Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Ranch Life

We keep a loaded rifle at all times. Always know where the animals are. Always know where the nearest exit gate is. Bison are a herd animal, and when they stampede, as is their wont, they are almost impossible to stop; it is a classic example of a self-perpetuating system. The ones in the middle have to keep running to keep ahead of the ones behind, so even though they can't see what's in front of them they'll keep pushing the ones in front, through anything: fences, streams, people. They'll trample the individual who stops to smell the flowers.

The tractor blows smokes rings into the whimsically blue sky, while 50 miles away, across the valley, thunderstorms perch like gargoyles on the mountains. But the only thunder comes from the lumbering bison as they re-enact the stampedes of their racial memory. When the daughter of the rancher talks about how "they mainly wander around in the north slope, but once one starts heading down this way they'll all follow..." I think she is talking about clouds before I realize she is talking about buffalo.


Crouched in the tall grass, sweating, I remember where I came from. The cavernous darkness of the barn, a shaft of sunlight from the open door, sparks flying from my slowly sharpened weapon. The sweat takes me back to Tucson, a place far away but with similar summer weather (monsoonal) and similar annual rainfall (about 10 inches). But here, on the West Slope of the Colorado Rockies, the streams gorged with snowmelt and mountain rain are only 13 miles away, not 1300, and their misty breath, siphoned through itenerant sprinklers, grows grass up to my chest. There are a hundred species in this artifical meadow (many grasses and forbs:great burdock, knapweed, red and white clover, alfalfa (purple, blue, and light blue), mullein, morning glory, milkweed, gumweed, western dock, chicory...) but one does not belong. Suddenly I lunge and my shovel strikes the root of the musk thistle. I move on while it lies there dying. I wander long and aimless...

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