Spectacular weather yesterday on the Paregien ranch. Above 2,000 feet in elevation and twenty 4 x 4 minutes from the asphalt, it is a magic place rich with native and anecdotal history. Currently, the feed is short but still greening since the 1.45” we got on the 6th, 7th and 8th of this month. The cattle have left the flats for the slopes and ridges where the new grass is growing faster, protected from frost by the remnants of old feed. Early last week the prognosticators canceled today’s rain, but have now forecast a significant amount for Thursday into the weekend. (We’ll see.)
While pumping water, looking for the neighbor’s errant bull and measuring the corrals for a much-needed makeover, Robbin and I spent the morning with the Fry/Fox family cutting Manzanita and Live Oak deadfall for our woodstove because of my tendonitis. With our many hands, what fun we had!
It’s been several months since I carelessly cut a tree in the road that knocked me down, damaging the rotator cuff of my right shoulder. And about a month since compensating for it to pop a tendon, sounding like a gun shot, in my left forearm. Enlisted now in medical protocol and procedures, it’s taken a couple of weeks to confirm the damage with an MRI. Apparently surgery and long recovery is my best option. I see the Dr. again in 4 weeks, meanwhile I’m supposed to do nothing.
I am amused that only children and seniors measure their age in half-years, kids because they want to be older, and seniors, I suppose, eager to numerically reassure themselves of their existence. I’m 74 ½ and need to act my age. My life, our life, on this ranch has always been physical and it’s been too easy for me to forget I’m no longer fifty or sixty building fence or bucking hay. But to have our good friends and neighbors volunteer to help us get some firewood in was truly a wonderful gift on a beautiful day. Thank you Chuck and Lesley Fry, Katy and Cody Hanson, and Allie and Shawn Fox. You guys are the best!
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.