The landmark peak connecting
watersheds and neighbors here
and gone blazes with a rainbow
at sunset illuminating faces and stories
gathered to replay in places
to leave no track but in my thoughts—
my short history on this ground,
the tragic and the magic banked
at the center of my small universe.
Not to be weaned after years
of grazing cattle between her breasts,
we know the warm shelter of her flesh
apart from unkind men and women
striving for inane advantage
and choose to stay long after death,
stirred and interred between the rocks
where the native midden rests,
where horses hang their heavy heads
awaiting work, where all the gods
have been welcome. The eagle
on the skyline knows our minds,
deciphers gestures, understands
what few humans he’ll ever know
as witness to our wishes.
Where wild remains
heavenly in spring,
where deer dance
and Golden Eagles nest
close to a generous sky.
Only God knows why.
for Earl McKee
On our tour of Greasy last Saturday, Robbin and I noticed that the Golden Poppies on Sulphur Ridge had been replaced by a sizeable patch something purple. I emailed a photo to Earl McKee, who grew up, ran cattle and owned the Greasy Creek Ranch before selling it to our family. Legs too old and Sulphur too steep for a look closer than a telephoto lens, I asked to see if he knew what the light purple flowers were.
Looks like the wild lavender has taken over the beautiful poppies, as planned. As Carlyle Homer used to say “I like them pretty l’il purple flowers that come out towards the end of the grass season!”
When ever I see that “Ol Laurel Patch” up there on the side of Sulphur Mountain, it brings back many of my younger days buck huntin’ with my Dad all over the face of Sulphur. It was right in those Laurels that my Dad and I and Joe Chinowith were leading our horses (in about 1946). Joe was following behind a young bronc my Dad was leading, and slipped in the wild oats and fell too close, and that bronc kicked Ol’ Joe and broke his leg!
As I recall, Joe was ridin’ “Ol Lep” who was real gentle, and we carefully loaded Joe on him and led him off of that mountain. I remember Joe’s face being white with pain all the way to the Exeter Hospital.
Thanks John for making my day with familiar scenes from the past.
Players & Places:
Joe Chinowith—Indian cowboy who worked for my grandfather.
Carlyle Homer—Dry Creek cattleman
Sulphur Ridge—elevation over 3,000 feet and 3 hours from Exeter in 1946
Earl McKee—best damned storyteller I’ve ever known.
Naturally, I looked ‘wild lavender’ up on Calflora with no luck, but like so many wildflowers, the botanists forgot to check with the old timers before they gave them latin names. I then tried the family Lamiaceae, and by process of elimination it appears that these wildflowers are known as Horse Mint or Nettle Leaf Giant Hyssop, Agastache urticifolia . It’s such a pleasure learning something new everyday.
The Roadrunner’s cry like a hawk
has changed to deep flute songs
calling spring like Kokopelli
in poppies on Sulphur Ridge,
wildfires spread across the green
where snows have lain.
Always his drawing in my mind,
these golden slopes he climbed—
the poem wrote before he died
too young, thirty-five years ago.
Sulphur sings his song today,
remembering all we can’t forget.
Gooseneck and old corrals
to gather a watershed
to take to town.