Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter Wallowa Co. 2002

Morning never comes early
It is late winter.
The days have a hint of spring to them,
but by sundown'v lost all aspirations of warmth...
And so the snow drifts remain,
banked against the rims above the bench.

The ranch sits two thirds the way up Doe Cr. canyon from the river,
and two miles up and across from Merlin Canyon.
It sits on a bench running the length of the canyon for two miles.
For the most part
at first glance
the house, barns, and sheds seem to fit into their surroundings,
but on closer examination it's apparent
that at this time of year-
nothing fits.

The cattle are crowded into four pastures,
with feed bunks in each,
And dilapidated hay stacks with in those.
The cattle's feet suck and slide over the soft muddy ground
leaving the Fields torn and battered.
The feed bunks were old and rotten,
patched with boards, nails, and bailing wire in an attempt to hold them more year.

The house sits in the middle of the bench,
the snow around it pushed every which way and direction with the cat.
The ground is naked where the blade has run too deep
leaving the earth torn,

Along the roads and barn yards
there are track and tire marks.
The ground left resembling
the battered,
scarred, face of a brawler
who's found the limit of his strength.

But the earth is innocent.
And like a battered wife
She takes the blows year after year
with what dignity she can;
until finally,
long before her time,
she's haggard and worn.

And year after year,
like a violent husband,
with tractor,
and truck,
cat, and cow,
the ground is punished,
and bruised.
Degraded out of ignorance,
lack of care,
and economic necessity.

There is no love here.
No love for the land or the stock.
No respect for their limits
Or for their inocence.
The beauty of this place is forgotten,
Neglected and forced into an economic struggle,
Pride is turned to contempt for any thing that stands in the way of survival.
Wild fish, the elk, and deer.....
Good horses, good fences, grass, anything old,
the very ground it's self and it's well being
now either obsolete or irrelevant,
for no other reason than survival,
they have to be taken into account for the sake of having something left to sustain the struggle
And to keep ahead of the bills and the taxes.

I pity this place and the people who make their living from it.
There is no chance in this generation or the next of anything dignified coming from this ground.
Only a burdensome way to make a living.

There has been something lost on these last generations of land owners,
many of them anyway.

Tradition has been lost,
stewardship has been lost,
reverence, and love has been lost.
Replaced by tractors, chemicals, and fertilizers, ear tags, hydraulic augers, television, tin pole barns, four wheelers, paved roads, high freight costs, new pickups, super markets, ready made TV dinners (just add water!) and breakfast from a box.

It's not been a concise degradation, but one made over time.
Pushed on farmers and ranchers by big business and their sales reps.

"Higher yield!

"Less work!"

"Higher gains, and more money!"

All of it fed into the agricultural main stream and quoted like gospel.
The only price of salvation being your mortal soul.....
                                                                    Sold into eternal debt.

With nothing better to say....

Days have turned to weeks, and the weeks are turning to months. St. Patrick was sent to tend to the pigs after his capture and enslavement, and he was to become one of the greatest of Saints. My father is with him, and I am here. The farm continues to sustain my animals, though we are running very low on grain.
  Tomorrow I take Harriet to the butcher. She has been of all the pigs, my very favorite. I could have taken her to the auction today and gotten a few dollars for her, but the thought of sending her through the ring (handled roughly by those fools) is too much. Some thanks that would be for all her contribution to the farm. I gave her to my butcher. I like him, and he will treat her well.
   Nine of the market hogs leave with the buyer at 11am. I fed them their last meal on the farm tonight.... I have done as best I can for them, and soon it will be done. I'm alright with this. It is my responsibility to see to them from birth until the end, the out come of their life as inevitable as mine. What is of importance is not so much the end, but the days and how we spent them. I am alright with this.