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 oldest daughter, Jenny the Wall Street Journal Reporter, called the other day to say that my grandchildren have been getting impatient for more e-mail from their grandfather.
“They especially want to hear more about the horses,” Jenny said.
So I’ve been thinking about Huck the Spotless Appaloosa and Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang. Specifically about all the ways they interact.
Almost 18 hands tall, Huck is a gelding but doesn’t know it. He’s proud, smart, stubborn, possessive, playful…and loving. He’s my brother, with whom I have long talks. Everything’s a joke to Huck except his woman. To him, Elaine is serious business.
A little slip of a thing barely more than pony size, Elaine takes herself very seriously too. She’s a wild creature and as wary as they come. The only activity Elaine seems to enjoy is hiding herself in the trees. Look away from her for a second and she vanishes like a chameleon, perfectly camouflaged.
Huck and Elaine have a solid relationship. They swat flies off each other and share their hay. When one or the other needs space, he or she gets it without argument. When one or the other feels selfish and has the urge to take more than give, the other shrugs and stands back and gives.
It wasn’t always that way. When Elaine came into Huck’s life he was a spoiled four year old brat. The only horse on our property in Southern California. He was a showboat, prancing and demanding and calling out so us for, “More alfalfa! More water! And gimme some lovin’ too!”
I knew that even though he wasn’t admitting it Huck was lonely for the company of other horses. So when Gwen the Beautiful and I found Elaine headed for the horsemeat auction we plunked down the cash it took to save her and brought the crippled 13-year-old home.
Elaine limped into Huck’s life eagerly, squealing her mare squeal. He snorted his almost-a-stallion snort and did what came naturally.
Nipped her on the back of her neck.
And got kicked in the head.
They fought for weeks. Over food. Water. Attention.
“This isn’t going to work out,” Gwen said one day. “Maybe they need a break from each other. Some distance to put things into perspective.”
I wasn’t sure what she was getting at but certainly was willing to give it a try. I put a halter on Huck’s head. Snapped a lead rope to it. “C’mon, big guy.”
Huck shot a look over at Elaine. “See? He’s taking me.”
I led him from the barren corral to a green pasture on the other side of the house. Behind us, Gwen started to close the gate so I could let Huck graze freely. But just as she touched it the longest, most desperate cry I’ve ever heard came from the corral—
“Elaine!” To others Huck might have sounded like he was screaming, but I knew he was calling his mare’s name.
He reared up, yanking the rope from my hand. Ears flattened, nostrils flared, Huck whirled and galloped like a thoroughbred past the house. All I could think of was that lead rope. Of him getting tangled in it. Crashing to the ground—
Gwen and I raced after him. Found him standing at the corral fence. On the other side stood Elaine, the two of them nuzzling. They were so close it looked as though their heads were intertwined.
The two of us stared. Automatically, we reached out and held each other’s hand. Watching as Huck and Elaine showed each other their true feelings.
After a few minutes Huck turned toward Gwen and me. “I think she likes me,” he said. “I didn’t even know.”
Elaine nickered at him softly. “Talk to me,” she said.
“You’re interrupting!” Huck said to her. And nipped her.
Elaine nipped back. And off they went.
Recently I saw an article by the writer Nora Ephron that included the following truism: “You can never know the truth of anyone’s marriage, including your own.”
I appreciate Ms. Ephron’s practical wisdom, but I wonder if she realizes how universal her words are. I won’t be sharing this with my toddler grandchildren but look forward to the day when I can help them understand the truth about love and relationships Gwen and I were lucky enough to have learned from our brother Huck and our sister Elaine.