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
Not only is Cloud Creek Ranch the home Gwen the Beautiful and I share with various furry and feathery friends, it’s also a school where people come from all over the world to study media writing and production. I always find the students fascinating and love being around their talent and zeal.
Last week we had our most impressive student yet. A Chicago high school freshman I call Conan.
At fourteen years old, Conan’s a 6’5”, 325 pound defensive tackle who plays football not because he loves it (he doesn’t), but because he’s a certified genius with an IQ literally off the charts, and he wants to leverage his size as much as possible so he isn’t mocked by other kids.
In return for a crash course in video editing, Conan’s been helping Burl Jr. the New Caretaker and me with the chores this week.
He’s been feeding the animals, clearing brush, mending fences. Feeling what it’s like to be part of the land. It’s been eye-opening to experience life from the perspective of a Barely-A-Teenager who proved himself not only to be brilliant but also wide open to whatever comes his way.
At first, Conan was all kid. “My mom says you created the Silver Surfer,” he said to me as he brushed out Huck the Spotless Appaloosa’s snarled tail.
“Kind of,” I said. “I helped start up the TV version.”
“I remember that,” Conan said. “I was about five. The Surfer was awesome.” Then: “Um…what were his powers again?”
“The Power Cosmic.”
“The Power Cosmic! Wow!”
The next day a FedEx truck pulled up with a package. A baseball cap and T-shirt for a new film. Conan, who couldn’t fit into either of them in two million years, gazed at these holy artifacts in awe.
“How’d you get those?” he said.
“I’m a friend of the director,” I said.
“The director! Wow!”
By the third day Conan was demonstrating a lot more.
“You were right about this video editing program being tricky,” he said as his hands flashed across the computer keyboard. “So I remapped the keys to make it more intuitive. And I’ve already cut together the first half of my video.”
“In one day? It would take me a week to do that.”
“Here, take a look.”
Conan leapt up. Carried our old oak bench across the room to the monitor as though it weighed nothing instead of a hundred pounds.
Gwen and I sat down together. She looked at the bench. At Conan. At the first half of Conan’s video.
“There’s a word for this,” she said. “It’s ‘Wow!’”
On the fourth day, Conan revealed yet another side.
He, Burl Jr., and I were outside at dawn, as Cloud Creek did one of its magic things. We were over by the hay shed when Conan noticed that Huck and Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang seemed to be missing from the corral.
“Where are the horses?” he said worriedly. “Do they go deep into the woods at night?”
“Not too deep,” I said. “The corral doesn’t go beyond that first stand of trees.”
Then why can’t I see them—?”
Conan broke off as Huck and Elaine appeared through the mist fifty yards from the fence. He stared.
“They’re not coming from the trees,” he said. “They’re taking shape in front of them. But how? Where’d they go?”
Huck ambled over to the fence. Whickered a greeting. Conan reached out to rub Huck’s neck, and saw something he didn’t expect.
“His mane is braided!” Conan looked over at Elaine. “So’s Elaine’s! But they weren’t braided last night!”
“The Good Ole Boys call those “witches’ knots,” Burl Jr. said.
“To get witches’ knots they’d have to be where there were witches,” Conan said.
He smiled broadly. “They go someplace very special at night, don’t they? Someplace that’s not exactly here in this world. Am I right?
“You sound like you’re pretty okay with that idea,” I said.
“More than okay,” said Conan. “I love it. I mean—“
The three of us said it together:
Teaching isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. But students like Conan make up for just about anything. I feel like I’ve been in the presence of a superhero in training.
Cloud Creek Ranch has turned into Professor X’s Academy. Be hopeful all ye who read this. A new generation of Champions is growing.
The best is yet to be.