Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #98 “Horse Brothers”

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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

When I first settled into Paradise I thought about how good a place it would be for our horses, Huck the Spotless Appaloosa and Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang.

After all, they’d been living for years in Southern California,
where the only way to make grass grow is to spend more money watering it each month than people in most other places spend on their mortgages.

Cloud Creek Ranch has a fair-sized pasture complete with a spring fed pond that my neighbors swear hasn’t gone dry once in the last fifty years. I envisioned the two horses grazing contentedly—with me looking on instead of schlepping hay as I’d been doing back in L.A.

That dream, however, got blown out of the water early on.

Because Huck’s been my equine brother since he was a foal, and as far as he’s concerned he should be living in the house, not outside. And certainly not as far outside as the pasture.

“I can’t see you from down here,” he told me. “Can’t hear your voice or Gwen’s. No way I’m staying that far away.” And he backed up his talk with the kind of horse screaming that made it sound like he was going through torture that would put me smack dab behind bars.

So instead of chomping their way through the pasture, Huck and Elaine inhabit a corral about ten feet from the main house. Sure, grass was growing quite well there when we put up the fence, but it’s a lot smaller than a pasture and a week later the grass was gone.

Eaten. Crushed. Burned out by horsepucky. Anyone who knows horses knows how that goes.

And anyone who knows horses also knows what corral life means.

Schlepping lots of hay.

And, in the late winter and early spring, trying to find enough of it to schlep. Especially if the horses are totally devoted to alfalfa.

In California, Huck and Elaine dined on alfalfa that was moist and sweet and ribboned with little purple flowers. And why not? Alfalfa thrives there. But in

Paradise the ground is too hard and rocky for long alfalfa roots. The hay’s got to be imported, and as time slips further and further behind the last summer cut, alfalfa becomes more and more scarce.

Last year’s drought conditions have added to the problem, and to cut to the chase, last week I started feeding the horses bales of Bermuda, orchard, and Timothy grass, and the result has been One Mighty Battle of Wills.

Huck hates the stuff. And let me know it from the beginning.

“Pfaugh! Yuck! You call this food?” His voice rose shrilly. “It’s not even soft enough to be bedding for a pig!”

He shook his head. Pawed the ground. Squealed and reared. Kicked the water trough.

And when Elaine came over he wouldn’t let her touch it either. He pushed her away, and when she returned hungrily he nipped her. One of those horse authority bites that takes a smaller chunk out of whoever it’s directed at than an anger bite but still hurts a lot more than a bite filled with horse love.

“Don’t do that,” he said. “Don’t let Larry B see you eat this junk. We’ve got to stand firm. Hold out for what we deserve.”

Huck’s been standing firm since that first day. Making a bigger show of his disdain for what every other horse accepts without a problem with every meal. He’s even taken to running at the flakes and scattering them or pushing them outside the fence.

Except that it’s all for show.

Late at night, when he thinks Gwen the Beautiful and I are asleep…when he’s sure no one is watching—yes!—that’s when Huck saunters over to the strewn Bermuda and orchard and Timothy grass, like a street dude whistling and looking at the sky, and starts scarfing it down. Lets Elaine join him in the repast.

And in the morning, when most of the hay has “magically” vanished, he swivels his big eyes at me and screeches, “Alfalfa! Alfalfa now! You @#%$!” and turns up his nose at the Bermuda et al I give him instead.

At first Huck’s attitude angered me. Now, though, I find myself watching and laughing at his refrain:

“Fight for what’s yours! Don’t let The Man see you bend!”

I couldn’t ask for a better horse brother.

Or one more like me.

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #97 “Magical Overtime”

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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

Lately it seems like Cloud Creek’s magic has been working overtime.
In addition to my face to face (well, okay, more like a face-to-the-top
-of-his-fuzzy-back) meeting with Draco the Ghost Dog, Gwen the Beautiful and I have been dealing with some ghostly scents and a very specific ghost sound.

The scents have been good, actually. Otherwise I would’ve called them “smells.” Or “odors.” Said the right way the word “odor” means something most foul.

But these scents have been genuine “aromas.” The first one is in what we call our Great Room, the big downstairs area of our log house. The minute you walk in the door it hits you like tobacco smoke from a well-worn pipe.

And not just any pipe either. It’s the warm, soothing scent of a medicine man’s ceremonial pipe, passed around by Indian People gathered in a sweat lodge, or at a healing.

This makes our whole house smell like a kind of healing. Warm and comforting. Whenever I’m at my desk I inhale and think of the times I spent with good friends on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, and the Santa Clara Pueblo in New Mexico.

Can a house be tender? Ours now is.

Over in the Annex, where Burl Jr. the New Groundskeeper sleeps, we’ve got another new scent as well.

Not food, although the trailer was busy for about a year cycling through food faves in an attempt to find one we’d love.

No, this time it’s what some snobs might call “cheap” perfume, but I’ll characterize as—oh, how about “inexpensive?”

I’ve got to keep my response positive because this scent too is familiar.

It’s my late mother-in-law’s perfume.

Entering the Annex has become just like walking into Gwen’s mother’s house when she was alive. The first time Gwen sniffed it she couldn’t help herself. Immediately, she called out, “Mom?”

I was more formal. I said, “Laverne?”

Miraculously, both of us were answered immediately. By the sound from the wall clock that’s the only one of my mother-in-law’s belongings we brought back here after she died.

It’s a QVC collectible thingie that strikes the hour with four bars of any one of several Disney songs in its repertoire. On this particular occasion it played Laverne’s favorite: “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

“It’s Mom all right,” Gwen said.

“The magic of Cloud Creek strikes again,” I said. “It’s brought your mother here to live with Burl Jr.”

“His girlfriend’s not going to like that,” said Gwen.

“Hmm…come to think of it,” I said, “he may not like it either.”

Regardless of how Burl Jr. feels about Laverne’s presence (and he’s too smart a kid to say), I can tell you how I feel about another magical occurrence centered in our house.

It’s a sound, and like the tobacco “aroma” it emanates from the Great Room.

But from a specific place in that room.

The northwest corner.

My desk.

And, like my mother-in-law’s perfume, the sound is of something Gwen and I know quite well. In fact, we know it better than any other sound in the world.

That’s right. It’s the sound of typing. Except louder than any computer keyboard should ever be.

Click. Clack. Clickity clack….

In the wee hours of the morning. Like three a.m.

Clickity clackity click.

While we’re sleeping and no other human is in the house, and nothing—absolutely nothing—is anywhere near the computer, which is powered down and still.

Clackity click clack.

Has there ever been a film called The Attack of the Ghost Writer?

Well, someone should get on it. Maybe I’ll call one of my old Hollywood writer friends and invite him to stay here awhile.

Better yet, I’ll call and invite him to switch houses for a spell.

A spell long enough for Gwen and me to sleep straight through just one night without—

Click. Clack. Click-clack!

I know I sound like I’m complaining. But regular readers here know that’s not the case. I’m bedazzled by the magic that pervades the mountaintop property we call Cloud Creek Ranch.

And I’m curious. So curious it makes my mind ache.

I want to know:

What in the universe is causing all this?

What does it mean?

And, more than anything else, I want to know: Why?

As usual, if you’ve got answers I’d love to hear ‘em. Drop me an e-mail any time. Meanwhile, don’t you worry. I’m on the case as well.

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #96 “Naming the Hens…”

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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

When Gwen the Beautiful and I first arrived on our mountaintop we were the proud but clueless inheritors of a dozen chickens left behind by the original owners. The brood consisted of three roosters and nine hens.

We had a big black rooster with a Rastafarian “hairdo.” A bigger yellow rooster who ruled the roost. A tiny banty rooster who got pecked any time he so much as looked at a hen.

And the hens he barely got to see were something indeed. Three big yellow hens who looked like divas from the Metropolitan Opera. Three plump red hens like dowagers in a Victorian novel. Three striped hens who would’ve made perfect throw pillows exactly as they were.

We gave all the chickens names, and took care of them as best we could. But time and attrition and our ignorance thinned out the group.

Maybe the fact that we named them all after food had something to do with it.

Although we didn’t eat them, it could be that the universe developed a hungering of its own for Chicken Cacciatore, Lemon Chicken, Chicken ala King, Cajun Chicken, Chicken Teriyaki, Orange Chicken, and—alas!—the big guy known as Stir Fry.

In a few years the banty rooster, “McNugget,” was the only guy left, and his harem was down to two yellow hens and two striped.

A young writer in the area came to the rescue, trading five Leghorn hens from his grandfather’s coop for some lessons in television writing. The Leghorn Girls, Lulu, Lola, Layla, Lila, and Trixie, were instant favorites with McNugget, and also with me.

Ah, what wonderful times we had together!

They clucked.

I sang back. “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” in the most chickenlike voice I could muster.
They ran all around the chicken yard.

I cleaned up what they left behind.

They ate delicious, nutritious meals of chicken scratch and egg pellets and the cheapest white bread I could find.

I tossed out the scratch and the pellets and the pieces of bread.

It was fun, actually, even if we ended up with more eggs than any two people ever could eat. I thought it would never end.

Then came our two blazing summers. The soaring temperatures and a disease the County Agent couldn’t identity took two of the remaining original hens and all but one of the Leghorn Girls, one by one.

‘Bye, Lulu.”

“So long, Lola.”

“Hasta la vista, Layla, and Lila too.”

I tried my best to keep them alive, including antibiotics and a trip to the bird vet in Springfield, Missouri. But nothing worked.

I failed.

I cried.

Well, why not? They were like people to me. Friends. Every bit as individually distinguishable as our dogs and horses. More, even, than our cats.

After we said good-bye to Lila, Gwen said, “That’s it. No more chickens. We’re done.”

“Right,” I said. “We’ve still got McNugget and Chicken Vesuvius and Trixie. Let’s leave it at that.”

But that big, empty chicken yard sure looked forlorn. And feeding a measly three chickens just didn’t give me that Farmer Brody buzz.

So when Karen the Post Lady said, “My neighbor has Silkie hens he doesn’t have room for,” I said, “Put me down for twelve.”

At which point Gwen said, “Twelve hens?! What re you thinking?!”

And I said, “Okay, make that six.”

So for the last few months we’ve had nine chickens. Eight hens and their very happy banty man.

The Silkies are small and fluffy and cute. They run to greet me like toddlers when I come in to feed them and take their eggs. They stay close, and they join in the chorus when I do my “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” concert.

How long will they live? Got me. But I’ve learned a lot over the years. I know more about chicken diets. Their need for ventilation. Meds to give. And I’ll be watching them more closely than before.

There’s one thing I won’t do, though, and that’s name them. I’ll keep my emotional distance by letting them be just “the chickens.” No personal feelings involved.

But they do make me smile. Like they’re my little girls….

And, as I think about it, the little one that makes friends so fast—she kind of looks like a Gertrude to me. No, make that Gertie. And that one there in the back—if I ever saw an Ethel she’s the one….

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #95 “Speaking of Friendship…”

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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

One blustery day Burl Jr. the New Groundskeeper and I were outside clearing out the raised garden beds at the back of the clearing so Gwen the Beautiful could plant Paradise’s second best crop—tomatoes.

(The Number One best crop, of course, is rocks. And no one’s got to plant ‘em. The rocks have got “growing wild” all worked out.)

“Ouch!” Burl Jr. dropped the vine he’d been pulling at. “Dumb stickers!”

I laughed. Burl Jr. fixed me with a hard look. “What’s so funny?”

“How polite you were,” I said. “Even though you were hurting and annoyed. That made me think of what Brannigan the Contractor would’ve said if he’d been in your shoes.”

“He’d be swearing a blue streak,” said Burl Jr. “He’d be going on so loud and so long that the crows would be crying for him to give them a chance to talk.” His brow furrowed. “What’s with you two guys anyway?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you’re such good friends. But you’re so different. Brannigan’s a yeller, whether he’s happy or sad. He’s always got something to say and no problem pushing right in to say it no matter what anybody else thinks or wants. I know people around here who’re scared to death of him.

“But you,” Burl Jr. went on, “you’re Larry B. ‘Larry B. Good’ some folks call you. Or ‘Larry B. Proud.’ ‘Larry B. Smart.’ You’re like a spy. Hanging around quietly and watching. Not like somebody who’d be Brannigan’s friend at all.”

“I don’t know about the ‘Larry B. Good’ thing,” I said, “but I watch so I can learn. And one of the things I’ve learned is that Brannigan’s not who people think he is. That’s only an act.”

Burl Jr. went to work on that vine with a rake. He nodded toward what he was doing. “Got to keep myself safe,” he said. “So who’s Brannigan really?”

“He’s a man who loves to draw. He did a little sketch of some cabins he wanted to build to replace the hay shed over there, and it was so good it looked like it should be framed. When I told him that he got all red in the face and shy and mumbled about how he’d wanted to be a cartoonist when he was a kid.”

“Brannigan the Contractor drawing Spider-Man? Ha! No way.”

“Brannigan the Cartoonist drawing Dilbert would be more like it,” I said.

“He’s a Dilbert kind of guy? Who would’ve thought?”

“There’s a lot of things about him no one would think. I remember when he and I first met. He really liked the property and wanted to see more of it. We took a walk down to the Old Settlers’ Cabins, and then to where the creek used to be.

“About halfway down there it was like he and I had disappeared and been replaced by Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. We turned into eight year old boys, creeping through the woods. Pushing through the brambles, on a Quest for the Source. Brannigan was convinced that if we could find where the spring the feeds the creek had been buried by bulldozers we could uncover it and make it flow again.

“We didn’t find the spring, but we had more fun that I’d had in years. You should’ve seen Brannigan, spotting tracks he decided were made by Bigfoot himself! He got so caught up tracking that thing I didn’t think I’d ever get him back up here.”

“Brannigan with an imagination? You’re rocking my world, dude.”

“He uses his imagination too. Know what he does on weekends? Goes to craft fairs selling beautiful hand carved candlesticks…and the hands that carved them are his.”

Carefully, Burl Jr. untangled the vines from the teeth of the rake. “So why does he hide that part of him?” he said.

I pointed to the rake. “Why’d you say you were using that?”

“To be safe.” A smile crossed Burl Jr.’s face. “Oh,” he said. “But that still doesn’t explain why you’re his friend.”

“I’m Brannigan’s friend because I’ve seen what a brave man he is. It takes courage to open yourself up to someone else, even for just a minute, and be who you really are.”

“Is this who you really are?” said Burl Jr.

I grabbed a spade. Started turning over some earth. “We’ve got work to do!” I said.

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #94 “First Snow of the Season”

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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

It snowed here in Paradise a few weeks ago. The first major snow of the season, with all the trimmings.

Gwen the Beautiful and I were in the neighboring city of Mountain Home when it began. We were looking for a new couch to replace the one Emmy the Bold, Decker the Giant Hearted, and Belle the Wary have turned into a 7-foot dog bed.

Two hours after the first flakes drifted down we still hadn’t found what we wanted so we decided to let it rest for now and go on home.

Three hours after the snow began its descent we finally made it to the highway, half a mile from the furniture store.

What slowed us down? Accidents. Accidents everywhere. Little cars skidding into ditches. Big trucks fishtailing across center lines. Injured vehicles squatting perpendicular to the road.

What a mess.

And the snow continued its leisurely way down, oblivious to the trouble it was causing.

Peacefully creating a fine, white-layered chaos in city once voted, “Most like the Midwest but not in the Midwest” by a group of former Chicagoans, who certainly should know.

Four plus hours after the snow started Gwen and I drove up to our clearing, spinning and sliding all the way. When we reached the top I was dripping with sweat from the concentration our usually short and easy journey had taken.

But I was smiling as well.

A foot of snow covered the ground, and all the roofs and eaves on the property wore snowy crowns. The hay shed, an eyesore if ever there was one, built out of discarded plywood and scavenged framing, gleamed with a luminous white beauty, dazzling me as it reflected (somehow!) a sun I couldn’t see.

Gwen went inside and let out the dogs. Emmy came charging at me, veering away at the last second to grab a soccer ball in her jaws. She feinted toward me again, and I reached out for the ball.

Emmy whirled and plowed in the opposite direction. As always, regardless of the weather, I gave chase. Decker and Belle barked but stayed clear. They knew this was Emmy’s show.

Emmy and I played for about an hour. I would dive for the ball and fall face first onto the snow. Emmy would yelp her laughter, and by doing that drop the ball, which I immediately would sweep away from her with flailing arms.

Then I’d leap to my feet and try to kick the ball farther before she would grab it.

Sometimes I succeeded. Mostly, though, I went flopping backward, grateful for the softness that cushioned each meeting of my rear end and the ground. At one point, I kicked the ball under the truck, and it stopped rolling, wedged against the differential.

Emmy barked. “You kicked it, you get it!” she said. “Those are the rules.”

“Since when?” I said.

“Since the first puppy and the first person ever played this game long ago!”

I crawled under the truck. Pulled out the ball. As I lay with my face against the ground I heard the snow laugh.

“Taste me,” it said. “C’mon. See what you’ve been missing.”

I buried my face in the snow. Licked it.

“No flavor,” I said, surprised. “None.”

“Ah, but what a texture!” the snow said.

And it was right.

The snow was both coarse and smooth, icy and comfortable…and comforting. I took another mouthful, gathered my strength, pulled myself out from under the truck. With a last burst of energy, I stood and drop kicked the soccer ball.

It hit the side of the storage shed and bounced right to Emmy, who snapped it up and pranced to the front porch, where she put it down by the door.

“I win!” I said.

She gave me a look. “What?”

“You went to the porch. That means you quit first. So I win.”

Emmy licked me. “We both won,” she said. “We always do.”

That night, DW, Burl Jr.’s boss at Paradise Music called me.

“This weather is driving me crazy,” he said. “My son totaled my truck, and I wiped out my wife’s car just a few minutes ago trying to drive off my own property. I hate snow!”

I thought about the fun I’d had that afternoon up here at the top of The Mountain.

“Careful there,” I said. “You’re talking about one of my best friends.”