Along the road the CCCs
chiseled in the 30s, men and mules,
wheelbarrows and Fresno scrapers,
miles of sidehill on perfect grade
while the old oak watched
from the saddle
before the place got a name.
Coyotes trapped or shot
were tied with baling wire and hung
from a long, horizontal limb
through summer heat and rain
before becoming skeletons.
How many bones beneath it now
howl from its hollow limbs?
I am here to gather cattle, ride the ridges,
see – light step on the morning, rising
higher before the sun shatters atop Broke-Up
to search out darkness in the draws.
Soft dirt under hoof, cowtrails cut in grass
on grade travel easy to the same places,
speak no tracks yet today. The Coyote Tree
is dying, lost the limbs they hung them on
in the old days, my young days when
this was the way – old road the CCCs
with wheelbarrows, pick and shovel,
mule-drawn Fresno scraper in the hands
of many men carved upwards out of Greasy
where it met the Kaweah before the lake,
the dam, before the lowland changed.
Wide sand beach with tules, cattail-hemmed
Wukchumne camp, five hundred souls
before me. I was afraid, dark within
Chiishe’s den in Belle Point’s flank.
Hear my father say, ‘Keep your eyes peeled!’
I am here to gather cattle, ride the day
down – cows, calves and a century and a half
spread before me – the buck and run of years
that haven’t changed, still shaping me.