Tag Archives: rain

My Birthday Branding

 

 

Through the cerise redbuds and wildflowers awaiting sunshine to fully bloom, our slow hour’s drive up Dry Creek, then descending a curvy 245 to the entrance of Woolley Canyon, we arrived to brand the last of Kenny and Virginia McKee’s calves yesterday, despite concerns of Covid-19. Social distancing is virtually impossible in the branding pen.

Virginia had soap and wipes available and Kenny had prepared a concoction of 90% alcohol and witch hazel to spray on our hands that I used several times. It took the dirt off as well. Though apprehension varied among us, there was none of the normal hugs or handshakes, most keeping a noticeable distance when possible. But when it came to the groundwork and vaccinations, the work was necessarily close.

My separate apprehension on my 72nd birthday centered on a horse that I had roped on only once before. Robbin and I have outlived our dependable mounts, and I have had to borrow horses to get through this year’s branding season. By the end of the day, “Twist” was beginning to overcome his cutting horse breeding and he and I were having fun. After a couple of more brandings next year, he’ll be reliable at brandings.

Though everyone was given the option of not participating, we were there to help our neighbors, a cultural exercise we all prescribed to despite the risks. Not unlike workers tending and harvesting crops, it’s what we do this time of year. Not branding is not a viable choice in Woolley Canyon.

Working together with neighbors for a few hours on a beautiful day was a luxurious diversion from the news as we await a forecast rain.

 

April Fool’s Day 2020

 

 

Yesterday, Robbin and I began our 26th year together by making a loop through Greasy to look at the cows and calves, assess our feed conditions and put out salt and mineral. The cattle look great! We got an early start to the grass with November and December rains, but with a dry January and February, we lost our feed at our lower elevations on the south and west slopes. To date, we’ve only received three inches since the first of the year, but the grass at the higher elevations has just begun to grow.

A Border Collie at five months, it was Tessa’s first extended ride in the Kubota away from the house. Channeling her energy has been a challenge, but she’s smart and willing to please. It was good for her to be completely lost away from home and dependent on us for over four hours. Tired before she went to bed last night, she was sitting in the Kubota waiting for another ride.

Not much has changed for us, despite the Coronavirus pandemic. Normally, we do our best to stay out of town anyway. Before we have to get our Wagyu calves in for a second round of vaccinations, we’ve been preparing and planting our garden for the past couple of weeks—it’s what we do this time of year—that in turn will help us stay out of town later this spring.

However, we are not immune to the news as we try to imagine millions of people shut in their living quarters in a big city environment. Our hearts go out to them as we realize how fortunate we are to be free to move around the ranch to get our work done. Having something to do during this crisis is indeed a luxury.

 

THE SOUNDS OF NORMAL

 

 

                                   Gasoline makes game scarce.
                                                   – William Stafford (“From the Move to California”)

A honk in the dark under clouds,
a lost goose circles the canyon’s walls
as it listens for an answer,

               as I listen to the creek
               rush instead of gurgle
               since the rain.

Turkeys gobble over the rise
I cannot see, pausing like tree frogs
to join the chorus.

Not a car on the road
with headlights dancing
between posts and barbed wire—

there are no bounds to the black,
no interruption to the sounds
approaching normal

as if we and our machines
have abandoned this canyon
to its own devices.

 

IDES OF MARCH 2020

 

 

Reading this, you
have survived the wars
by wit or luck
to suffer more.
It is our nature
to endure

when nothing,
               that eternal dark emptiness,
remains the same—

when nothing
               escapes change.

Inside my rabbit hole:

               last spring’s late rains
               brought pneumonia
               killing quail chicks
               while turkeys thrived
               and multiplied.

               This spring dry
               beneath mostly
               empty clouds,
               a carpet of golden
               fiddleneck
               beneath hard hills
               turned brown.

Beyond my hide-away:

               a scuffling of men
               (and women, too)
               changing places in line—

               some running for election,
               some running for cover,
               some running in fear
               to empty shelves
               to stay alive.

It is our nature to endure.

 

REPRIEVE

 

 

She didn’t stay long
or leave much in the way
of puddles,

her fine gray mist
to brighten green,
settle dust

and relieve the pain
of waiting
for a well-begged rain—

a sniff and taste
to lure us closer
toward our reward

like this cold dawn’s
chimney smoke,
flat to the ground,

drawn up-canyon
following her
discarded clouds.

 

     February 23, 2020
     0.15″

OUT OF DARKNESS

 

 

Alone in the dark
that shrouds anemic green
and short-stemmed fiddleneck
thinking February seed,

               the joyful gurgle
               of a shrinking creek
               gulps over cobbles

               to sit beside me
               on a cold and moist
               down-canyon breeze.

               Painted black,
               all sounds normal
               as if a sign.

Alone in the dark
I color hillsides leaking
beneath gray skies.

 

WEATHER REPORT

 

 

Up early, awaiting
confirmation of the storm
slated to rain out plans
to brand calves
without complaining,

                    feeding hay
                    on slick roads
                    to thin cows
                    as grass grows
                    against the cold
                    Winter Solstice.

Nothing on the news
but red and blue politics,
mass shootings
and fog on 99,
ads for fast foods,
wonder drugs
and old age—
not one damn thing
I want. Nothing

                    I can change
                    but feed more hay
                    to hungry souls.

 

‘TIS THE SEASON

 

 

                       There’s a dragon with matches that’s loose on the town
                       Takes a whole pail of water just to cool him down.

                                 – Grateful Dead (“Fire on the Mountain”)

After rain,
willows aflame,
green on black:

photographs
of germinating
truth taking root

after fire—after
the smoke clears
and dust disappears

with seasons changing—
we begin again
with grass.

 

JUST ADD WATER

 

 

Nine out of twelve days rain—
ground first to turn green
where an errant spark
blackened hillsides
three months back.

If only most of man’s mistakes
could be as easily erased
by just adding water
to all the bad actors
and their political stage plays.

 

LIKE ALWAYS

 

 

Little passion in the dry,
hard hills and dust trails—
little fire in the leaves
of sycamores and willows
preparing to undress.

                    No foreplay sure,
                    no long-range rain,
                    we feed more hay

                    and wait with cows
                    growing thinner
                    in the cold,
                    sucked down
                    by growing babies.

We taste the air and search for sign:
manes and tails and moon dog rings—
our annual drama of hackneyed details
we bury our hearts and heads within

instead of the direction of a nation
without honor or integrity—

                    in God we Trust.