I’ve heard stories I don’t remember
embellished into local myths
no longer true, no longer claimed
as I age, as memory fades
as it should from the far context
of most outdoor youths.
Oh, how we howled like a pack
of coyotes in these canyons—
louder yet in towns avoided now.
But a man learns not to dwell
on guilt, what can’t be helped
to please the righteous—
evolutions of imperfection
honed into an existence
we’ll soon live without.
find a breeze
with a distant grin
the daylight left
until you’re done.
When I got a little older, I changed.
Maria Lisa Eastman (“War Bridle”)
Summer winds breathe fire
with a bouquet of hollow wild oats
bent on chance and luck—
but we cannot look away
or ever dream relaxed.
One would think with age
and long experience, a man
would become emboldened
firebreaks and phoschex
that always help, but time
has proven reason often
beyond the comprehension
of some of us who wait
for the smell of smoke.
The creek still runs dry,
spends itself as it shrinks upstream
on oaks and sycamores
despite the goosenecks,
despite the cowboys
hauling calves to town—
despite the busloads,
despite the caravans
of weekend Christians
looking for God in the pines.
The County had to move the road
after the Flood of ’55
and rebuilt bridges in ‘69
where the canyon narrows
and the creek runs dry.
Still talk of a dam
every election year
as if it could make water.
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
Good to see a couple of bucks in velvet this morning, especially close enough to photograph with a cell phone while we were hauling some young cows up the hill to replace the old ones we took to town last week.
Families of milkweed make stands
in a mountain pasture of long-blond feed
where last year’s pods burst with seed
spun within the floss of silky filaments,
scattered outposts of native settlements
I have avoided except for nods of respect.
Host to bugs and beetles, wild bees
and butterflies, they get-along
together well, without and despite us.
Ran across this striking perennial earlier this week after loading some dry cows to go to town. Apparently common, I have never seen Silverleaf Nightshade, so I went back this morning to photograph it. Related to the tomato, potato and many other garden vegetables, it is poisonous with narcotic properties. And like many nightshades, natives prepared concoctions with the fruit to address headaches, sore throats, etc. Also the root was chewed before sucking rattlesnake venom from a bite. I continue to wonder how the natives knew when to pick the berries and how much of their preparations to ingest. All in the realm of the medicine keepers, I suspect it was not just trial and error.
© Terri Blanke
We processed a nice bunch of steer and heifer calves this morning that averaged 700 lbs. yesterday after hauling them from the Paregien Ranch. The steers will probably weigh in the 750 lbs. range, the heifers lighter. Today’s market wants calves in the 650 lbs. range to turn out on Mid-West grass, and pays less/pound for the heavier cattle, essentially giving away the extra pounds of beef we’ve worked to produce over the years. But nothing stays the same.
Despite market conditions, the good news is that there are many very nice replacement heifers in this bunch. Robbin and I maintain that we’re raising cows and that the steer calves help pay the bills.
@ Allie Fry
We saddled in the dark and drove up to the Paregien Ranch this morning to haul the calves down the hill to be weaned, a 3 mile, 30 minute, 4-wheel drive one-way pull off the asphalt from 700 feet to the 2,600 foot elevation. Terri, Allie and Robbin got the cows and calves to the old corrals at sunup to sort the cows from their calves. Nice, smooth sort. We had to lighten our gooseneck loads to about 7,000 lbs., instead of 10,000 lbs., because of this year’s slippery dry grass on the roads. But safer to make the extra trips than to lose a pickup and gooseneck, not to mention calves, or to get someone hurt.
It feels fantastic to finally have the last of the calves in the weaning pen. We’ve been gathering and weaning on other parts of the ranch since the second week in May. Tomorrow these calves get processed and bad eyes doctored. Next Tuesday the steers head to town. Whoopie-ti-yi-yay!