It’s been years since we’ve seen much snow in the Great Basin, and despite its potential hazards and inconvenience, it’s a heartening sign of better health. January is a time of daily feeding for cattle ranchers in Nevada with temperatures hovering around zero — a pretty tough breed of man and beast!
Following fifty tons
through light showers
big alfalfa bales
towards our dry
we focus on raindrops
after a week of poetry
and song, to feel
our poor possibilities
grow by the truckload—
heavy with an endless
emptiness in our bellies
beneath the straps
of seat belts
before another wreck.
We hang on.
With a leisurely, late start from Elko, we encountered a few midday showers Monday, crossing Nevada’s Great Basin between Carlin and Tonopah, making for some interesting high-speed photos with the point and shoot.
Under a dark cloud outside Eureka, a blurry foreground beneath a crisp Lone Mountain on the ‘Lonliest Road in America’ (US 50).
Hay headed to dry California.
We stopped for a bowl of soup at the refurbished and reopened Mizpah in Tonopah,
then headed into to the sunset towards Bishop.
I’ll be thinking of my friend Jack this coming week in Elko, Nevada, one of the first hands I shook at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1989, as we waited to get our schedule of sessions, poetry and song. I had to introduce myself, having watched him perform at the Ashgrove many times in the late 60s. Our direct link to Woody Guthrie and the pure heart of the working man, he’s been magically expressing himself on stage for over 60 years.
WPC — “Express Yourself”
Yesterday’s poem is both current and fresh and seemed to resonate as we cut into our replacement heifers, sending 20% to town to pay the hay bill, and processing the balance with vaccinations, wormer and vitamins in preparation for the Wagyu bulls next month. Thankfully the poem seemed to lift my spirits once on paper.
The poem, on one level, is about the basics of dirt and flesh, but may be tame compared to a reoccurring image we refresh as we approach Carlin and US 80, each trip to Elko, Nevada at the end of January for the Gathering.
It’s usually mid-morning where NV 278 approaches the Humbolt River, some of the better grazing ground in Nevada under varying amounts of ice and snow. A rancher’s or ranch hand’s wife is at the wheel of a tractor we meet on the road, pulling a loaded or unloaded trailer, good-looking Angus cattle strung either side waiting or bent to flakes of hay. Her flaps are down around her ears behind the fogged windshield and we are cold and thankful we aren’t trying to raise cattle in Nevada. Nevadans are a different breed altogether.
One of many observations I attribute to my father is that lots of California ranchers move to Nevada with big ideas and dreams, only to return home after about three winters—that Nevada ranchers, like their horses, must be of tougher stock.