Tag Archives: Kaweah



                                       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.






Two centuries of women
gone beyond
healing and grinding,
needing shade
away from men—

dead Live Oak place
to roost for years,
our pair of crows
make familiar
flutters of love
balanced on a branch,
know one another’s
every feather,
preen and quiver
with how it feels
into the gloaming




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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.




Exploring with a gun alone, oak trees
spoke to me—Red Tails swooped
to the wounded and buzzards trailed

at a safe distance when I was ten—
half-wild, I thought, circumambulating
the endless draws and canyons that called

for company and conversation—shooting
squirrels and hunting rattlesnakes in rock piles.
They would have jailed my folks today.

The first butterfly I saw batted by a bobcat
played better than Walt Disney, better than
the Space Race, Cold War or Sputnik.





We start with trails
that haven’t changed
near the top of the world—

                    switchbacks stacked
                    in scree
                    to gaps between
                    bare peaks like teeth
                    above the timberline
                    chewing at the blue,
                    blue sky

and the solitude

                    waiting in ambush
                    to welcome you home
                    to rainbow trout
                    now spawning,

                    green backs packed
                    in the leak
                    of a snowmelt lake
                    where white clouds
                    float upon water.

                    Alone in the smear
                    of starlight falling
                    upon solid rock,
                    it glows
                    like a lantern.

We start with trails
we know
how to get there.

                                        for Lee and Earl




I made a quick tour of Greasy yesterday before the current rain to check our cattle and feed conditions and to cut a Kubota-load of Manzanita. The lighting beneath the cloud cover and view of Sawtooth (elevation 12,343′), above Mineral King Valley in Sequoia National Park, from below Sulphur Peak was eerie and intriguing, enhanced by the 30x telephoto of my point and shoot. Only a light dusting of snow remains from our last storm, but the forecast is for three feet on the Great Western Divide.


Gathering the Paregien Ranch


Across Dry Creek Canyon, a light dusting of snow on the Kaweahs and the Great Western Divide, from Alta Peak to Sawtooth, as we gathered yesterday to brand today on the Paregien Ranch.


Almost solid filaree in places, we’ve had a good germination in the granite at the 2,000 foot elevation. Not a lot of grass, but better than in the clay at the lower elevations, our south and west slopes still struggling.


Clarence and I watch the gate as the girls feed hay where the cows and calves will spend the night. None of our facilities is air tight, so we hope they’ll still be in the pen when we get there this morning.


Lee, Teri, Robbin and Clarence replay a good gather.


Forecast rain for Thursday and Friday, we’re hoping to get the calves worked while we can still get up and down the road.


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Black, no stars—a mist before the storm
stacks-up against the Sierra Nevadas—
rises and rains just in time for grass
struggling with hard, thirsty clay.

We, too, have grown hard
with no deep moisture, roots dry
and brittle as the Live Oaks offering
boughs full of brown medallions.

The problem bears have moved
to town, followed the Kaweah
down into backyards and alleys,
packs of hungry coyotes behind them.

Slow and gentle would be best
for the red, south and west slopes,
any kind of puddles for the flats—
but whatever we get, we’ll like it ☺





The day unfolds in the black:

another circle of hay and water,
cows and bulls, a dusty track
on worn terrain now dreaming

on a cool, downcanyon draft
of bluster and damp—of drinking
dark clouds until the dust is mud.

Out of the shadows, the wild steps
lightly, all sharing the same dream
rising from the dry, dry earth.




                               We were following a long river into the mountains.
                                                  – Gary Snyder (“Journeys”)

On the outskirts of the backcountry,
the foothill hem of the Great
                                                            Western Divide
we head upstream, drifting closer to
                                                            the Kaweahs
where the Big Arroyo falls to the other side.

Ko said, “Now we have come to where we die.”

                    How many aged, hip shot horses finally look up
                    from dreams, asleep on their feet, not wanting
                    to wake into our fenced realities, recalled
                    to mountain meadows fed by Sierra lakes
                    and snowmelt? We saved her once, fallen
                    off the High Sierra Trail, but Jane escaped
                    and stayed the winter on the Big Arroyo
                    with only scattered bones to show.

We become the animals that have taught us
how to forage and gather for the future,
the fang and claw of predator and prey—
we relearn the language and how to think.
We hold no fear of death.

Two young black cows, calves trailing
a long steep bluff of trees and rock
to the sound of my Kubota with alfalfa,
a flat spot in a short canyon cove I own
where I’ve never fed before. Here
I am the interloper without a history.
A gray Prairie Falcon glides low
overhead, treads air to inspect me
in his territory, falls to perch on a clod
for another perspective as the cows eat,
then returns to the top of his oak tree.

When I was a boy, I might have shot him
for a closer look, like Audubon inspecting
the feathers of his handlebar moustache.

                    But now he is my totem,
                    both on journeys upstream—
                    “This is the way
                    to the backcountry.”

                                                  For Sylvia and Matthew