Earth, Water, Fire, Skies
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There’s a ranch way up in the hills, north a-ways from here..derelict place. We went there once, ‘the old homestead’..once deeded to a “Mr. and Mrs. Walters”
There’s no one there, save the bears and the big cats and such that roam the fields and trails at their convenience night and day, leave their poop; and deers; and rabbits..rabbits everywhere. And George, the ancient caretaker and his dogs, down at the lower ranch, seldom seen anymore, except by the propane delivery guy at infrequent intervals..now and then, a wisp of smoke floating off his chimney, over bee-boxes, corrals, and a work-shop and tack-room, all of it fenced around with barb-wire nailed on tree limbs for posts..and the ‘guest house’.
Old wooden wagon-wheels stand at every gate; and under the willow trees in front of the main house.
Out back, mustangs grazing alfalfa growing out of the ground gallop across the meadow if they feel like it, now and then taking a drink from a clear pool fed by an underground springs atop a mild hillock beside the grassy steppe..where quails, also, like to nest. Water, clear as can be, flows freely as the the snows melt, piped from ponds carved out years and years ago, for irrigation, and other common use; by the automobile path winding up to the source there’s a sunken box under trees beside the swimming-hole with old gate valves that control all of that (and a swing-set). A pure springs issuing from solid granite rock at the foot of the mountain range marking the northwest, boundary, runs from the ‘Spring House’ down to the cabins situated on the larger parcel up at the higher elevations, here.
And O! the silence. And a kitchen with a view! from the ‘Buffalo House’..built over half a century after the original home went up, before The Great War, seen through a window by the dripping faucet..a stone’s throw away above the creek, clanging noises of brass flag-clips slapping against the pole, rising high above the dry rock ponds out front, like a tinny sounding dinner-bell, can be heard in the warm morning sunlight.
And there, a treasure trove of artifacts to dazzle the most jaded journeyer, accumulations of stuff sprawled all around..claw-foot bathtubs everywhere (for horses to drink out of); old wood cook-stove with nickel trim sits next to the barn covered in dust, by a hand-crank blast furnace; inside, Ferguson tractor up on blocks by a window, the red, chewed wires illuminated in varying aspects, through the course of a day; and around, about a 1960 ‘Apache’ four-wheel-drive heavy pick-up truck, formerly owned by Edison, with the funny cat-eye turn-signals in front, the head pulled off the motor and laid on the bed, re-build ready; scattered implements..wooden barrels of rusted nails, spent cartridges and a spare gas refrigerator, with the door off; a pre-hydraulic design D-8 ‘Cat’ with only a wire frame left of the seat, parked alongside the generator shack in stately abandon, sits on its tracks looking east under a grove of apple trees long neglected, at white mountain peaks scraping lazy clouds dragging along the big valley’s western summit..beyond which gets 140 degrees in summer..tumbleweeds, years of decaying aegis.
Soon the snows will come again to kiss the sagebrush. Likewise, the bones of the old homesteader couple there laid to rest beside the rock, deaf to the howling, moaning winds bearing winter’s icy chill..dull fragrance of fox-tails.
It’s nice, really, certifiably, a very nice place..God’s Country actually best describes it..bought by the previous owner..Dick, innovative manufacturer of industrial metal products and a pilot and patriot, who tendered his services to good old ‘Uncle Sam’ in a civilian way back when the world had again been at war, for a place to get away to after..built-in Bar-B-Que on the porch, part of a structural wall, sizzling a pile of steaks, there, at around mid-afternoon..laughter, kids splashing in the ponds under the American flag waving proudly in the breeze at bears, I suppose, a-way off in the hills..family and friends getting together having a great time with no worries, like some private kind of ‘dude’ ranch, though really no resemblance to that whatsoever, just say more than enough of everything you want, for those firm in the belief, that “..we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights..”..place where the only rule is ENJOY (as it was explained to us)..and clean up after..even a small cannon, there, to send off a blast, if you feel like it..like very appropriately when raising our flag to her full commanding height and give a stiff salute sometime after sunrise each morning, the only other rule when at The Ranch..Dick, visionary, with the soul of a poet, but a worker..who, like me, I suppose, must have got himself up from the table, oil lamp dimly burning over pages of an open Bible under the watchful eyes of the eternal..buffalo, stuffed head on a wall, to throw another log onto the fire and look in on his slumbering household, still all snugly wrapped in their familial dreams and visions, stepping outside not quite alone into the open crisp early morning air holding a cowboy cup of fresh coffee in his hand, and constellations..fish-eye prickly ball of black lightning stretched across the skies..silence broken only by occasional coyote-whoops in the distant dawn..and gazing there, taking measure of his mortality. But for this Present, alive only to the reflection, How splendid it is to be here now under the star blanketed heavens. And not another soul near enough to disturb his thoughts, stuck here on this warm Earth like a tick on a dog squatting over the sandy soil, syrupy coffee grounds left, sun pushing morning light on backs of hills, rose bushes, and bare hoops over wheels..wooden wagon once covered, there, when in the service of a Mr. and Mrs. Walters, so very, very long ago..smell of sage and oak smoke on the nostrils, horses now silent.
Chris Robertson is the eternal poet and an almost graduate of USC, majoring in Fine Arts/ Studio Arts 1983-85. Sadly, a pair of unsatisfied undergrad requirements, Geology with lab, and English Comp101b hinder receipt of the coveted Diploma. Hobbies include junk political science and hang-gliding.