THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.
In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.
Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.
by Larry Brody
A couple of good old boys paid me a little visit Sunday evening.
Gwen the Beautiful and I were surprised to hear the dogs barking and someone pulling up into our clearing. I went outside in time to see Brannigan the Contractor and his buddy Dwayne the Heavy Equipment Dude get out of Dwayne’s truck. Belle, the Good Old Dog Gone Bad, did what she does whenever she sees Brannigan the Contractor. She bit him.
“I knew you loved me,” Brannigan said to her. And to me: “I want this dog!”
“You want a dog that bites you?” Dwayne said.
“Sure. She’s a proven protector!”
“Not of you.”
“Of property, man! Property!” Brannigan started up the front porch. Tripped. Caught himself. Dwayne laughed. “Oh, man,” he said, “we’re so drunk. What’ve you got to keep us going?”
It didn’t take long to find something. We sat at the kitchen table, Kentucky bourbon going down easy. Gwen knew better than to want any part of this. Who says blind people can’t see? She went upstairs. Brannigan nodded appreciatively. “Fine woman,” he said.
“I don’t know about your judgment,” I said. “You think Belle’s a fine dog.”
“Out here a dog that’ll keep your property safe is worth two Winchester twelve gauges,” Dwayne said.
This kind of small talk means something’s up and it’s going to take awhile to get to it. But Brannigan and Dwayne were so drunk that if they took much longer they’d never be able to get to it. “You didn’t come here to talk about dogs,” I said.
“No,” said Dwayne. “We came to solve your problem.”
Brannigan sucked down a shot. “Your Chet problem.”
He was talking about Chet the Unhandyman, who came to Cloud Creek to start a new life and is still waiting for it to begin.
Dwayne leaned forward confidentially. “Brannigan and I know that this guy is driving you crazy. That he drives everybody crazy. He’s into you for electricity and the telephone and the food he takes from your fridge and the laundry he does on your washing machine when you’re gone.”
Brannigan picked it up. “We also know that you’re too soft-hearted to throw him out. You’re worried about the old boy.’” He raised his voice to a roar: “But we’re not!”
“Brannigan and I think it’s time for Chet to take a little walk in the woods with some friends of ours,” Dwayne said. “All you’ve got to do is nod and they’ll be here tomorrow morning. And tomorrow afternoon he’ll be gone.”
“Like he was never here,” Dwayne said. “Don’t ask nothing more.”
Another shot of bourbon found its way down Brannigan’s throat. “Told you we weren’t worried about him!”
“I can’t do that,” I said.
“Sure you can,” Dwayne said. “It’s one of the Old Ways. It’s how things are done in these parts. Man’s got no kin, no friends. No reason to hang around giving himself and everybody else the miseries.”
I didn’t reply. Dwayne leaned in even closer to me. Put his arms around my neck like a brother. “It’s okay,” he said. “Happens all the time.”
“No,” I said. “Not this time.”
“Well you just think about it. My offers don’t expire. It’s there whenever you say.”
We finished off the bottle. I went to call Brannigan the Contractor’s wife so she could drive over and take them home. Dwayne the Earth Mover shook his head. “I can handle it,” he said. “I can drive.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Don’t be so negative, Larry. C’mon—you ever seen me sober?” I shook my head. Dwayne beamed. “See?”
Nothing I said could stop them. Brannigan the Contractor and Dwayne the Earth Mover inched Dwayne’s truck down the mountain and left me to think about their offer. And about how cheap life can be. How little a man’s got to do to become someone who vanishes into the woods. About the danger of crossing the wrong folks.
And, yes, about the feeling of power that surges through your body and darkens your soul when you realize you too can make use of the “Old Ways.”
Today Chet the Unhandyman spilled five gallons of gasoline because he thought the air hole on the can was the spout. In my mind, the title of this little episode is “When Good Old Boys Go Bad.” And the reason I’m putting it all down is to make sure I stay “Good.”