Tag Archives: Kaweah River




Taking the cows home
a week after weaning
snakes easily over the saddle
and down to the water
of collected dreams.

I remember yellow
Euclid trucks dumping
layers of native pasture
armored with rock
across the river in ’59,

flooding shoreline picnics
and ground squirrels targets
where the Wukchumne camped—
where Loren Fredricks
never learned to swim

afraid of the three-foot carp,
sun-dried, he had to ride upon
in a horse-drawn cart
up Dry Creek to Eshom
before he became a cowboy.

Snow stacked high
on the Kaweahs, we held
the water back when Visalia
was a town, spread the city out
with no water in the ground.

               Blond cowgirl
               on a palomino
               in the wild oats
               above black cows
               and Lake Kaweah—

taking them home
a week after weaning
snakes easily over the saddle
and down to the water
of our collected dreams.





Azure ridge after ridge unfold
into a swirl of storm clouds leaving,
as if heaven sent, wrapping hidden

peaks of scree with snow, thirty miles away
from this conflagration of cottonwoods,
willows and sycamores below. I look

up the throat of the Kaweah for a sign—
hoping, praying, as we begin again,
for grass-fat calves through spring.






Heads down, our future grazes green
on the edge of time, on ground
the river met with Dry Creek—

all the round cobbles mined
to build the county seat gone wild
with willows and cottonwoods,

natives claiming space we named
between the Kaweah and Wutchumna
Hill. Nothing is the same for us

or them as they mature to become cows.
Heads down, it is easy to forget
to look up at where we’ve come from.



Weekly Photo Challenge: ‘Edge’


Water, Water, Water


Greasy Cove, Lake Kaweah June 17, 2015

Greasy Cove, Lake Kaweah
June 17, 2015

Capacity: 185,000 acre feet
Irrigation water stored June 23, 2015: 50,905 acre feet
Kaweah River Flow, June 24, 2015: 546 cfs (cubic feet/second)


Roughly speaking, 25% of normal.


Weather Journal/2010-11

June 27, 2011

Greasy Cove, Lake Kaweah, 6.27.11

Lake Kaweah, behind Terminus Dam, has only 4-5 more feet to go to get to the reservoir’s high-water mark. The river peaked at about 5,600 cfs for an hour on June 16th, but for 24 hours, cumulatively, June 22nd recorded the highest flow amid four 100º days. Currently about 2,200 cfs inflow to Lake Kaweah, 2,100 cfs outflow. Dry Creek has dropped to 14 cfs, but a lot of water yet for this time of year.




                                       Now in the quiet I stand
                                       and look at her a long time, glad
                                       to have recovered what is lost
                                       in the exchange of something for money.

                                            – Wendell Berry (“The Sorrel Filly”)

Looming closer, a swirling darkness just beyond
the thought of summer’s water that is not
frozen deep in the Sierras to feed our rivers

and canyon leaks—of brittle fall and cattle
gathered at an empty trough. The creek dries back
and sinks in March, lifted to new canopies

of sycamores dressing. Skeletons of old oaks
stand out between greening survivors, some
wearing only clumps of yellow mistletoe

hanging like reasons, raisons—like raisins
clinging to a leafless vine. Each season
spins the same dry song, yet we find our place,

harmonize and sing along, lifted like precious
moisture to tender leaves, a basic ascension not
available in the big box stores, unrecorded

in the history of our presence. This may be
the new normal for old people—that daze
of amazement we have been working towards.




IMG_5687 - Version 2


Thin veil of snow on the Kaweahs—
granite shows on peaks undressing.
The creek slows and disappears

as the thirsty earth drinks miles
from the river, puddled behind a dam
that will not fill the Valley’s furrows.

Tan medallions, last spring’s leaves
quiver from brittle fingers of oak trees
sprinkling green hills, giving centuries

of rainfall back as decomposing homes
for smaller survivors. It is not over
despite a forecast chance of rain—

dry seasons last, leave evidence only
years of floods can erase. Almost March,
the buzzards have returned early

circling an easy harmony of generations
gone—each clear voice rising,
we hear assurance and good advice.













The big dogs are drilling deeper,
pumping the last of a million years
of underground water, each river

dammed into furrows to farm
the empty Laguna de Tache.
Sixty years ago, when red lights

stopped in every railroad town,
colorful cornucopias spilled
from billboards onto Highway 99

bragging fruit or vegetable capitals
of another world, and huge Big Oranges
squeezed juice every ten miles.

On the semi-arid edge of change,
we beg for rain and dream of floods
to take this Valley back in time.


                    *     *     *


1876 Tulare County Map

Wiki: Laguna de Tache, Tulare Lake





                        Then the man noticed that he didn’t
                        have any shadow. He went out and
                        looked around: nothing had any shadow.
                        He began to squint up his eyes, it was
                        all so bright. And wherever he looked
                        there were sharp little knives.

                              – William Stafford (“Stories To Live In The World With”)

We were but shadows on this ground,
young bulls bellowing into space
hoping for an answer in an echo—
not rivals down canyon pawing dirt.

We cast more shade now as we go
remembering the bluff and bluster
of manifest destiny—the arrogance
of greed blest by God—feeble-legged,

stumbling in cobbles along the creek.
If left alone for a century or two,
time will heal the tracks, erase mistakes
we might have better learned by.

It did not begin or end there. Three
hundred shadows passing in this canyon
when Sir Francis Drake stabbed
California sand for Queen Elizabeth I

leaving little sign of how their minds
worked grinding, making palatable
what was at hand until—you know
the rest—like echoes in these hills.

Pages welded together in dark corners,
transcripts in generational stacks
only attorneys dream of designing,
hold both petty and valuable details.

How it shook the old house, my father
overwhelming his in a thunderous
shouting match, a sparring over nothing
to hone a keen edge for the Corps.

Or the luxury of divergent dreams
of royalties instead of rent, in-laws
and family divided and divorced with
land—and from the tracks cut deep.

We are but shadows on this ground
passing beneath us as always, immigrants
in old space that cannot stay the same
in the new world that swirls around us,

an invisible adversary invading our air,
our flesh, this dirt we shall return to—
however gladly or reluctantly, to cast
no more shadows—at home at last.


= = = = = = = = = =

Stories To Live In The World With (Someday Maybe, 1973)

A long rope of gray smoke was
coming out of the ground. I went
nearer and looked at it sideways.
I think there was a cave, and some people
were in a room by a fire in the earth.
One of them thought of a person like me
coming near but never quite coming in
to know them.

Once a man killed another, to rob him,
but found nothing, except that lying
there by a rock was a very sharp,
glittering little knife. The murderer
took the knife home and put it beside
his bed, and in the night he woke
and the knife was gone. But there was
no way for a person to get in to take the knife.

The man went to a wise old woman.
When she heard the story, she began to laugh.
The man got mad. He yelled at the woman
to tell why she was laughing. She looked
at him carefully with her eyes squinted
as if she looked at the sun. “Can’t you
guess what happened?” she asked.

The man didn’t want to be dumb, so
he thought and thought. “Maybe the knife
was so sharp that it fell on the ground
and just cut its way deeper and deeper and
got away.” The woman squinted some more.
She shook her head. “You learned that from
a story. No, I will tell you why you
thought the knife was gone and why
you came here to ask me about it:
you are dead.”

Then the man noticed that he didn’t
have any shadow. He went out and
looked around: nothing had any shadow.
He began to squint up his eyes, it was
all so bright. And wherever he looked
there were sharp little knives.

This is a true story. He really was dead.
My mother told us about it. She told us
never to kill or rob.
At a little pond in the woods
I decided: this is the center of my life.
I threw a big stick far out, to be
all the burdens from earlier years.
Ever since, I have been walking
lightly, looking around, out of the woods.

                                                            – William Stafford

Courtesy of





Within the wild grapes and willows,
a world become tame
without humans.



Drinking At Ragle Springs



Yesterday, I finished reclaiming our water resources at Ragle Springs, after cementing a galvanized pipe in one of the holes of the concrete tank, constructed, I believe, by Earl Mckee and Lee Maloy who packed cement and sand by mule from the Kaweah River in the 1940s, some 2,500 feet and four miles below. The stock water pond constructed by Earl McKee, Jr. in the 1980s collected the overflow, but has been dry for several weeks and the leaky tank has been running into a quagmire where our cattle have had to drink, hock high, from cow tracks. Fortunately, they have had access to other springs and troughs elsewhere in the pasture.


When Terri and I fed last Wednesday, she asked about the yellow birds flying out of the tank that I missed seeing. But when I looked into the tank, a pair of Pine Siskins (Goldfinches in camouflage) flew off a floating board. With the board removed Saturday, the birds have had to improvise. The first and last photos are Goldfinches in winter plumage, Pine Siskins and an unknown in between, but I defer to Avian 101 or other authority to verify the identity of both species.


Whether domestic or wild, every drop counts.


In response to this link sent to Earl McKee, Jr. for verification, he sent this additional information:

Hello again John,
My father Earl A McKee Sr. started packing the material to build a series of concrete water storage tanks and troughs up into Greasy Cove in 1938, to this old “Greasy Ranch” he had purchased in 1937. At that time he had been in the mule packing business since 1910 and had quite a herd of mules and horses to pack dudes and gear into the Sierras.

Lee Maloy, Jim Kindred, Loren Finch and my Dad did the work moving all the sand material, form lumber and the sacks of cement to each site. There were 5 different sites. The first was Sulphur Spring at the old “Huntley House”. 2 more in the Sulphur Mountain pasture, Ragle Spring and one other up on the south west side of Sulphur Creek Section. The next one was built up on the Oat Ridge field’s North West corner, about a quarter mile North of the Eagle Rock. The last one was built on the East side of Section 9. This watershed was Manikin Creek falling off to the North Fork of the Kaweah River.

When packing the material, sand was the biggest item, because of the volume needed. And because my Dad owned the numbers of mules and outfits, he would use about 20 to 25 head of mules each trip. Most of these spring improvement jobs would load up the mules in a sand bar at Belle Point above Terminus Beach on the Kaweah River. And used the old Greasy Creek to Manikin Flat wagon Road that passed by Spoon Rock.

An interesting side of loading each mule with sand was, as the mules were saddled, first came the mule blanket and pad. Next came a mantie that covered the mule’s body, then came the pack saddle and after he was cinched up the kayaks or rag ends or leather ends were hung on the saddle with card board or wood boxes inside. The mule was then led down into the sand bar and a man on each side tossed sand into the boxes while counting the shovel loads to balance the load till it weighed about 90 lbs. on each side and was tied off and turned loose to wait till they were all loaded. As you can imagine the mantie being placed above the mule blankets allowed for misjudged shovel loads of sand could roll off the mule without getting sand under the saddle blanket and keep it from sore backing the mule.

As the form lumber was packed in, a mortar box with handles on each end and tapered ends to pour, was packed on top of one of the loads to mix the concrete with shovels and a hoe and water buckets. The spring box on the east side of Section 9 was packed in from a sand bar at Ken (Skinny) Savages Ranch on the North Fork of the Kaweah River. And packed by trail up through the Old Craig Thorn Sr. Ranch.

The date of each of these should still have the date of completion marked in the concrete with the three brands of the three registered brands at that time. The year, 1938 the brands were LEE (Lee Maloy); T Triangle (Jim Kindred): Bar O (Earl McKee Sr).

This is about the way it all happened, a long time ago.

All The Best, Earl