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
I’m always amazed at how much like humans the animals here at Cloud Creek are.
Take Emmy the Bold and her family, for example.
The two younger dogs, Decker the Giant Hearted and Belle the Wary, are the children of Emmy and the Big Red Chow Dude.
From the first moment the Dude sauntered onto our Mountain, Emmy behaved as though he was her one and only.
“Let me out! That’s my twin flame!” she shouted, doing her best to throw herself through the front window and land in the Dude’s—um—“arms.”
The Dude fathered twelve pups and stayed around to watch those we kept grow up. He protected them from forest dangers, even searched for and brought back Belle when she was lost.
But he never played with his kids. Wouldn’t let them touch him. Sometimes they quivered in fear just because he was around.
Which was less and less as Decker, especially, got bigger and bigger, and both he and Belle stopped giving ground to Daddy.
I could see that the Dude’s attitude was a source of friction between him and Emmy. He’d growl at the kids and she’d be all over him, berating him with barking that sent him packing into the woods.
And, yes, it reminded me just a little of myself. “Do the kids have to go with us everywhere?” I used to say about my five. “Isn’t Amber a little old to still be cuddling with you while we’re watching TV?”
And the ever-popular, “No, I can’t go see the life-sized monster truck you built out of Lego’s. I’m working!”
Emmy’s relationship with the Dude has cooled over the years. After months of being gone, he visited for a couple of days around Christmas, but we haven’t seen him since.
I didn’t think of this blowing out of the flames as being “child-related” until the other day as I watched Emmy play with her friend the Australian Shepherd.
The Aussie is a young dog. In fact, he’s probably younger than Emmy’s two kids. He lives across the road and has been coming over just about every day or night since the Dude’s last visit.
Emmy always reacts to his arrival joyfully, the two of them doing a little circle dance and then running off together with the kind of yapping that tells a dog lover all’s right with the world.
Decker and Belle like him too, but they show their reactions in different ways.
Decker’s cool about it. I think it’s a guy thing because he and the Aussie exchange sniffs and do a little licking and that’s that.
Which is a far cry from how Decker reacts to other dogs that try to come around. They get the kind of growl that raises the hair on the back of your neck. You know the sound—guaranteed to send bears, or maybe Big Red Chow Dudes, back into the woods.
Belle, on the other hand, loses her usual shyness whenever the Aussie is around and bounds to him like a gleeful young woman. He bounds back, and they run and wrestle and run some more, then roll around wrestling again until exhaustion ends the game.
And you know what Emmy does while this is going on?
With a motherly smile.
The look on her face is an amazing combination of excitement, contentment, and love.
When Emmy caught me looking at her the other day she barked out a laugh.
“Look at them,” she said. “Isn’t it wonderful how the kids love him so much? And how he loves the kids?”
“He’s a good one,” I said. “Even if he won’t let me get close enough to pet him.”
“Another sign of how good he is,” Emmy said. “He’s smart. He knows the risks of dealing with humans in these hills.”
Belle yelped as the Australian Shepard grabbed her too hard. Quickly, he let go—and she grabbed him in return. Emmy raised her head the way a human would raise her shoulders to shrug.
“He’s no Big Red Chow Dude, that’s for sure,” I said to her.
“He’s a family man,” Emmy said. And then she plunged into the play. The dogs raced into the corral, zigging and zagging, then beyond it, through the trees.
A wave of regret swept over me. I went into the house. Picked up the phone. Started calling my sons and daughters.
It’s late, but maybe I’ve still got time.