August 3, 2016

The level of the rain water rises still–more in the gauges, more in the ponds and dirt cattle tanks, and in the two-track road ruts. A glorious mess! It feels a real “day after”, the grader working itself everywhere too, putting the road back together, fixing up one arroyo or canyon bottom crossing after another in front of me which allowed the drive south to be made, and I increasingly wonder what has happened at Mason Pastures. I find the arroyo upstream of us that was new last year is now several times wider and with a beautifully smooth, fine-grained-sand bottom left behind. As in that big storm of the Monsoon of a year ago, this flood came roaring off from the slopes of the watershed of the ranch to the East and across the Cascabel Road and on to us, but it had to have been even deeper water this time judging by the flotsam line on shrubs and fence wires, and carrying much larger rocks and debris irresistibly along that route whereby it unconsciously tried to find the Sea of Cortez. There had been a stout berm along our side of the road, outside our fence and which was meant to keep this from happening again by shuttling the flow down the bed of the road, but that wide bank now was cut right through and broadly, and the water had swept in a torrent underneath the fencewires until it had inundated the upper reach of The Lane. When that wild new river hit the next fence across its path though, the rocks and ripped out and tangled cholla from who knows what far off range, and branches and my own tree trimming piles, had come to catch on the bottom wire of a long stretch of the bottom wire I’d intended to raise to a proper height, sometime. I guess that sometime will be now, and all other projects dropped in the face of this cow-management emergency. That piled up debris had formed a dam, and when it finally burst the water then leapt over into the next pasture in what must have looked like a tidal bore 400 feet wide … the bosque was swept pretty cleanly of shrubs and Burroweeds and grasses, as was a lot of the other land beyond for a good distance towards the River, and in the place of that verdure now was a hardscape and pavement of shining sand and gray gravels and large tumble-rounded stones. It would have been something to see, but I’d probably not have lived through it to tell the tale of it. A hundred and fifty feet of the cattle fence would have to be dismantled, the posts jacked out and re-set and all of it put back together before cattle could come to the area again, which was supposed to have been today! I did not want to see what was the state of The New Canyon, that headcut that formed along the far west fenceline at the edge of the riparian woods and that was a year ago suddenly so deep where the day before was normal looking flat pasture, that a t-post and attached fence was left dangling in the air high over its wide and deep exit to The River. Sure enough there must have been an almost inconceivable amount of water funnelled to that place from all the uplands above us, even more water than last year, plus the sheet flooding of a quickly-fallen 2″ rain that came down evenly over the whole upper end of that #3 Pasture. So now New Canyon was even deeper, and some feet wider, and a couple of the mesquite trees that had collapsed off the now even higher bank had been punched out the opening and swept into The River, as was also most of the mesquite brush we’d piled across to keep the cows from escaping during the last year into the jungled thickets in that bottom. The headcut had migrated another fifty feet upstream as well and of all these outcomes, that was the most concerning. Instead of being ripped out or undercut, the 100 feet of fence starting at the south rim of New Canyon was left buried enough that its top wire came to a level below the bottom of my belt, which meant that any number of our cows could simply step over it and into the riparian forest, and there aren’t any of a rancher’s many sins than that would be. This stretch of fence too would have to be rebuilt before the herd could go safely back into that pasture and the hole out to The River filled with a wall of thorny mesquite branches.

And so I go back up to the Tall Water Tank, letting out sighs of resignation and buckets of sweat in the close air of the morning, to start somewhere, anywhere, removing piles of cholla and sand, pulling the supply hose for the water flow out of the horribly prickly tangled mass of cholla and rocks in which it’s buried in great knots or stretched out through and under rock piles on the wrong side of the fence. I hope it functions right away soon as this is straightened out, the cattle need that metal stock tank’s level to be raised or they’ll all go into The Stockpond and churn it into a quagmire. I’m surrounded by wreckage, but can’t let myself imagine the amount of work nor exactly what it will take to bring this all aright, when we already have so many other things long waiting to be done or fixed …

Well the creek come up
took the water gap down
our yearlings were nowhere to be found
it had only taken us a week
to gather ’em all
it’d be easier
to gather ’em
the second time around
at least that’s what I thought until
I seen Shorty there lookin’ blue:
just before we’d left for town
he’d turned our horses out there too–
they went with the yearlings (heh hah) …

naw, the romance ain’t completely gone
to this cowboy life we’ve chose
but the bliss that I was countin’ on–
well it comes and then it goes …
–Gail Steiger, “The Romance of Western Life”

The Romance of Western Life
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