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The Buckhorn

Copyright (c) 2010
Winters Express
312 Railroad Avenue, Winters, CA 95694
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Memories from after the rain, here and far away

I have hundreds of stories I’ve recorded. These are my stories, from an active and diverse life. I would like to share some with my readers. Now that I am getting beyond my most busy and productive years, I am able to re-kindle my love affair with the past.
One of the great things about getting older is the time to reminisce about past joys. This is about rain, lest we forget.
When I first came to the Davis/Winters area in the ’60s, I remember one October when we had 19 straight days with some rainfall. The October rains would make the farmers hustle to bring out their crops before their fields muddied and the coastal rivers would open up their ocean-blocking sandbars, allowing the highly anticipated fall steelhead run in places like the Eel River.

After the rain in the
Yolo Bypass
In the marsh, patches of drowned tules break up the wind-whipped water line. In the sodden fields, water stands in great pools or huge, shallow sheets. Soon, the entire area will be fully under water as drainage from the north part of California’s Sacramento River system arrives — following record January rains. With that arrival, skunks, voles, snakes and other critters will be swimming for their lives, and pheasants and raccoons will take to the trees.
Now, eastward, toward the center of the bypass, flocks of ducks and geese fly low into the morning south wind — the same wind that earlier brought rain. Free at last, the rain gone and the sky clearing, bouncy groups of teal angle across the skyline. A line of geese waver up and down, much more wind-tossed than the bunched, harder-flying flocks of mallards and pintails. A column of low-flying white-faced ibis looks black and prehistoric with the birds’ long, down-curved bills and tails.
The clouds burgeon, layer upon ever-thicker layer. The scene to the east bespeaks clouds and gray coolness. To the west, in sharp contrast, stand fields of green, brown and yellow, bathed in streaks and pools of warm sunlight, merging in the distance with green-black mountain forms.
Here and there in the soggy rangeland are places that have outgrown the early winter efforts of the range cattle from the Glide Ranch (owners Tony and Scatter Glide were my friends and patients). Clouds of blackbirds boil up and down over these and the tule areas. And a meadowlark is in full, joyful song in the newly emerged sunlight, its breast seems so yellow after five days of gloom and clouds and rain, it’s like he has to shout out, “I’m so happy! Look at me — a piece of God’s gold in the sun!” At the same time, a burrowing owl, displaced to a muddy mound in his grassy mushroom meadow, sternly turns his head to frown defiance on the human trespasser.
Here’s a second poetic rain moment. In Africa: After The Rain (Rain in a Nigerian Village on the River Niger, Summer 1977). A few years ago, I was a member of a Davis-based five man environmental impact team in Nigeria, which included now-legendary UC Davis professors Ray Krone and Charles Goldman. We stayed for a month.
My job was to access the medical problems associated with moving 250,000 people out of the flooded land from the building of the Lokojo Dam, the world’s fourth largest, and the health problems of 15,000 dam workers.
The following records a memorable moment.
After the Rain
Suddenly, the sweet force of tropical rain.
Driving and pounding,
until all life hushes.
The river, earlier pulsing with human life. Now empty, beaten flat.
Its many channels devoid.
The all-surrounding torrent closes us in.
The rain throb — primal, strangely satisfying.
Coolness follows, and a special fragrance.
The air is cleansed, and the cobbled streets.
Abruptly the rain stops. There is no sound.
Until a goat bleats, as through my window
I view the village close
Someone walks by. A slow murmur begins to build.
I go out into the courtyard,
absorbing the magic
moment after the rain.