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
My California friend was certain a friendship with the Old Billionaire would bring me money.
Ha! As if.
Instead it’s brought me something better.
It started over at the Chicago Hot Dog Stand when the Old Billionaire invited me along while he ran a quick errand.
“The router’s gone bad on my home network,” he said. “I’m going over to that new computer store on the town square, see if they can handle the situation.”
I love computer stores. I love walking through them and looking at all the hardware and software I can’t afford. Being in the middle of all that razzle-dazzle makes me go, “Wow.”
It’s the same feeling I used to get in the local bookstore back when there were local bookstores, so even though I’d never noticed the place before the first words out of my mouth were, “Let’s go.”
We drove over in the Old Billionaire’s old panel truck. Parked in front of the courthouse.
The Old Billionaire was all excited. “This is how I test new places,” he said. “I give ‘em a little personal order. If they do the job and treat me kindly they get a shot at something more.”
And when you’re an Old Billionaire “something more” is quite a bit more. If whoever ran the computer store handled things right this could be his very lucky day.
As we crossed the street to the store, the Old Billionaire frowned. The place was a mess, its display window bare, paint scraped off one outside wall. Rumpled green fabric was piled up alongside it, straddled by a paint-spattered ladder.
“Looked a lot better than this when I drove by a couple of weeks ago,” the Old Billionaire said. “Be a shame if they’re going out of business already.”
Over a door that looked like it should’ve been locked was a little “Computers” sign. I was surprised when it opened, and more surprised after we walked inside.
The store was bare except for a counter in the back, where a barefoot man in shorts who looked like a tall leprechaun sat cross-legged, fiddling with the innards of an open computer case.
Beyond him, I could see a woman talking on the phone in a back room crammed with unopened shipping boxes. A bell attached to the floor chimed.
The Leprechaun looked up. Smiled. “Hi. What can I do for you fine gentlemen?”
“My laptop’s not connecting right,” the Old Billionaire said. “Dial-up’s fine, but the wireless do-hickey says there’s no network for it to hook up with.”
“Probably your router. You have a big power outage recently? That can take a router right out. I can get you one for not much money and show you how to install it. Or I can come over to your place and do the job for you.”
Then the Leprechaun’s face clouded. “Not today, though. We just opened. We’re not really set up yet.”
“Just opened?” I said.
“Yesterday,” said the Leprechaun. “I know I should’ve waited till all our stock was in, but I was too excited.”
“Young man,” said the Old Billionaire, “you sound like you know your stuff. I’ll give you a week. But when I come back I want to see that green awning up and your window filled with flashing doodads.”
“How’d you know we’re going to put up a green awning?” the Leprechaun said.
The Old Billionaire shrugged. “I’ve been around,” was all he said.
We left the store. I looked at the Old Billionaire as directly as I could. “You saw that store before it was there,” I said. “Two weeks ago you saw how it’ll look next week.”
“Could have,” he said. “Or there could be some other explanation.”
I waited for him to give me one. The Old Billionaire just smiled.
“These things happen,” he went on. “I think they happen to everybody. It’s just that some of us pay more attention. Pay enough attention, and—who knows?—someday a person could get rich.”
I motioned up the way, at the little candy store I’d seen a million times and always meant to try.
“C’mon. As long as we’re here, let’s test drive one of their caramel apples.”
“That a new store?” said the Old Billionaire. He recognized the look I was giving him. “No, no, I mean it. Never saw it before.”
“Reckon we’ll find out,” I said.
“Ah,” he said, “now you’re paying attention.”