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 can’t help myself. The ways in which the lives of the animals here on The Mountain parallel those of the people I know continue to fascinate me.
Take Huck the Spotless Appaloosa and his new gal, Rosie the Arabian. Rosie had been living with us for only about a month when Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang died. For that month, Rosie was the “New Girl,” fully accepted by neither Huck nor Elaine.
But after Elaine’s death everything changed. Huck and Rosie huddled together, and there was no doubt in my mind that they were comforting each other.
It wasn’t a matter of the funereal platitudes we humans dispense. There was no, “She was a fine woman,” or, “It was all for the best.” And not even one, “Remember the way she used to love to rub against the fence…?”
Instead, they handled their grief physically.
Huck’s was stronger than Rosie’s. After all, he and Elaine had been together for seven years, emerging in tandem from the mist at the far end of the corral every morning like adventurers returning from a night in an enchanted realm, and vanishing into the darkness every evening to search for the magic again.
I was worried that without Elaine Huck would be lost. That he was in for a period of long and painful mourning. But within moments of Elaine’s burial Rosie showed the intelligence, sensitivity, and strength of character lovers of Arabian horses have always talked about.
She turned to Huck and did something Elaine never had. Nuzzled the side of his neck. Huck raised his head questioningly, but Rosie didn’t back away. Instead, she moved in closer and began grooming Huck’s back with her teeth. She worked her way from his withers to his flanks, and before long his face was covered by a big, horsey smile.
Huck looked over to where I stood by the corral gate. “Well, what do y’know?” he said. “She’s not so bad. She’s not bad at all.” And he closed his eyes and let out a long, soulful sigh.
In the weeks since then, Rosie’s never let a day go by without gently working her teeth along Huck’s spine or the back of his neck. And now that he’s discovered this pleasure Huck has started returning it as well.
He’s never been big on showing affection in public (now there’s a real man!), but every now and then I’ll see the two of them amid the trees with Huck following Rosie’s directions. “Over there,” she’ll be saying. “A little farther up…yes, that’s the spot. You’re such a good man….”
Being a domesticated breed and not a captured wild thing, Rosie’s much calmer than Elaine was, and that calm has spread to Huck.
Elaine would bolt in terror at loud engine sounds, which meant that Huck thought he had to protect her by rearing and racing around crazily whenever I started up the lawn tractor. Rosie, however, just stands peacefully and watches as I mow—and so does Huck.
“Aren’t you going to run around like a fool now?” I asked him the first time this happened.
“And look like a jerk in front of my woman?” said Huck. “Get serious, Larry. Why would I do that?”
Feeding time has become a pleasure now that Huck and Rosie are a couple. All I’ve got to do is put the hay down in one big pile and they dig into it together. No biting. No squealing. Just gob-smacking pleasure.
The one bone of contention between them is human attention. Whenever Gwen the Beautiful or I go outside, both Huck and Rosie call to us and come to the fence for petting, nose rubbing, and finger nibbling. Huck tries to keep Rosie back, behind him, as he did Elaine, but she’ll have none of it.
Right from the start, Rosie made her position clear. “I’m a member of this family,” she said firmly, and pushed her petite self forward, making sure she was right alongside the much bigger guy.
“You going to stand for that?” I said to Huck.
He snorted. “I made my point.”
Like Huck, I’ve come to love Rosie. He loves her because she makes him so happy. I love her for that, but also for something else.
I love her for being so much like the woman who’s made me so happy for so many wonderful years.
I love her for being Huck’s Gwen.