13 January, 2007

Double Rainbow over Deer Creek Valley Ranch

Cenntenial Ranch Cycle

Some days ago, Jack Hamilton and I exchanged e-mails about hunting "varmints"...song dogs or coyotes, and other ranch life on the eastern plains of Colorado.

I sent him a poem 'bout a friend's ranch up near Bailey, Colorado. It is a "Centennial" designation ranch in the State of Colorado. That means that is has been in the same family, with the same brand for over one hundred years. It will always remain so and can not be sold off for development without the family and State coming to an agreement.
Jack asked if I had any other poems. I figured that this was a good time to reactivate my blog and share 'em with y'all...not just Jack.
The Deer Creek Valley Ranch, as it is named, is of modest size for Colorado, being some 600 plus acres. Deer Creek runs right through the middle of the pie shaped parcel of land, almost bisecting it. The rancher runs a small herd of cattle, raises and cuts sweet pasture hay every summer. In 1998 he entered a steer that won Reserve Grand National Champion status the The National Western Stock show here in Denver. Its a sweet piece of property. I visit at least a couple of times a year, do some fishing, hunting or just hang out.
Over the years, I have written poems about the ranch that have been distilled into four seasonal verses. That being said...here they are;
"The Cenntenial Ranch Cycle."
Cobbweb Cottage New Year

There’s Scotch whiskey on the bar, a’waiting
New snow, not much, yet enough to caution
Denver and the foothills in a Winter’s glaze
On the two lane snake whispering our way to Deer Creek.

Iced beer in the keg on the summer porch.
Fresh hops and Adolph’s barley brew a’beckoning
While elk roast and country music warms
The frost on the waiting bedroom windows.

Then there’s a bright Jack pine and Aspen fire a’burnin.
High and howling cold, the meadow bright under
Orion’s New Year sky dances in a coal black heaven.
While Deer Creek sleeps under new crowned ice.

Electric torches, flashlight fingers swing a line
Pointing down the fresh plowed cut to the meadow.
Park under a new moon, and stars drawn so close.
An inkblack night, frosted kisses soft and welcome!

Welcome to the Cobbweb cottage, dear friends all.
Place your keys on the counter, take a fresh foam
Golden beer in hand and warm a cold backside.
Greet another long forgotten friend in the firelight.

Ah, tis a grand and granite night to celebrate
One more year passed while Deer Creek still runs,
And trout still rise and the heavy bodied elk
Remember this meadow deep in their hot blood hearts.

Fire in the hearth, fire in the whiskey and fire in human
Hearts thrumming deep and voices strong as we recall
The sight of rising to a green mountain morning
And those who have passed into God’s great hands.

Oh beloved, those gracious souls dance in the shadows.
Wraiths watch as we sit to deal another hand of Blackjack.
Their silent laughter intertwined with ours in a soft embrace
While Deer Creek softly murmurs in a deep winter slumber.

Late the new year eve, or is it a new year morning?
The last card is played, the last beer spent and the fire banked.
Deep in the dark winter bedrooms, souls and bodies snuggle deep.
While spirits nestle in the somber red embers, waiting the morrow.

The morning will bring coffee, eggs, potatoes, bacon and aching heads
And the late rising lovers, blushing to greet knowing smiles of friends
In the brilliant infant year here on the northslope cold against the stone,
Here in Cobbweb Cottage and the long held song and memory.


Spring Branding

Copper red heat, a branding iron sears hair, crisps flesh.
Amidst the smoky acrid air drifts the smell of fear.
Mothers bellow, wild eyes seek calves between gate and posts.
Calves bawl and scream while clanking, clattering gates beat in time.
Eating hot April dust, I wrangle a calf, arm around foreleg
Boot braced hard against quivering ham, I ask myself:
"Does man start here, where ends the calf?"
Sweat and bawl, curse and laugh.

Here's the drill:

Horn buttons?
- Clip, cut and cauterize.
Ear tag?
- Record sex, record tag number, inoculate and brand.
Male calf?
- Sharp knife castrates, swab provedine and release.

Drink deep the mountain air and icy water,
Wipe down the sweat and start again.
Stop, my sight falls on still bright blood
From young lungs, foamed oxygen.
Organ blood clotting in hot
Hard-packed barnyard dirt.
Blood from an animal not yet meat,
Life and long life again I think for the calf and me.
I wipe muddied sweat from my tired eyes
Focused on this calf's blood.
No plastic tray, sanitized, wrapped and clean.
Reality hammered home in bellow and bawls:
Blood flung from a
Sanguine pumping, fur covered,
Grass eating, air breathing
Methane belching, pucky shitting
Meat on the hoof, meat and leather.
Centuries long spiked, twisting muscle,
Bawling in the bright April air.
Meat for America, meat for the masses.
Clean and young, meat for world.


Summer on Deer Creek

Green-gold braids plaited on the steep meadow,
Cut hay drying in sun smiling deep.
Deer Creek runs cold and clear, giggling.
She rollicks out of the spruce dark granite cut
Into the light, into the fair and rolling meadow.
Long legged rocks in the iron rust riffles,
Tanned June warmth caress the snowmelt.
And deep brown oxbow curves, alder green gowns,
Her willow wisp camisole dance in the summer light.

Elk in the winter, heifers and calves in the spring,
Trout in high summer and steel, the gray skies of autumn,
Muted gold and copper memories long remembered.
Shaking her wet head as full bellied Summer
Pregnant with winter’s promise to suckle the dry
Thirsty children waiting on the plains below.

This beloved, this is the high summer flashing
Bright in the bottomless blue heaven, crowned overhead,
Always running, strewn in cottonblown
Clouds that flee and then remember the rain.
Brookies, Browns and Rainbows running against
The shadowed man, cane pole in hand,
Dancing in the iron cold water born in
Winter’s snow high to the desert west.

This is the sweet sweat of high mountain summer and
Deer Creek’s song, long years remembered and
Man’s hand gently guiding her dance down to the
Dry and hungry prairie, a soft desert ocean below.
Waves of alkaline sand and virgin white yucca
Crests in the highlands, waiting, longing for winter water.

Trout and Antelope, Bison and Elk…Oh they know.
Silent summer will return. Soft in the cold flint marrow,
Stark in time without man while Deer Creek still runs
And trout rise to the green drake mayfly’s dance,

Unchanged the rhythm of life remains.


Autumn Elk Hunt

Rolling out of a dark November slumber gray sunrise
Greet, gritty eyed, opening day of elk season and
New snow, untracked white, a bright omen.
Ritual camp coffee, toast and meat hot in my belly,
I slide on boots and cartridge belt and blaze orange cap.
Stepping out, long across time's threshold,
I walk next to white wraiths of wagons
Down the old logging tracks while ice crystals
Hang firehearts, dancing cold in the infant air.
Muscles and senses stretch strong and long,
Perceptions rise strong and ancient.
Bright eyes pry the shadows,
Phantom sounds tickle my radiant ear.
A wisp of air points direction this way.
Walk becomes stalk: quiet, deliberate and slow.
The booted foot halts.
Sound slips out of the infant sun.
Antlers clatter, deep grunts echo and
Hooves rake the frozen earth.
Vibration thrust the frigid air
Deep into my racing heart.
I slip behind the vanilla scented
Ponderosa giant, and time shatters.
I stand entranced, a Neolithic man,
Sense heavy, heart burning observant.
Twin elk cast talisman shadows,
Dance across ages of mountain tales
Unaware that I am suspended in Orion's belt.
The marvel, milleniums of hunters
Connect genetics, blood and animal
Within this rush to fulfill the awful end.
One touch turns mammal to meat
That I and mine might live another year.
(Yet not for me this day. I have a cow tag And all I see are bulls!)

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