new sensation saved
                    for thin skin that bruises easily.

There are no dreams like this
for whip and spur youth, wide loops
and inflated heroics—yahoo mugs
raised to the wild, to the heavens
howling late into black night
when once I was among them.

 

Homer Cove

 

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A beautiful day for a branding at Steve and Jody Fuller’s place on Dry Creek. Just up the road, we arrived while the crew was sorting cows from calves, hoping to keep the day’s work light for Robbin’s horse Bart who has been off a year to heal torn tendons—one of those freak accidents incurred, we believe, while he was playing in the pasture—the horse she lets me brand on. Lately, she has been testing him with some easy days successfully, and it was time try him back in the branding pen.

When I was younger, I craved to go to brandings as much for the bravado and camaraderie of this community as to rope calves. But in recent years, as my knees have gotten worse, about the only time I’m horseback is to help the neighbors brand, my gesture to repay them for helping us mark our calves every year. At times, it got to be work I endured.

For the past six months, however, I have been dreaming of horses and my knees don’t hurt as much when I ride as when I walk. To feel Bart’s strength under me as we led that first calf out was exhilarating, and to be able to free my mind of his physical soundness and concentrate on the feel of my rope became so much fun that I felt young again. Much of the credit I give to Robbin’s horse, he fits me well—yet knowing, too, that much of it just plays pleasantly in an old man’s mind.

 

CLOUD OF SMOKE

 

Rough Fire - July 28, 2015

Rough Fire – July 28, 2015

 

                    The beauty of things—the beauty of transhuman things
                    Without which we are lost.

                         – Robinson Jeffers (“Granddaughter”)

I claim the disheveled refuge of age
addled by magic devices beyond
the amalgamation of basic elements,

the dirt and water, the living foundation
from which we spring and are akin,
intriguing as a relative to trees that dance

and rocks that talk about the past,
solid and lasting. A balancing act:
my slow retreat just short of the attic

I am promised, mercifully sequestered
‘Someday Soon’ with Ian’s tune.
I want blaring sing-alongs to leave upon!

                    I’d be down that road in a cloud of smoke
                    For some land that I ain’t bought bought bought

                         – Guy Clark (“L.A. Freeways”)

 

WAY OUT WEST, 2016

 

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Robbin and I know where we belong, that we have grown old while the world has changed around us. We think of our parents and grandparents, understand their frustrations with progress.

The Academy of Western Artists “seeks to preserve the traditional values associated with the cowboy image despite consolidation in the cattle industry and changes in contemporary society. The group hosts an annual awards show.”

Yesterday, with two of our cattle neighbors, we were headed to Forth Worth to meet my son who had flown in from San Francisco, where I was to receive the Buck Ramsey Cowboy Poet of the Year award and have some fun. This morning we’re on Dry Creek, he’s in Fort Worth.

                                        ~

We know the feeling of corrals
in airports, and prepare ourselves
to be bunched-up, to wait in lines
at every gate—to follow rules

for humans. We should have known
red fire trucks as an omen,
but we loaded-up, anyway,
found our seats and waited.

I was a mountain man in another life
dodging Indians and ole Ephraim,
knew them all and their stories
and started reading. About the time

Hugh Glass met the grizzly’s cubs,
the captain came on the intercom
to say it’ll be a short, or long, wait
to leave for Dallas, to find the trouble

with the engine gauge, maybe just
a loose wire. I am a slow reader,
but by the time they started patching
Hugh Glass’s bloody body up,

we deplaned to rebook our flight—
190 head, three hours in the lead-up
to be processed. No way to get
to Dallas and keep the four of us

together, no other plane to haul
the human cargo—no way to share
awards and ceremony. (They kill
the man
, anyway, Jeffers said.)

Way Out West beyond the claustrophobe,
we should be proud of plans
that we expect—that have to get—
the work done, where we depend

on few, but in the corrals, numb
humans herding humans used to
to corporate calculations failing—
we treat ourselves and cattle better.

                                          for Temple Grandin

 

‘Spry’

 

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JEG:

Despite January rains and El Nino prognostications, we’ve hit a typical winter dry stretch. Instead of 2 weeks warm and 2 weeks cold sometime in February,
the month has been warm, half the days thus far over 70 degrees. Relative perhaps, the trend is dry with expectations of an early and short spring. Stock water resources have nearly recovered, with more grass than cattle after four years dry, we should survive the coming summer and fall well, a familiar concern more normal than not for spring. Our country looks good, wildflowers spreading like wildfire upon the green, snow in the Sierras 1,000-1,500’ higher than we’d like to see. It will change quickly if the mid-70s, without rain for the next ten days, come to pass.

Garnered from branding photos, my ‘looking spry’ has connotations reserved for the old, the aging and antique that startle me, yet somewhat gratified that I can
still rope and ride. I was the old man in the branding pen yesterday with Brent Huntington’s uniformly big calves. Once untracked, I roped well, probably better than when I was younger worrying about how my horse and I would perform in the corral. Nowadays, the challenge is to be some help. On the way off the hill looking down on Three Rivers, Robbin and Terri compared my ‘style’ to that of the old timers, the generation before me, a compliment. To have an effective ‘style’ is beyond any expectations of the last forty-five years of branding calves, what has become more of a mindset apart from just catching that favors first the horse and calf.

Now sorted-off with the elders in this business, what did I have to impart over steak sandwiches and beer instead of politics yesterday? Be grateful that you don’t have to punch someone’s time clock in town, or commute to work, or have to listen to the noise of human neighbors, sirens, traffic. How much of the politics of the world actually touch us here in these hills, change how we have lived and worked over the years? This is another world, a forgotten world we adapt to, and no matter what the majority decides, what laws it passes, it has to eat.

So yes, I have been granted a little luck, to ‘look pretty spry whether tossing a loop or wielding an iron’.

J