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
At least that’s the one I get asked about most frequently. Just the other day, for example, when I walked into the Paradise Bank to make a deposit the greeting I got from Lovely Lorna the Teller wasn’t, “Good morning,” or “Hi, how’re you?” it was:
“Seen the ghost dog lately?”
Actually, Lorna asks this pretty much every time I’m at the Bank, and usually I duck the question.
Not because I don’t have an answer. Not even because I’m embarrassed to be known as “that crazy guy who thinks he’s got a ghost dog.”
But because I feel a bit superstitious about the whole Cloud Creek Ranch supernatural visitor thing. Like if I talk about it too much, or accept it to lightly, it’ll go away.
And, while strange voices and goings-on sent the original owners of this property running all the way to Florida, I love all the eerie activity. It’s exciting. Challenging. Like having Halloween every day of the year.
So yesterday I changed the subject when Lorna brought it up. Today, though, I’ve got to speak out.
Because the answer is, “Yes. Oh, man, yes. I saw the ghost dog today. Standing right beside me.”
In the past, as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve seen the dog’s tail. And both Gwen the Beautiful and I have heard it barking and running across our pine floor.
There’ve been other occurrences also, especially last summer when Gwen heard the dog almost every day when she went outside. Panting. Collar tags jingling—but no dog to be seen.
Today was the first time either of us saw the whole dog, and that honor fell to me.
Emmy the Bold, the only one of our dogs who sleeps in the house, woke me up at about two a.m. Barking, whining, crying. The whole thing that means, “Let me out! I want to play!”
Maybe I’ve gone soft over the years, but it seemed to my barely functioning self that I’d have a better chance of going back to sleep if I snapped off a salute, hollered, “Yes’m,” and opened the front door than if I went through the rigmarole of trying to convince Emmy that this wasn’t such a good time.
When I got downstairs I saw another dog with her by the door. Tan, it was, and short-haired.
Muscular and lean.
Draco, one of the three dogs Gwen and I originally brought to Paradise. The dog who had vanished into the woods three weeks later, never to be seen again. The dog I’ve kept an eye out for every day since then as I drive down our road.
Except, of course, that it couldn’t be Draco. Not inside, waiting patiently beside his old friend while she jumped and barked to go out.
My body started to tingle. I felt tears gathering in my eyes.
“Draco? What’re you doing here? How—“
I moved between the two dogs and reached down to pat him. Stopped when I saw that Draco wasn’t reacting to me. He was aimed at the door, as though there was nothing else in his world.
Draco didn’t want me. He wanted out.
I opened the door. Immediately, Emmy bounded out as she always does. As she made her move she brushed against Draco—and his trim, tan body turned translucent so that I saw right through him, to the floor.
He seemed to melt, and in an instant he was gone.
No longer inside. Not outside.
I took a last look outside, to where Emmy was prancing after something in the woods. Then I closed the door against the cold and went back upstairs.
As I got back into bed Gwen opened her eyes.
“Where’ve you been?” she said. “Is everything okay?”
“Emmy wanted to go out.”
“We shouldn’t let her get away with this.”
“Yeah, I know. Gwen…?”
“What is it, sweetie?”
“Draco was downstairs with her. He’s gone now.”
“He’s been gone for a long time,” she said.
“Maybe I should’ve said he’s back.”
Gwen sat up. “He’s the ghost dog, isn’t he?”
“I hope so,” I said.
We hugged, and Gwen went back to sleep.
I lay awake beside her in the darkness for a long time, listening for the next sound from our favorite ghost.