Tag Archives: mountains

PIGEON

 

 

                                                                                                           The gods
                                               abhor halters and stirrups, even a horse
                                               blanket to protect our asses is forbidden.

                                                                   – Jim Harrison (“Poet No. 7”)

Handful of mane, wrap
of hair gripped and entwined,
I plowed the pine duff on the Kern
with my chin loping back to the picket line,
bell mare clenched between my legs
when she shied.

                    A pigeon-toed bay,
                    my legs and heart
                    grew into.

A plucky kid
leading mules and people

                    over granite scree
                    to snowmelt meadows
                    framing heaven’s
                    blue-cloud reflection

I could have died
half-dozen times
were I not so close
to the hands of gods
and goddesses

that may have placed
a rattler in the corner of her eye
for entertainment.

                                                  for Bill DeCarteret

 
“Mountains, Mules and Memories”

 

“Mountains, Mules and Memories” by Bill DeCarteret

 

mountains-mules-memories-pdf

 

Few of us know what it’s like to fall in love with the mountains, the backcountry of the High Sierras, and fewer yet who can put that feeling into words, but Bill DeCarteret has humbly woven a lifetime’s love of its rivers and rugged terrain with the mules, horses and the ‘kids’ who worked for him at Wolverton and Mineral King Pack Stations from 1958 through 1982. Over fifty years ago, I was lucky enough to be one of those kids.

Bill became acquainted with the High Sierras as a Boy Scout in 1941 as he wrangled his way to his first job as a packer for Vaud Cunningham in 1945 near Huntington Lake. In 1947, he packed out of Mineral King for Ray Buckman from whom he later bought the pack station in 1958 with a $12,000 loan from Adolph Gill. As the author unwinds his stories in chronological order, it becomes apparent from the outset that they could never happen again, that his experiences were limited to a slice of time that will never be repeated. In this regard, “Mountains, Mules and Memories” becomes a part of our local history.

The author’s voice on the page is consistent with the man I know, replete with his understated humor as he relates his stories, especially his observations and compassion for his horses and his mules—a must read for animal rights advocates, DeCarteret was light years ahead of most. Like so many outfits in the business of packing people on horses and mules, anything can happen anytime and usually did. It’s from the stories that we not only learn about the man, and his wife Marilyn, but what it took to keep their summer enterprise afloat for twenty-five years.

Perhaps the most important thing I took away from this book was the impact that Bill and Marilyn’s business had on so many lives, affording many their first glimpse of the Sierras, cooking on a wood fire, catching fish in mountain streams and lakes in the middle of miles of untarnished landscapes, and all the degrees of awe that must have inspired them. The 83 ‘kids’, mostly teenagers at the time who worked for him in those twenty-five years, had to know how to work, often long hours, and to take responsibility because he couldn’t be with them on the pack trips—his business depended on it. Many are involved in the stories he tells as they became packers ‘his way’, safety first, learning to observe and read horses and mules—and most of all, how to reach inside for something more they didn’t know they had. Thank you, Bill.

 

BOOK SIGNING

Saturday, October 29th
Noon to 4 p.m.
Courthouse Gallery and Museum
125 S. ‘B’ St.
Exeter, CA

ORDER:
% Bill DeCarteret
758 Sherwood St.
Exeter, CA 93221
(559) 592-2878
 
349 pp. $21.95

JUST ANOTHER SISYPHUS

 

December 10, 2015

December 10, 2015

 

1.
Small at first, rivers spill
High Sierra snowmelt,
water pure as it will ever be

falling to the call of gravity
and time’s relentless roar
over granite smooth, worn

by cataracts and cascades
dressed in rainbow mists
ascending to the whispers

among a million pines—
a timbered mat of arrows
headed to the sky.

2.
We have been there
in our perfect innocence
before our courses

changed the world
as it changed us.
I think it was the waiting

for the war I never served
that made me see that
spilling the blood of boys

could not kill ideas
or forever eliminate
a differing philosophy.

3.
Like water pooled
I am damned again
in someone else’s business

at the whims of men
I’ll never understand
beyond their lust for power

and their addiction to greed
while dancing to the tune
of men and women working

with their heads and hands.
I stay the slope and cling
to the sound of the river

chasing lyrics on paper
since the war—poor poetry
released like mist ascending

to the muse that must
report my plodding progress
to goddesses and gods.

 

RIO DE LOS SANTOS REYES

 

A man gives up early in the summer,
too warm for wine, too hot for evening
poetry to endure, before darkness closes

the oven doors to bake in the black.
The Kings River calls, trout singing
from the riffles, asking why, when

trails of natives and early settlers rise
into the mountains, spread like webs
into the pine cabins and camps

beside the mantra of running water
through the night. I go early to bed
to get there in my dreams.