and Cattle should experiment with BarzonarnCross cattle, Wally found himselfrnlaid up in the hospital when it came timernto buy. “Those are awfully funny lookingrncows,” Elwin said. “Are you sure yournwant me to do this?” “Go ahead and dornit,” Wally told him, “while I don’t have tornlook at them while making the decision.”rnBarzona Cross, or “commercial cattle,”rnare actually a heavier animal than thernubiquitous Hereford, though to my eyernthey appear lighter, being longer andrnmore delicate in the leg: a feature thatrnnot only improves their appearance butrnallows them to cover long distances inrnsearch of graze and water. In the 12-rnmonth cycle, the Roney herds grazernacross valleys, foothills, timbered highrncountry, and highland desert. They are arnnonriparian-depcndent breed—meaningrnthey do not spend their lives muckingrnabout along water courses, tramplingrnbanks, and destroying the vegetationrnthat impedes erosion and siltation. Sincernsiltation and erosion are among environmentalists’rnchief objections to cattlegrazingrnon the public lands, you mightrnsuppose that the Roneys enjoy the gratitudernand encouragement of the greenrnpolice in the pay of the federal government.rnOf course, Roney Land and Cattlernhas as much to suffer from the ForestrnService as any other leasor on the nationalrnforests does.rnIn the morning the sky had clearedrnbut the branding pens were muddy, andrnWally decided that, rather than brand,rnwe should move part of the herd fromrnthe ranch to the edge of the foothills.rnElwin had the horses saddled whenrnwe reached the senior Roneys’, andrnBillie and I rode out across the pasturernwhile Wally and Elwin, on four-wheelers,rndrove back the stragglers and got thernanimals moving toward the hills. Billiernhad instructed mc to keep back severalrnhundred yards from the herd or theyrnwould yaw, spread, and cut back on us. Irnobeyed her, and, somewhat to my surprise,rnthe cattle eased forward as thoughrnguided by remote control. We put themrnthrough a gate and across the old homestead,rna grassy park grown with oak treesrnand the long-needled digger pines, tornPine Creek, where we sat the horses at arndistance as we watched the cows cross.rnBeyond the creek was a pasture spreadrnwith pink volcanic rock. The horsesrnplugged along and the cattle proceededrnas surely as if the trip were their ownrnidea. “You’re not bored?” Billie asked.rn”I was afraid you would be.” I said that Irnwas not bored. While there had beenrnnone of the galloping away on tangentsrnand in circles, the ki-yiing and ssshing,rnthe barking dogs, and the bitter dust, therninsides of my knees were unchafed andrnmy vocal cords retained their heldentenorrnstrength. “Wally hates what herncalls farmerized cattle,” Billie explained.rn”He doesn’t like cows that are domesticatedrn—dependent on man for theirrnthinking, their survival, for calving.”rnIt rained again the following day whenrnWally had a meeting with the Eorest Servicernin Susanville, across the mountainsrnon the Nevada border, and a heavy snowrnwas falling as we crossed the pass, therngreat trees pressing in upon the road andrnclosing it over. Recently the Service hadrnbuilt a bicycle path oer the cattle andrnwildlife trail around Eagle Lake wherernthe Roney herd summers, and the cattle,rnhaving recognized the trail in its alteredrncondition, had used it to gain access to arncampground that the Eorest Service preferredrnthey didn’t use. Debatably, therncows had precedence, but the feds,rnshowing almost as little respect for themrnas if they had been white Europeanrnmales, intended to ignore their rights ifrnthey could. While Wrlly was closetedrnwith the enemy, Billie and I drove backrninto the mountains where the storm hadrnbegun to clear out. Since the road to EaglernLake lay under several feet of snow,rnshe took me instead to see the headquartersrnof the Roneys’ summer operation, anrnopen park entirely surrounded by forest.rnOwing to the snow rising 12 and 15 feetrnon either side of the highway, little of thernpark was ‘isible but only the trees, whichrnseemed to stretch forever across the highrnplateau. It seemed impossible that grazernexisted on the forest floor, or, if it did,rnthat anyone could gather cattle fromrnwhat looked like impenetrable darkness.rnBut Billie assured me that there wasrnplenty of grass for them to eat and thatrnWally was adept at driving his cowsrnthrough the trees, often dismounting torntrack on foot as he led the horse behind.rnAt last the pens were dry enoughrnto brand. Wally and Elwin herded uprnthe calves and slaughter steers on fourwheelers,rnwhich on modern-day ranchesrnhave substantially replaced the cowpony,rnand we began running them throughrnthe chutes. With his penknife Wallyrnnotched ears, then threw the lever operatingrnthe calf table that laid each calf onrnits side, when he tied its heels with arnrope. While he set the brand on the hip,rnI vaccinated; finally, using the penknifernagain, he slit the young bulls’ scrota andrnremoved the testes. WiUv said that Billie’srnreaction to her first branding hadrnbeen predictable, but that she got overrnit soon enough. When her sister Patty,rnvisiting from San Eraneisco, showed uprnat branding time dressed like a rodeornqueen, Wally thought it prudent to jokernher a little beforehand, to take the edgernoff the hoots and wisecracks from therncowboys. He did, and she got mad. Butrnlater it spoiled the boys’ fun a little.rnEmily Roney gave us a good dinner atrnthe house and afterward Wally and Irnloaded the one-ton CMC flatbed withrnsalt and drove in compound low, at fourrnand five miles an hour, into the foothillsrnto leave the salt for the cattle when theyrnarrived there. The foothills were volcanic,rnsteep and knobby, thickly coveredrnwith oak and the digger pine. Cut byrncanyons and deep, partially woodedrnbasins, the country looked to be idealrndeer habitat, yet we saw only a single doernand her two fawns, cropping the newrngrass on the sharp summit of a hill.rnWally said that when he was a boy thernfoothills had been full of deer, but thatrnsince the state of California declared thernmountain lion a protected species in thern1970’s, the exploding cougar populationrnhad wiped out the deer. Several yearsrnago a lion killed a horse he had leftrnsnubbed to a tree up here, and he andrnBillie were considering carrying sidearmsrnnow when they rode into the foothills.rnProposition 197, which would have revokedrnthe cougars’ protected status andrnpermitted them to be taken by licensedrnhunters, was bitterly opposed by environmentalistsrnand finally defeated in thernprimary in late March, after deathrnthreats had been made against its supporters.rnThis was lovely country, very green inrnspring but with some of the starknessrnand barrenness of the interior West, andrnalso of the British Isles; I remarked tornWally, a fellow Celt, that there must indeedrnbe such a thing as racial memory, atrnleast where an instinct for landscape isrnconcerned. Billie awaited us at homernwith supper almost ready and a videotapernof Braveheart she had rented from arnvideo store in town. We watched it afterrneating, drinking wine in Celtic solidarity,rnand applauding especially the scene inrnwhich the Irish mercenaries embracerntheir Scots cousins on the battlefield,rnand another where Longshanks hurls thernPrince of Wales’ male lover through therncastle window. crn50/CHRONICLESrnrnrn