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March 31, 2010


Do you remember how the old road clung
close to the creek, narrow track in and out
of every draw, strewn with leaves? Loose

barb wire hung from old redwood posts
at ease, relaxed and patched at tangents
of each curve into the creek, hubcaps

peeking from the weeds. Part of the job
was looking off the edge for evidence –
grass laid flat, turned boulders scuffed

or splintered posts each morning, before
the cows got out into the long pasture.
Check inside the cab for corpse or dreams

of no better place to spend the night
than with cricket violinists and a tree frog
chorus with steam and water whispering.

You had to drive it slow, forty years ago –
before they straightened it for safety, before
the ambulances and vehicles we don’t know.

Rain: .04"

March 27, 2010

Spring Color

Redbud & Live Oak in Bloom

Fiddlenecks in the Saddle

Poppies & Fly

March 26, 2010


I hear me talking to myself, a mumbling
that strums like a song in my skull –
first daylight dew when I cannot move

without leaving tracks through settlements
of fiddlenecks, ridges skiffed with popcorn
flowers, boots of an old child sprinkled

with petal sequins, white and gold –
trapped in the middle of a melody
I can stretch into the sunlight waiting

warm ahead. A Red-Tail investigates,
and I believe now, recognizes me –
understands my business in his territory,

hears the song in my head. It could all
be a dream, clumped candelabras of golden
poppies folded in flames, marking our way.


My usual fear this time of year is that we can get so busy that we don’t get a chance to just notice and enjoy spring. The oaks are in a hurry to get leaves, cows in the shadow of bare trunks and limbs – this past week: highs to 80 degrees, redbuds crimson now against the green, fiddlenecks and popcorn flowers claiming much of the canyon’s hillsides, poppies burning holes high on the peaks. But there always seems to be an urgency in the air – this year, too, as we try to finish branding calves in places we couldn’t get to because of our great January and February’s rains.

Also a very nice memorial for my mother, family and friends last Saturday.

After branding a little bunch of huge calves yesterday and barbecuing grass-fed burgers, visiting and the clean-up, Robbin and I looked at each other last night with both relief and disbelief – wondering if we may be getting too old for this. Not sure what she’s got planned today, but I’m headed clear-the-hell up the hill on the Kawasaki Mule with some salt and my camera to check on the calves we branded, hoping she can see her way clear to come with me for a good, deep breath of space.

March 19, 2010

Signs of Spring


March 15, 2010


A boy learned that the truth leaves tracks
when we were young explorers
on the trail to understanding this world –

and when mischief leaped to stir our senses,
we could not hide our way back
with lies, without leaving tracks behind.

We may forget them, even – hope the wind
and weather erase the proof
lurking in the dark, waiting to shake hands

and be friends again. That’s who we were,
once upon a time before
talk got so expensive, so multi-syllabic,

so close to home. We have come to believe
that we are the assonance,
and wear our simplistic slogans like Nashville

sequins and whole earth ball caps, so often
that we want to become them,
hoping to hide the truth of being human.

March 12, 2010

David Wilkie

Dave Wilkie stopped by to get in shape for the SF Giants Spring Training and photograph a branding on the Elliot Ranch, a few miles farther up Dry Creek.


John & Red


Across the creek at Rancheria, horses and mules atop the ridge on vacation from Charlie MIlls' Horse Corral Pack Station.


Clay Lyons


Garth Maze


Chuck Fry & Toby



Kyle Loveall & Garth Maze

Randy Garrett & Aaron Elliot

Mark Savage

Everett Welch

Mark Savage

Mark & Everett

It was great to be able to get back to work after a month or so of rain - a beautiful day to share with the neighbors - a major climate change for Dave. Great photos, amigo!

March 10, 2010

Dry Creek Drive


Good to see Craig and Ronnelle Ainley using Dry Creek Road to move their Charolais-cross heifers up the canyon, about a five mile drive in all.

March 6, 2010


I had no garden when I first came to this spot
behind the knoll the natives claimed, echoing
beneath horses hooves still – just wild oats

to the windowsills of the faded double-wide
I bought from a Sacramento bank and moved
along a game trail between two canyons

that only run water in a downpour. Offspring
of the two huge rattlesnakes, first night here,
still find their way back, following something

I feel too, clearing the cactus I planted then.
A coming home, shovel and pitchfork work
towards a different place to rest my eyes.

My flesh is drawn into the damp soil,
producing visions, different versions of future
fruit - sweet gloamings shared on a new stage.

March 5, 2010


No more Paul Bunyan dreams
of recreating landscapes, no ‘nod
and throw’ replays out of the box,

no horsehair hung in shiny rowels
to reprove yesterday – that fearless muse
sparks the rhymes of youth.

No hurry now, no impossible task
to subdue, to submit to, to tell the crew
each time wilder. I can see

myself farther off, out of this flesh
in your eyes, in the timbre
of each word. I flex inside

but grin, non-plused – listen like
your day was just another sunset
in this canyon – but keep it alive

with moustache rising. Then I beg
for details of terrain, of the cattle,
to picture it again.

We are so childlike,
even as old men grinning
among the young, strong hearts

so seldom sure - no guarantees,
but paying attention
to a lifetime’s run of good luck.

March 4, 2010


We’ve got rain and plenty work, stacking-up
across the creek, the garden always calling
for a visit. Nothing’s changed all that much.

Not like the days and nightmares, he left behind
when he took-off for parts unknown.
You made it easy, kept everyone away

with insistent wishes your friends ignored.
This year’s calves from your black cows
may be the best ones yet, with all this grass.

Take a look, first chance you get – I know
we say it every year, but they’ll weigh-up
like little bears. And the wildflowers, Mom…

it’s worth a visit around the equinox. The kids
are driving, flying-in to gather in the garden –
plant something special for you to find!

64 hundreths more!

March 3, 2010

Collision of Raindrops


March 2, 2010


I will be reading to the future, assorted
children at Lincoln School where I rode my bike
half-mile down Spruce to Palm Drive,

where the high school kids parked at night
either side of the Pogue house – dodging potholes
into town and past the hospital – all closed down.

Fifty years ago I learned to pledge Allegiance,
say the Lord’s Prayer, pick which version
to contemplate, ‘debtors’ or ‘trespassers’,

for many years after, but I kept my head bent.
Pat still remembers me as an incorrigible,
busy kid on the playground. No old, dead horse

poems, I’ve found my mother’s ‘Aesop
for Children’ and remember the Milo Winter
illustrations I searched hours in pastel detail –

the mouse gnawing the lion’s rope, the gnat
and the bull – still digesting: the smaller
the mind the greater the conceit.

March 1, 2010


I fell in love with sweaters, early on –
not the heavy knit and fuzzy ones,
but colors clung to hills like grass
in all seasons,

            the autumn flesh tones,
            the tie-dyed springs.

                            We prayed for rain,
                            for rivers run,
                            we prayed again
                            for more to come.

                            With wild a buzz
                            in dream and sun –
                            we fell in love,
                            became undone

            forever after.

It starts there, early on the tip
of each bare branch – a tiny,
green heart reaching,
testing light and temperature

before the buds burst crimson.
Flailing shoots I fail at pruning
into naked, hydra-headed grace,
the redbud sheds her petals

for big heart leaves
to the prolonged crescendo
of daytime hums and nighttime
croaking, so deafening

            I never knew
            why I reached so
            on my tip toes.

But it starts there, early on –
you feel the hillsides breathing
beneath you, around you –
feeding dreams for life.

The opinions expressed in the Western Folklife Center's Deep West online journals are those of the online journal participants and not the Western Folklife Center. The Western Folklife Center does not moderate these journals and as such does not guarantee the veracity, reliability or completeness of any information provided in the journals or in any hyperlink appearing within them.

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