Friday, April 27, 2012

red dirt country

Cousins reunion at the ranch, Amador County. Arriving at ten, I help Steve and Harry fence the new chicken run with wire, fence pliers, and Tom's homemade fence stretcher. They've been at it since seven and are ready to quit soon as it is getting hot already, and, besides, brunch is on. Sara has made quiche. Rosa and the younger kids are riding Spirit bareback through the yard. Over brunch, Tom tells of watching satellites launched from Vandenberg with two Chinese who thought the world was ending, and of seeing the well-documented UFOs flying in formation in '48. He tells again of the time my Grandpa Dan and his buddies held a wake for a homeless panner and of the prank and the pact to never tell. My sisters never arrive, just me and the cousins. Tom starts up the WWII army jeep and heads into the back forty with Claire, as Glenn and Cecily and I set out on foot for the pond where Steve and Harry are now fishing with their kids. Cecily's the one who found the seven-foot rattler that time by the shed, the one that broke the shovel handle. We water up first at the solar powered well. California poppies are in bloom around the pond, yellow daisy in the scrub. The kids catch bluegill and small mouth bass, and Tom takes us in the jeep now to transfer the caught fish to the upper pond and then shows us some new land just acquired from the neighbor. I show him a USGS folio of the region from 1894 and he is most appreciative, pointing on the map where the ranch and Eldon's house should be, sure enough, on a vein marked serpentine. This is red dirt country, the gold belt. The rest of the cousins leave mid-afternoon, but I stay and talk with Barbara. I play with Buddy the dog and with Toot the black lamb who thinks he's a dog and who is best friends with Spirit, a Kiger mustang and retired rodeo roping horse. The two lie down together in the cool of the day. When apart, they wither and pine. I head down the trail below the barn to sketch. After a while, young Rosa comes down the path toward me and walks right by, says she's going to get some molasses. Comes back five minutes later with a tall brown glass and I know there is nothing but hills for miles behind me. Where'd you get that? I ask. From the jug, she says. We thought Eldon was bringing the cattle, but he didn't, so now there's just a jug of molasses.

1 comment:

Barbara Wait said...

not only are you an artist, but a poet as well. Thank you for the thumbnail sketch of a moment in our lives. Beautiful. Much appreciated.