Tag Archives: neighbors

How To Beat The Heat

 

What a delightful afternoon after work (8/19/22).  109 degrees at the ‘Sip and Dip’: Katy Fry, Allie & Shawn Fox with Robbin, Buster and Tessa. 

SMALL WORLD

Small world here, an eddy

in the cutbank of a raging stream

            like Roaring River

before it dumps into the Kings—

Río de los Santos Reyes,

            or like Cloud Canyon

our honeymoon camped

            upon soft needles

            in the moving shadow

            of a huge Sugar Pine—

            Cement Table

apart from the foaming current

and thunderous cascades

of man’s designs.

 

Small world here making circles,

gathering cattle to brand

around the weather,

putting crews of neighbors

and meals together

for a picnic:

            bring your horse

            for a slow dance

            of wide loops,

            tight ropes

            and camaraderie—

            we are family

            chasing seasons

            for a lifetime.

 

Small world here in the darkness

of a moonless morning, stars

like glinting diamonds set

in black velvet, a universe

unfolding beyond reason.

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.

Winter Solstice – Wagyu X Branding

Though no one dares complain about the rain, we’ve been working towards a branding between storms as the corrals dry out.  Yesterday began cold and foggy as the sun broke through occasionally.

With an exceptional crew of neighbors, it was fun and relaxed for our first branding of the year, a good opportunity for Allie (Fry) Fox to sharpen her skills.  She’s been part of this ranch since she was a baby.

 

It’s always a pleasure having Douglas Thomason in the pen bringing his quiet and calm expertise to the party.  Bodie, his young son below, looks ready to follow in his footsteps.

What a great day!  Robbin and I are thrilled. Thank you all!  With wild and varied predictions of rain (Atmospheric River) through New Years beginning this evening, we’re ready to enjoy the holidays. 

RABB BRANDING TALK, 2021

Terri Blanke Photo
Before the surplus oilfield pipe
replaced the split redwood posts 
and creosoted oak railroad ties,
 
we remember the old board pens,
acorns tucked twixt crack and plank,
fiery lichen on the backside
of weather-worn 2 x 8s:
 
            distant brandings—
            deceased men—
            voices imitated—
            old saws saved 
            that we exchange, 

each triggering the next 
underhanded head loop loosed 
to hang for an instant, 
 
we snare memories 
like calves to brand—lifetimes 
stretched from hand to hand. 


 

Branding: Paregien Ranch 2019

 

 

Despite local forecasts for rain, we made the trek up the hill with our neighbors to brand our first bunch of calves for the season. Over the years here, we’ve dealt with fog, rain and snow, but yesterday the sun broke through the gray to complete a beautiful day.

 

 

Additional hazards are these two Blue Oaks that Effie Hilliard incorporated when she built these corrals many decades ago, one of which is now a casualty of our 4-year drought. Though we’ve threatened to remove them, consensus has been that they remain.

 

 

Though we see one another individually throughout the year, the first branding of the year is always a special get-together for all of us.

 

 

One of the benefits of trading labor is that everyone knows how we want the job done, whether a horseback or on the ground. You just can’t hire any better help than our neighbors.

 

 

And one of the drawbacks, as we age, is that some of us have now outlived our horses. Finding a replacement gentle and trustworthy enough for old men is not easy, but Tony Rabb brought a young buckskin mare to the branding pen for the first time with impressive success. Robbin and I thank everyone for helping us get the job done.

 

MONTEREY SAND

 

 

Neither cowman nor a threat
to his counterfeit Brahma cows,
he shuffled afoot at eighty-five
with a flake of grassy alfalfa
tucked under his arm, led them
out of the brush into his splintered
board pens mumbling under
his breath—dried spittle of snooce
upon his gray unshaven chin.

Like loading deer to help him
haul his calves to town, kept
his cash in the freezer of the fridge
before they robbed and tied
to a chair for two days and nights—
before his girlfriend missed him
with his POA in her hand—
before she sold him downriver
to move to Monterey sand.

 

* * * *

POA: Power of Attorney

 

WHO WE WERE

 

 

Frozen in the folds of time:
blue smoke, oak flames,
gathered neighbors fed
when the work was done.

For 90 years, Cutlers drove cattle
to Rowell Meadow until 1953—
everybody came for my mother’s
father’s whiskey, meat and beans.

To get along, we will forgive
our ill-behavior, overlook
our extravagances, but sadly
we will forget who we were.

 

Gallery

McKee Branding 2016

This gallery contains 14 photos.

Got Weeds!

 

20160206-IMG_5004

Malva neglecta, Common Mallow, Cheeseweed, doing well.

We, as well as all of our neighbors, are busy branding or gathering to brand before the next forecast wave of El Niño arrives in the middle of next week. Hampered by the good fortune of past rains, we’re behind schedule. The grass is growing, cows milking well, calves now range over 400 pounds that is tough on ground crews and horses, as well as the calves. Depending on one another’s help to brand takes planning with an unmistakable sense of urgency in the air to get the work done. We’re planning to brand Wednesday, but not before helping a neighbor brand on Tuesday so he and his ground crew can help us.

But we’ve got weeds. The Common Mallow loves disturbed ground, and a scourge in places where cattle gather and chew their cuds. Not surprisingly, Malva neglecta has a long history of medicinal uses. Friday, I encountered a healthy patch that obscured the road as I left Dry Creek to scout the Top before meeting Clarence and the girls in our gather. All but one cow gathered or accounted for as of yesterday, we hope they stay until Wednesday.

How ‘bout those Super Broncos? What an intense defense!!