Larry Brody: ‘Live! From Paradise! #3’ – Fred & Dead

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NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and occasionally best owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise we had to keep on earning. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

By Larry Brody

One day as my wife Gwen the Beautiful and I were leaving the ranch to drive into town we noticed a couple of trucks pulled over at the side of the road. Several people were standing around and when one of them saw us he waved and called out. “You missing your dog?”

We weren’t, but that didn’t keep us from being curious. We drove over to the group and saw Fred, an old-timer from up the road, and a Mennonite couple and their son. Fred pointed into the woods—our woods on our property as it turned out—and showed me what the fuss was about. A dead dog lying under a tree about fifty feet from the road.

We tromped in for a closer look. Fred showed me four widely spaced bullet holes. Someone had shot the dog, probably from the road. “None of these is a kill shot,” Fred pointed out. “Whoever did the shooting wanted the dog to suffer.” His eyes misted up. “Same thing happened to my dog.”

As we walked back to the road Fred told me about his dead retriever, “the best dog that ever honored a man with her love.” One day not long enough ago for the memory to have healed, Fred’s dog came crawling home to die in his arms after being shot six times. Individually, none of the wounds was mortal, but in combination, “She bled to death is what happened.”

The Mennonite Couple said they’d seen a black pickup going up and down the road slowly several times in the past few weeks, and just that morning they’d heard shots coming from it as it went by. Fred’s eyes lighted up. He described different kinds of black pickups. “Was it a Ford? Dodge? Did it have chrome pipes?” He reminded me of all the TV detectives I’ve written over the years. Sounded like a member of CSI.

The Mennonite Couple answered as best they could. Fred’s expression grew grim. “This old boy with the black pickup is just plain bad,” he said. “I’ll find out who he is—“

“And go to the sheriff…? Gwen said.

“This ain’t a sheriff kinda thing,” Fred said. “Animals’re kind of a gray area. No…I’ll just be paying that old boy a little visit on my own…”

“You might want to have somebody with you,” the Mennonite husband said. He was volunteering, but Fred shook his head. Patted the hunting knife sheathed to his belt.

“No,” said Fred. “It’s best if I go alone. That’s one of the Old Ways.” His eyes rested on each of us standing there, one after another. “Till then, you’d best be watching your dogs.”

“Somebody should bury that one,” the Mennonite woman said, pointing into the woods.

My property, my job. I told the others I’d take care of it, and after they drove off Gwen and I went back to our place, where Jeff, our Unhandy Man, and I grabbed a couple of shovels and did the deed. When we were finished I sent out a little prayer, best wishes for a dog that someone, somewhere close by, most certainly must have loved.

Since then, every time I’m on that road I find myself looking for a black pickup. And, of course, I always find one, or two or three. Part of me says, “Get the license number! Call Fred!” But another part says, “Stay out of this. How’ll you feel if someone gets hurt?”

The truth is, I don’t know how I’ll feel if I hear that an evil old boy with a black pickup was found sliced and diced or shot dead. Or if I learn that Fred’s been charged with the slicing, dicing, or shooting. I’m not even sure what I’ll feel if I hear that an evil old boy with a black pickup took Fred out in self-defense.

What I am sure of is that if in the meantime anything happens to one of my dogs I’m going to regret to my own dying day that, unlike Fred, I don’t have what it takes to hitch up my anger and steep myself in the blood of the Old Ways.

But I’ll tell you this. If that time comes, ain’t nothing in this or any other world that’ll keep me from calling on old Fred.

Larry Brody: “She Loves Me!” Um, Maybe…kinda…sorta?

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NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I lived on Cloud Creek Ranch, our property in the Ozarks about 15 minutes south of Yellville, Arkansas, population roughly 1200.

In many ways, Cloud Creek was paradise. But it was a paradise we had to keep on earning. Here’s another Monday musing about how our adventure, and the lessons we learned.

Live! From Paradise! #2
By Larry Brody

I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods this past week, cutting down saplings and trimming the cedars that surround Cloud Creek Ranch’s Original Settlers’ Cabins. The result is about an acre of wood that used to be vertical but now lies horizontally on the ground, exposing beautiful flat rock steps leading up to a ridge of caves. When I’m done this will be a terrific area to loaf in, and maybe build a tree house. For now, what I’m doing is the perfect way to stop thinking about all the “important” things and relax.

I began this project on a day that felt like Spring. Sunshine, sweet breeze, chirping birds. But for the past couple of days it’s been raining. The rain makes the rock steps slippery, and I did a lot of sliding around today. At first I thought it was going to be a disaster because we’ve got these thorny green vines shooting out of the ground everywhere, and if you’re not careful you can get sliced up pretty well.

I was lucky today. After the first time I fell and got caught in one of those nasties I was able to avoid the others with quick twists and turns. That first time was rough. A young vine, green and supple, snagged my leg, then my arm, and held me tight.

I started swearing and struggling, and the vine held me tight, like a desperate animal. It didn’t hold me because it wanted to but because it needed support. I stopped moving. Knelt where I was, perfectly still. And remembered another time when I’d felt something totally unexpected while in the woods. On that day, about eight years ago, in a clump of trees on what was then our property in California, tenderness had ruled.

Our old place was the kind you don’t expect to see so close to L.A. Acres of woods with fat-bellied old oaks and aromatic pepper trees. On the day in question I was standing under a pepper tree, splitting logs. Suddenly, one of the limbs of the tree waved down to my face, and a lone leaf brushed my lips. I stopped in mid swing. Straightened. Stared. To my dying day I will remember my thought:

She kissed me…

Because that’s what it felt like. A sweet, tender kiss from the gentlest woman who had ever lived. I remember my words as I looked up at the waving leaves. “I love this tree!”

The other day, though, at our new place, I wasn’t being kissed but held, by the living equivalent of razor wire. And I wasn’t exultant but afraid. Of the thorns pushing in deeper. Or, worse, loosening and slashing me to ribbons as they tried to embrace me again.

I thought things over. The tenderness of a tree. The desperation of a vine. Not deliberate choices but expressions of their nature. Softly rustling branches are, by nature, tender. Twining, grasping vines are, by nature, desperate. Tree and vine, revealing themselves. Expressing themselves.

I had welcomed the kiss. What right did I have to reject the embrace?

I looked down at the vine. Forced myself to say, “I love this vine!”

I didn’t, of course. I was outright lying. But when I said the words, the vine relaxed. It quivered and pulled away. The sense of desperation vanished, replaced by gratitude. I cut it the vine short, even with the ground, and I went back to work on the saplings.

Now I’m sitting at my desk. It’s still raining outside. A good old boy neighbor called a little while ago. “Tain’t fit for man nor beast out there,” he said, as though no one had ever said it before. Because he meant it. It was something he had to say. An expression of his nature as a farmer.

I won’t speak for my “beasts,” but I disagreed with him. After years in a drought area I love the rain. I didn’t say a word, though. My neighbor is who he as, as the pepper tree is who she is, and the vine. We don’t have to agree with everyone. We don’t have to love everyone. But a little understanding, and a sweet lie, can go a long way.

Larry Brody: “Live! From Paradise! #1”

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NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I lived in the Ozarks, on a little ranch that covered a good portion of a not very tall mountain about 15 miles south of a town called Yellville, Arkansas, population roughly 1200.

We’d gone to Arkansas because Harry Thomason, with whom I’d worked on the series The Fall Guy back in the ’80s had always insisted “Arkansas is the most beautiful state in the union. It’s the perfect place to retire.”

Another thing he’d insisted back then was that his best friend and at the time the governor of Arkansas, a guy named Bill Clinton, “is going to be President someday, you’ll see.”

Harry had proved right about the President bit, so when the Brodys decided to escape from showbiz we checked out Arkansas and he seemed right about that as well. It definitely was a beautiful state. Especially north central Arkansas, up near the Missouri border.

We bought the property, and with the help of Harry and the Bill Clinton connection we opened Cloud Creek Institute for the Arts, a TV and film-making “colony” where new talent could live and work with experienced pros on equipment that at the time wasn’t readily available to noobs and learn how to create their own productions by actually creating them there on the premises.

When we got to Cloud Creek we thought we knew, and were prepared for, the challenges that lay ahead. Of course, we didn’t really know, and definitely weren’t prepared for what really happened. But, hey, isn’t that what makes life the grand adventure it so often is?

During our years in the Ozarks, I wrote a newspaper column for The Baxter Bulletin, the biggest paper in the area and enjoyed the experience more than I did just about any other writing gig I’ve ever had.

A couple of days ago, thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I received a public communication from a former agent of mine in which he asked if I was still living in what he called “Bumfuck, Arkansas,” and I realized that it was attitudes like his that had contributed greatly to making me want to leave L.A. in the first place.

I also realized that I hadn’t been thinking much about Cloud Creek for awhile, so I revisited some of the old columns and – I can’t lie – enjoyed them.

Here’s the first of them, written shortly after we arrived. If enough of us agree that there’s nothing inherently Bumfuck about life that’s just about as far from the big city as it can get, I’ll probably post more.

By Larry Brody

My wife Gwen the Beautiful and I (and our three dogs and three cats) had been on our mountaintop ranch for a couple of weeks when the stragglers in our family arrived—our Appaloosa “brother,” Huck and his mustang mare, Elaine.

We hadn’t exactly had room for them in our pickup, so they’d made the 1700 mile trip from Southern California in the company of a husband and wife team of professional horse transporters. Huck announced his presence with a sound-barrier breaking whinny, and I led him into the corral we’d built. Elaine refused to be separated from her guy, so she came along after him, free and unattended—as a mustang should be.

Gwen paid the transporters, and I stood with Huck nibbling on my chin and watched their big Dooley truck and 4-horse trailer pull away. Make that “try to pull away.” They’d stopped halfway up what I call the rocky driveway and were stuck in our Ozark mud. After an hour of wheel spinning and me getting nowhere trying to pull ‘em out with my two-wheel drive truck, I knew I had to come up with a better plan.

The way I saw it, this was as good a time as any to meet the neighbors. I edged past the transporters and made my way down the road. It was sunset, and I was looking for lights I could see through the trees. I never saw any.

But I did see Willie Horn.

I found big, sweaty, muscle-shirted Willie Horn on his tractor, heading from his field to his house. Calling out over the noise, I explained my problem. Willie Horn didn’t hesitate, except to say, “Where do you live?” I’d already learned the difference between addresses and directions, so I told him how to get there. “See you in a few minutes,” he said.

Sure enough, fifteen minutes later he pulled up in an old, rusted-out, 4-wheel drive truck. Wordlessly, he drove up to the top of the hill. Backed up to the Dooley. Set up a rusty chain—

And hauled the truck and trailer up to our clearing without a problem. As the horse transporters made the turn-around and vanished down to the road, Willie Horn got out of his truck and thrust a meaty hand out at me. “Willie Horn. Don’t ever call me William. Or Bill. Or Mr. Horn. I’m Willie Horn.”

“Thanks for coming by, Willie Horn.” I shook Willie Horn’s hand. He had a grip that could crush Ozark rocks. Willie Horn shrugged. “Gotta do the right thing. Always wondered what it was like up here,” he said. Nobody ever invited me before.”

“Hey, you’re invited now. Come and hang any time.”

Willie Horn smiled. “I’ll do that. Gotta do my hangin’ while I can. Got cancer, you know.” He gestured under each arm. “Lymph glands. Doctors give me—maybe—one or two years more. Need to make sure the family’s taken care of by the time I say good-bye.”

After Willie Horn left. I didn’t see him again for a couple of years. Worried he was dead. But not long ago there I was on the feed store loading dock, and about three feet away stood this familiar looking bulk. The bulk and I looked at each other more closely.

“I know you,” we both said at once. And, also simultaneously: “Willie Horn!”

We shook hands. Our gazes went to the vehicles at the end of the dock. Two new pickups. Again we spoke as one: “You got a new truck!”

Willie Horn let me answer first. “The old one almost slid into the pond one day last year, so I got myself a 4-wheel drive.”

“Sold my old one to my wife’s son,” Willie Horn said. “This one’s got 4-wheel on-the-fly.”

“Come up to my place and hang some time, Willie Horn,” I said.

“I’ll do that” he said, “Gotta do my hangin’ while I can.”

The loaders had finished tossing sacks into both our trucks. With a sweaty wave, Willie Horn jumped down from the dock, got inside and drove away.

The first time the two of us shook hands, the pain lasted for two days. This time it was gone after one. I‘d like to hang with Willie Horn. But I know he won’t come by. He’s busy making sure his family’s taken care of.

Busy doin’ the right thing.

Larry Brody’s Poetry: ‘God Ain’t No Siegal & Schuster Character, Not Even Kirby & Lee’

NOTE FROM LB

The final poem here on TVWriter™, for awhile anyway. Not because I’m giving up but because I think it’s time to really bear down and write some more!


Larry Brody’s Poetry: ‘God Ain’t No Siegal & Schuster Character, Not Even Kirby & Lee’
by Larry Brody

I always thought of Christ as a superhero.

Messiah Man!

Son of God!

Able to walk on water without a threat,

Heal the sick,

Feed the multitudes,

Raise the dead!

Hey, we’re talking real Marvel and D.C. stuff here.

He sees all, knows all, fulfills the plan of the Divine,

And, wow! wotta Dad! Not bad with the babes either,

Sure got on with Mary Magdeline, if you know what

I mean. One day, though, my love was crying,

And I held her tightly while she told why. “I try to

Be good,” she said. “I do things for other people.

My daughter, my husband, my family and friends—

I take care of you all. But my sisters and my mother

Seem to hate me. They hurt me whenever we talk.

My friends don’t know who I really am, and from

That comes great pain. And no matter how much

I give you and Amber, always you two need more.

I’m in danger,” she said, “always in danger, and it

Isn’t in spite of doing the right thing, it’s because.”

Now I’m no Bible scholar. It’s all comic book

Colors to me. But I started reading about Super Jesus

Again, just to see. And whaddaya know? Invulnerability

Ain’t one of the powers. Cut him, and he sure as hell

Bleeds. In fact, the Son of God suffers. He’s tempted,

He’s scorned, he’s betrayed and tortured. His

Mind and his body are wrenched every which way.

He just plain feels terrible all the time. Shit, the guy dies

One of the most painful deaths man can decree.

So something’s going on here,

Something we forget. To do right,

To be right, is agony. There’s no

Saving ourselves. Dr. Doom is always

Around the corner, with Lex Luthor

Right by his side. To be a superhero is

To keep fighting, even though you know

Krypton has to explode.

###

ANOTHER NOTE FROM LB

If you enjoyed this poem, you probably would like my book of poetry, Kid Hollywood and the Navajo Dog, available at Amazon.Com for an unlimited time for exactly $0.00. Yes, you read that correctly. Free. More than a Christmas present, this is my life present to you all.

Go straight to Amazon and avail yourself of all the delicious goodness simply by clicking HERE. (And if you like it, it would be great if you wrote a review. No pressure, but eventually someone’s got to, right?)

Many thanks.


Larry Brody is the head dood at TVWriter™. He is posting at least one poem a week here at TVWriter™ because, as the Navajo Dog herself once pointed out, “Art has to be free. If you create it for money, you lose your vision, and yourself.” She said it shorter, though, with just a snort.

Larry Brody’s Poetry: ‘Basic Training (Courtesy Of The Navajo Dog)’

NOTE FROM LB

A public service message from The Navajo Dog. Listen up, kids, cuz unlike us humans she always knows what she’s talking about, even if we can’t figure it out.


Basic Training (Courtesy Of The Navajo Dog)
by Larry Brody

The Navajo dog is a schemer,

A sage who teaches with tricks, threats, and lies.

She makes things real as they are needed,

Pushing and prodding to set souls into the places

She deems proper so her lessons will spring to life.

No cost is too high for the Navajo dog to pay,

Nor too much for her to ask of such as we.

She demands all, and in return gives everything she has.

When I asked her one day (oh so long, it seems,

So long, long ago!) why she did things this way,

Why she didn’t lead Socratically with the truth,

The Navajo dog barked a short laugh,

And pawed at the dry earth. As she dug deeper,

The dirt grew more moist,

Darkening into a wholeness that no longer could be

Chipped or fragmented away.

“This is truth, ignorant boy,” she said.

“This is the true Mother Earth. The deeper we

Get the more is she alive. All of her is one,

A wholeness that dries into scattered bits

When brought up to the sun. Your mother

Does not throw herself at you, and expose

Her innards. She hides, and makes you find her,

Plants clues—lies!—to tempt you and tease you

And lead you ever on. You must dig and dig and dig

Past the desert’s dead surface,

To find the truth of this world,

Just as you must dig and dig and dig

Past the desert dog’s lies.”

“And what you tell me now,” I asked,

“Is this the truth? Or is there something deeper

For which I must search?”

The Navajo dog stuck her muzzle into the

Hole she had made, clamped her teeth

On a shard of bone. “If I scratched my way

Down to the center of the earth,” she said,

“Would there still be someplace deeper to go?”

I heard the bone crack between her jaws,

Watched her swallow the fragments.

“Always,” I said. “Always something deeper.”

The Navajo dog yipped and pranced off.

“What do you say we go hunting?” she called back to me,

“And find ourselves something a little more alive?”

###

ANOTHER NOTE FROM LB

If you enjoyed this poem, you probably would like my book of poetry, Kid Hollywood and the Navajo Dog, available at Amazon.Com for an unlimited time for exactly $0.00. Yes, you read that correctly. Free. More than a Christmas present, this is my life present to you all.

Go straight to Amazon and avail yourself of all the delicious goodness simply by clicking HERE. (And if you like it, it would be great if you wrote a review. No pressure, but eventually someone’s got to, right?)

Many thanks.


Larry Brody is the head dood at TVWriter™. He is posting at least one poem a week here at TVWriter™ because, as the Navajo Dog herself once pointed out, “Art has to be free. If you create it for money, you lose your vision, and yourself.” She said it shorter, though, with just a snort.