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July 31, 2010

July 31, 2010

Not far from here, wild oats run like cream
around granite outcrops, off hills to the creek.
We are specks in it, in this canyon melting,

early morning. Blond empty heads bow and
kiss our shoulders, as four, first-calf heifers
circumambulate a far ridge, discuss at length

which trail to take, if we have hay. The breeze,
cool and friendly here as you call them closer,
as they remember the taste of fresh alfalfa

plodding along the track from tongues
in heavy heads of bone – grinding leaf
and stem, sweet rapture rumbles in their eyes.

Last year’s calves grown-up to be mothers,
a deep and careful look within the churn
of something new, alive within them.

July 30, 2010

July Dawn

California Buckeye
Greasy Creek - Sec. 17
July 30, 2010

Left early this morning to locate the second-calf heifers I missed on Tuesday, beating the sunrise to Section 17. In all its different stages, the California Buckeye is a beautiful tree, first to leaf-out in early spring, long, white tassels in bloom, first to turn, mid-summer - most ghoulish come Halloween, reddish leaves dripping from white, fingerlike branches. Amongst the Live Oaks, this mid-summer stage was quite striking in this morning’s first light.

July 27, 2010

Before My Time


Escaped this morning to Greasy to look at our second-calf heifers due to calve in 30 or so days. Early morning cool, horses bucking and playing when I fed them, scent of fall on the grass, this weather change influenced by a high-pressure low off the coast and monsoon conditions in the Southwest. Thought we needed a picture to separate these damn poems.

July 26, 2010


Silver-lined thunderheads at dawn,
a sign banked for my myopia,
or the ambush crouched beyond

the mountains. Set afire, set adrift
ships leak west – runaway prairie
schooners cast across a purple sky

pursued by paint horses in my mind –
over the head of the watershed, a little
north of where I wait for another day

of 100 degrees in the shade. We feel
for a connection, for wild expression
as harbingers of hope for mankind,

and entertain the change in weather
that may save our children
from having to learn the hard way.

July 25, 2010


Drifting far from the main
we retreat to new movies in our dreams,
that illusion that we are central,
as individuals, in the survival of beings -

investing in empty games,
embracing moments with nothing to show
from our hands, hearts and intellect
except a greater distance from the whole,

we have become islands – even
as a tree frog clings to the door at dawn
on his swinging, perpendicular plane
after harvesting the glass and a light left on.

Our tracks from the dark thicket
have been erased. We are free to forget
where we come from, untied
to drift upon every sea of regret.

July 23, 2010


The sun slides within
a narrow plane between the eve
and the top of the ridge,

a blinding crack of light,
later now, moving south
from Sulphur Peak,

sneaking south towards
shorter days, cooler nights –
towards less urgency

to saddle horses in the dark
where white-haired winter waits –
a frosty grin, a chance of rain.

Imagine the curiosity
that measured days off peaks
of pyramids, off spikes of stars,

tiny wedges of days
to make a moon, circling
full while Apollo rides

the ridge and back again,
again and again and again,
no matter the news.

July 22, 2010


Dirt lot six days a week,
pens empty five,
no place to park
among the pickups, goosenecks
and aluminum big rigs –

no stanchions for assorted sizes
waiting for a load of cows
bred up-close for
a seven hundred dollar calf
this time next year.

I hear my father in my head,
'When the parking lot’s full,
go home and bring a load to town,
but be buying when it’s empty -
the majority’s usually wrong.'

Robbin and I went to town to see some bred-heifers, that we sold last year as yearlings, sell – to see how they compared with their mates at home bred to the Wagyu, due to start calving next month – wishing we had them back with plenty of grass left. Of special value to us: native cattle and our genetics. Knew when we pulled into the parking lot that we couldn’t afford them. Damn, they looked good, fetching $1,425 – 1,485 ea. Wow, what a market!

July 16, 2010


Dry Creek @ CDF Crossing
July 14, 2010

We Bangs vaccinated the heifers yesterday, shipping the steer calves early this a.m. Too hot to sleep, I included another photograph of Dry Creek just to feel cooler.

July 14, 2010

Western Morning Glory

Western Morning Glory
Greasy Creek
July 14, 2010

I found quite a patch in the horse lot below Sulphur Spring, near where Earl McKee's folks had a cabin. He burnt it down years ago when his good stud found some squirrel poison that he had stored inside. Just Mornining Glory, now.

Ides of July


Dry Creek is still running at the CDF Fire Control crossing (same spot as banner above) after a good, wet fall, winter and spring. Typically, Dry Creek has stopped flowing at this time of year.

July 13, 2010


If you ever decide to quit
looking beyond the asphalt
buck-stitched by barb wire,

if you can’t see either side
to your current destination
since you were a kid,

if your everyday is
planned and paced
to the drum of a clock,

you may not notice them
moving quickly to hide
just behind your ear.


I weed around a square
smudge pot from the Forties
between the lime and lemon

to remind me of cold nights
and its red-hot pulse for hours
on nickel-a-gallon oil,

saving Christmas oranges
for wooden crates of gold.
Its bottom full of starlit

pinholes, swamping lugs
at night down orchard rows
of nettles stinging

the face of a 10 year-old
craving manhood – the real
close and lasting past me.

July 11, 2010


Nonsense drones like bumblebees
in the Palo Verde busy upside-down,
clutching yellow petals
before they fall to carpet ground
where weeds won’t grow.

For a month of evenings, two
ravens claim the top rail
by the well, black silhouettes
edging into one like lovebirds
pressed into a summer’s night.

At the gate, a rattlesnake owns
the loading chute we seldom use.
A leaky trough keeps grass
for cottontails green and
ground squirrels from floating.

Overnight, a weasel stacked our
two mama cats and a dozen kittens,
we gave away, atop a bale
of oat hay in a neighbor’s barn
full of mice and rats.

Good year for ducks, the creek
has run into July, evening Vs
pump down canyon over
Snowy Egrets wading warm
with Great Blue Herons

beneath new emerald canopies –
sycamores dressing for the heat
below the dark-blue smear
of leather oak leaves
on bleached-blond feed.

The Kaweah foams cold
with snowmelt, an upstream
drowning, another body lost
along the way-too-soon
before our weather changes.

July 10, 2010


            Wood that can learn is no good for a bow.
                                                - William Stafford ("The Answers
                                                        Are Inside the Mountains")

Odd places claimed in the heart, evergreen
in steep, loose scree to where Wu Gang
packs his axe before the sun clears the ridge.

Each step slips where there is no trail,
no easy ascent from where the dirt track
ends at Ragle Springs. His every day,

every swing erased by starlight – myth
transplanted to fit my landscape, rooted to
a pocket on Sulphur like a permanent

boutonnière – it can heal from a distance
greater now than inhaling the pungent
blood of bark with crushed bay leaves.

July 8, 2010


Too big to fight, too slow to change,
the wheels on the outside are painted-on,
layers of faces disconnected from gears

that grind-out promises, grind-down reserves,
and grind-up dreams. It ingests us, growing
still, and almost stationary, always hungry

for power. We dodge cogs and rollers
in the sort to nest near broken welds and seams
for the outside light, praying to our gods.

You are old enough, now, to see where
we’ve come from, and what has become
of humanity dumbed-down with slogans

from the poets on the payroll, the quick
and easy assonance that lubricates
today's friction to absolve us all.

July 7, 2010


Good space is hard to find
On this earth – or in your mind.

Cherish it, protect it, nurture –
Take it for granted? Never.

Dirt is the forgotten truths
From which all things bloom,

But without heart, vision
And hope they become barren

And sparse landmarks between
Horizons. Love where you’ve been,

Trade your princes for kings.
Trust in what your good space brings.

July 5, 2010


A slow song lingers on long days
under a 110 sun, Apollo reins to loiter
in the blue stretched between steep

horizons. Mind on the fuzzy edge
of delirium, lyric mantras arrive like
friends from 1965. I am thirsty,

just as naïve as then, listening
through poor acoustics to my
reshuffled rhymes reverberating,

new words to a familiar tune
inserted as the forgotten fade.
By noon, I can’t look up to face

the light, blinded by harness silver
set afire, despite my Atwood palm
and diluted sun block leaking

down channels of emotion cut
deeper with time – the haunting
melody that begs to cry with,

and for, the persistent spirit
humbly camped within us
with a good lot on its mind.

                                    - for Tom Russell


July 4, 2010

6:33 A.M.


Sabbath 4th, horses wait
and watch the house
before the sun pours
over the ridge
like molten steel.

July 3, 2010


When dawn invades dark reverie
and hillsides rise to meet the light,
I take wing on all that could be
to find the grace for grounded flight.

            There is nothing out there beckoning,
            no tempting dreams rich with success,
            only circles ‘round a reckoning:
            that life is more when I am less.

Sweet the sound of wild awakening,
of forgotten souls that come and go –
I hear words to steal and sing,
meaning more than I’ll ever know.

As shadows dress blond, dry slopes
to hide the trees from July’s sun,
cities churns with human hopes
before it all becomes undone.

Come time I pass into that night,
into that cloud of timeless dust,
to be inhaled by grounded flight,
to find a grace that I can trust.

July 2, 2010

When the work's all done...

Clarence Holdbooks & Robbin

Robbin and Clarence chat in front of the tack room after riding the steer calves last Saturday morning.

July 1, 2010

Steers 2010







With an early start tomorrow morning, we’ll give our steers a second round of vaccinations, as well as attach the EID tags for age and source verifying. Steers average 740 lbs. and gaining 1.5 lbs./day. All will be weaned at least 30 days by July 14th.

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