August 15, 2019
Indian Divide, New Mexico
I brought things back into focus yesterday and will make every effort to keep them there. I woke well as a result of that same effort. Yesterday it was the wind that ordered my thoughts, today it is the stillness which followed it. That and the rain, and one such as the earth has begged for all summer. This was the true monsoon rain, arriving late in the day after threatening from early morning. The clouds cloaked the mountains at dawn, and then circled and built through the day. I watched them from the ranch, sitting on the tractor, for eight hours. They built and circled, turned the southwest sky dark grey, moved east, and built again. Ironically, the true storm came in from the north and moved south, threatening for an hour before it let loose.
If I danced all day with that storm, watching and waiting for it to come in, I also misjudged it in the end. I am working on my friend’s ranch mowing the fields, and I thought sure it would catch me on the tractor, but I was close to my truck. It takes likely ten minutes to circle the field I was mowing, so there was no worry. I have done this before, and I might get damp, but not soaked. The fact is, usually the lightning will make me flee before the rains ever come. I have been in that same field when the lightning struck so close that the cows ran. I was close behind them. That never came yesterday. Instead I finished the field and even thought about moving the tractor to the north end of the ranch, but decided against it. By then the sky to the north had turned dark, and the storm gathered in earnest.
Instead I drove my truck along the two track north, to check the one crossing at the arroyo before I moved the tractor to that far field. This arroyo, or some branch of it, dissects the entire ranch. This particular crossing is steep on the edges but sandy on the bottom. Of all the crossings it is the one that stays clear, but it is best to be sure, as the banks could wash out there as anywhere else. It is also far easier to reach and return from by truck. If the old Ford tractor is resilient, so it is slow, and if I needed to turn back I would lose more time, and maybe even get wet. So I drove. The crossing, as always, was passable, though I had to use the four wheel drive to get through it, as the banks are soft and dry, or they were! The way the rain came through made the arroyos run last night, and it might merit yet another inspection today.
I turned back after the arroyo and crossed it to the south with the storm still building behind me. The rain was close but I spotted a dead pinion to the east and drove across to inspect it. As I pulled up I spotted a deer antler laying nearby, and laughed joyfully at the discovery. It is always a gift to find a horn, but after the years spent on the Apache Reservation in search of the same, the find had even more meaning. I took the horn to be a blessing, on myself, the day, and the choices I had made to arrive there. I might have waved the extra effort, I might have returned to the tree I was already cutting on, I might have just gone home, but I didn’t. It was already five o’clock, I had mowed for eight hours, but I still chose to cut wood instead. Following past experience I took a moment to look for the other horn, small as it was. The two forks told me it was a young buck, and the horn was already turned white, so it had lain there for at least a year, if not two. If they so often drop both horns close together the other was likely gone, fodder for a porcupine or some other creature, searching for salt. Whatever the cause, the other horn was nowhere to be found, but the brief search was joyful all the same. Even after a day in the field, simply being outside is a joy in itself, and a pleasure in every sense of the word. Failing at the effort to find the prize, I returned to the tree and sharpened my chainsaw. If the storm was building fast, it was still several miles away.
I cut wood for a good hour before I felt the rain drops, but I savored the cool breeze also. I perused the sky, and kept at my work, even as the thunder drew close. I was on a slight rise, but the lighting was far off, miles yet to go. Finally, it began to rain, softly, but gaining strength. I stacked the wood I had fallen and gathered my tools. Even as I stripped off my chaps it began to rain in earnest, though not heavily. By the time I rolled up the truck windows the drops were steady and I started to hurry a bit, given that the road would get slick by the gate. I have four wheel drive, and it was engaged, but the road is risky at the end. I crossed through the brush to the two track I had followed north, and turned back to the south, stopping at the tractor to close the hood as I had left it open to cool. When I had driven north there was still a chance I might have moved it to the other fields, and would have fueled it if I had. By this time it was pouring rain, and enough to soak my jacket through in seconds. I laughed at myself, and recalled the knowledge that rain represents those who are passed from our lives, and returning to see us. I knew who it was in a glance, and welcomed his presence, he who I hunted horns with for so long………..
When I reached the mowed field I stayed to the grass to keep from tearing up the road. Just an hour ago I had taken a picture of the old two track to show it had finally grown in, and did not want to disturb it. Besides, the grass isn’t as slick, and the field was still dry enough to cross, even as the rain began to soak in. I made the gate in style, even if the dirt was already slick, I had minutes to spare. The gate was different. I paused a moment to peruse the storm and it gathered strength immediately. I laughed again, as I knew better, and it was pouring when I exited the truck. Of course it took a minute to straighten the chain also, long enough to get soaked, and even my pants got wet. Back in the truck, I opted for the heater, and recalled my thoughts from the morning, that the wind sounded like winter. It won’t be long now!
I drove out to the highway slowly, enjoying the storm. The mountains were cloaked in the haze of the rainfall and I thought of the blessings it brought. The ground is scorched, and begging for moisture. The field was dusty when I mowed, and just a dull green from the broom weed, with the grasses laying low in waiting for this storm. They will green now, and reward me for my efforts with a late crop of pure grass, and the weeds a fine mulch. If the rains continue it will be better yet, and this storm, late as it is, was still a good sign. We have a few weeks yet, and maybe the monsoon will stay. I admired the small horn as I headed home, its surface smooth and soft, and a little darker on the bottom. It has a few deep scratches, perhaps from a scrap or two, a rambunctious young buck so it seems. Perhaps I may see him one day, though I will never know if it is him for certain. Maybe I will find the other side, or better yet, this years’ sheds, if I am so lucky. I am home, back at the ranch, and cutting wood, and I am focused. And quite blessed I must say! Life is good when we allow it to be. Such is my focus.