Robbin and I spent most of yesterday checking the cows and calves in Greasy, scattering salt and mineral beneath the Golden Poppies on Sulphur. Colder and under quite a bit of snow this winter, the grass and wildflowers are just getting started. Note all the drought-killed Blue Oaks in the foreground.
Low snow up canyon, cold
rain at dawn, vernal pools
in the pasture stand full
waiting for Wood Ducks,
waiting for spring.
Sycamores stripped naked,
their white limbs wave
from across the creek
upon these ponds of water
in the evening sun.
Headlights slash the darkness,
a caravan of jeeps
and 4-wheel drives
whine down canyon—
weary songs back home.
Overnight rain, wind, hail and a light dusting of snow down to 2,000 feet for our Christmas present on Dry Creek. Fairly rare, especially during the last four years.
Whole family here jamming into the late night hours (10:00 p.m., 3 hours past my bedtime), Robbin and Bob with guitars, Jaro and I with harmonicas, all singing what lyrics we knew.
All good, beautiful morning, Christmas 2015!
Bagels and lochs on the deck.
Errant gods return
to paint earth and sky, bring
dark light after dry.
October slips away from the sun
sliding south down the ridgeline
after a quick rain clears
settles summer’s dust,
for a day:
to another adventure—
nearly 25,000 now.
No calls from beyond
to generations waking
from dreams and restless sleep.
On top in the brush
a 2” x 2” surveyor’s pole,
a Challenge Butter buck
not quite in rut.
Spring poppy overlay of gold
winter cap of snow—
always changing clothes.
Weekly Photo Challenge: “(Extra)ordinary”
To complete our documentation of last week’s efforts to improve the availability of water for cattle, Terri Blanke stands beside the upper concrete box last Wednesday, one of many constructed by Earl McKee, Sr. and Lee Maloy in the 1930s when they packed cement and sand on mules from the Kaweah River, five miles and 2,500 feet in elevation away.
From the bottom, the upper box was plumbed to the lower box with 1½“ steel pipe too rusty and leaky to repair, rendering the lower box useless. In the 1990s, Earl McKee, Jr. and Chuck Fry constructed the pond below with dozers to collect all the leaks plus seasonal runoff. Dirt tank dry by the end of June for past two years, I installed the little galvanized trough last year to provide clean water by utilizing a hole in the side of the upper box.
While David Langton was mucking out the pond at Grapevine last Saturday, I plumbed the second concrete tank to the overflow of the little galvanized trough with 1 ¼“ PVC and galvanized riser. On Monday, while David was covering the PVC, he bumped the rock beside the galvanized trough with his backhoe’s outrigger, which moved the empty trough and snapped my PVC fill pipe. We plugged the flow from the upper box with a plastic bag and I went for hose at the corrals a mile below to syphon water into the galvanized trough rather than lose it, giving me time (2½ hours) to get to town for galvanized pipe replacements.
There wasn’t enough water stored in the little galvanized trough for the fourteen head of cows living at Ragle Springs, yet the little trough filled and overflowed at night. Assuming the lower box doesn’t leak as it fills, we will have enough water stored for the fourteen cows—a good day for all.
My pagan sunrise hangs over the black ridge
reaching for the saddle this side of Sulphur
Peak with blinding light, this native place
where women healed themselves—to endure
this longest day of hundred degree heat.
Each day shorter, we move with confidence
towards October, imagine gusts beneath
dark clouds that bring the storm gods closer
to bless this dry and dusty dirt with rain.
It was good to see her,
visiting like a sister
forty days late
with much on her mind.
Never aging and beautiful,
she spent the afternoon
outside in the gray—
left a rainbow behind.
Sulphur Peak – March 3, 2015
For most who don’t know, my family purchased the Greasy Creek Ranch from Earl McKee, mentor, surrogate father and good friend for nearly fifty years, where Robbin and I run our cows and calves. Upon seeing the photo of the two bull calves that escaped a simple gather to the corrals for branding, he was moved to write the following poem:
My mind recalls this precious glade
Where these two youngsters lived and played,
And like years ago their ears would hear,
The trumpeting wails of their fathers near.
That trail close by, I long have trod,
On a favorite horse, these hands have shod,
We both know the song that the Robins sing,
And the sounds of the cattle, where the cowbells ring.
Where the blooming Chaparral smells so fair
And the scent of wild flowers fills the air.
Who wouldn’t come back to this peaceful place,
To see Sulphur Mountain’s Majestic face?
I too, wish I could return once more,
To what these two calves, were longing for,
God planned for this place to be left alone,
And like them, I will always say, “That’s Home”.
E. A. M. — 3/13/2015
Top of Sulphur – March 3, 2015
…you’re not the only ones
who don’t get ‘em all
gathered and branded:
mothers friends, born
and raised together
in trees tangled with brush,
running mates escaping
the Horse Lot in Greasy.
You were there when
they bolted at the sight
of more cowboys
than they’d ever seen—
panicked partners on a whim
hell bent through the fence
for the safety of home
will never know the ropes,
our hot iron or knife,
headache of dehorning
for the fifty pounds
of recuperation. Not worth
it now to anyone.
for Virginia McKee
WPC(2) — “Reward”
Posted in Photographs, Poems 2015, Ranch Journal
Tagged branding, Calves, cows, photographs, poetry, ranch economics, reward, slicks, Sulphur Peak, weekly-photo-challenge