Tag Archives: youth



As great (for us) as the three-week Atmospheric River was, it put everyone’s branding schedules behind, most roads too wet to get to our cattle.  Normally, we’d be at Elko this time of year, but with travel and time away from business, we needed to stay at home before our calves got too big to handle easily.


When I look around our community’s branding pens I realize now that most of the old timers are gone, that we have taken their places going ‘old-people slow’, and we prefer it.  Fortunately we have some young muscle to work the ground.


Robbin and I have scaled our operation down, in part due to our heavy culling to adapt to consecutive years of drought and also by selling half of our cows to my son Bob.  Branding pasture by pasture, our bunches are now small enough to get by with three ropers, one calf stretched at a time.  Our relaxed pace has become even more conducive for old friends to visit while we get the work done.  These photos from our second branding of the season, it’s been great!


We head to Tony Rabb’s next week to brand after he assesses the rain forecast for this weekend.


How To Beat The Heat


What a delightful afternoon after work (8/19/22).  109 degrees at the ‘Sip and Dip’: Katy Fry, Allie & Shawn Fox with Robbin, Buster and Tessa. 


Last night’s rain left a glistening

on the leaves of limbs at dawn,


beads upon the redwood silver

twinkling like a Christmas tree.


White icing shines upcanyon,

dark chocolate in the creek flow,


first light ignites the sycamores

and cottonwoods to flames,


aged sorrel geldings buck and slide

in mud like fresh colts finding legs.


Last night’s rain left me dreaming

beyond this canyon—all a fantasy.





Yearning is an easy look
backwards, a slow-moving canvas
colored to taste, shaded by habit.

Our war whoops but echoes
fading in canyons on trails of broken
brush long-overgrown, mocking

our wild-eyed blindness
since sharpened and tempered
by scars upon scars and time.

Now is the moment we begin
to be all we can—to revel
in its rich accomplishment.




When we quit questioning,
when darkness falls
upon the wilderness of wonder,

are we afraid
of our imagination,
of other possibilities

among the night songs?
How full and fresh the child
that asks and asks, that sees

the disconnected weave
a vibrant tapestry!
How stale is he

that wears the answers
chiseled in a cave
to recite by braille.




The clichés rained
when I was young
like hollow outlines

I was destined to fill
with real details—
sayings tested with

practice dodging
bullets with agility
and dumb luck

to get old enough
to speak at funerals
of a few good friends

who rode with me,
or saw it all
from a distance:

no straight track
ricocheting minefields
heavily invested

in the senses. But
no longer hackneyed
hints for youth,

they become fresh,
reborn with answers
at our fingertips.












A boy’s bed upon the ground,
I stared at stars and wondered
if I was worth keeping alive

as I slept, if I could trust
the darkness to hold me
safe until morning—

looking up through
all the bright holes
of a rusty bucket sky,

connecting dreams
with a greater light
beyond the night—

I drew lines in the sky,
played dot-to-dot
instead of counting sheep.




Exploring with a gun alone, oak trees
spoke to me—Red Tails swooped
to the wounded and buzzards trailed

at a safe distance when I was ten—
half-wild, I thought, circumambulating
the endless draws and canyons that called

for company and conversation—shooting
squirrels and hunting rattlesnakes in rock piles.
They would have jailed my folks today.

The first butterfly I saw batted by a bobcat
played better than Walt Disney, better than
the Space Race, Cold War or Sputnik.


Out in California

Sulphur & 17, 2014

Sulphur & 17, 2014

It’s all new ground, this branding in the dry—even though Robbin rigged and ran a sprinkler from a spring-filled tank the day before to keep the dust down. Conditions were delightful. Still feeding everyday, but wearing down as we and our neighbors try to get a few calves marked as we go. It’s time, a month later than normal. Naturally, the calves are lighter, not the big and bloomy kind that draw compliments or test the ground crew.



Age and youth, the cowboy dream alive and realized in the same pen, at the same moment, under perhaps the worst circumstances of weather to date in California. Surviving the Drought of 1977 early in my career gave me confidence during the many dry years since, but these historical dry times will impact the future for man and beast for years to come. Busy with the basics, we have yet to imagine some of these far-reaching impacts.


But it’s reassuring to be in the company of neighbors, all of us in the same boat with the same decisions to make: whether to buy more hay or sell more cows—usually both that can’t last forever. Most our brandings roll ‘old-people slow’, just right for us and a few throwback kids that might want this kind of life. What they don’t know, of course, is that they invigorate and inspire us, help keep us going, make it all the more worthwhile.



Even now, the news glides like manes
and tails over me to pass beneath the sun—
sometimes precursors to a good rain,

a dark storm, but mostly mean nothing
to horses and cows, to the bobcat planted
at the outskirts of Squirrel Town, haunches

frozen in the filtered light. There was a time
I yearned to find my legs elsewhere, test
the edge and taste the wild among the crowd,

lust in love and make news of my own.
But born in the sticks, more like a coyote
than a house dog, I crave the space to grow

gray within my nature, stay to the canyon
and let the headlines pass like one more
empty cloud and save my howling for the moon.