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
Yesterday was a great day in Paradise.
I awoke at 7:30. Kissed Gwen the Beautiful’s sleeping face. In bed with us were Emmy the Bold and, believe it or not, Bob the Very Careful Cat. Both of them were sound asleep, their breath matching Gwen’s in one rhythmic rise and fall.
When Emmy saw me pull on my robe and my boots she knew the day had begun. She hurled herself off the bed in the all-or-nothing fashion that’s given her the bone spurs of a dog twice her age, and went downstairs with me. Well, not really “with” me. Even though she’s lost a couple of steps she still stayed one step ahead.
Together, we went outside. I intended to feed the horses, but, like Emmy, Maya the Good was ahead of me, throwing the hay over the fence. We said our, “Good mornings” in voices that showed neither of us felt like talking much just yet, and I followed Emmy to the dog yard, where she yapped at Decker the Giant Hearted and Belle the Wary, her very adult kids.
“Let us out! Let us out!” the other two dogs said, as they do every morning.
“Talk to your mother,” I told them. “There’re rules here, you know.”
Decker and Belle whined. Emmy too. They know the rules but don’t always like them. Especially the one that says only two dogs can be outside together at one time.
They also know the reason for this rule. It’s because of the pack mentality. Three dogs going off together are far more likely to get into serious trouble than two, as Gwen and I learned the hard way years ago.
“I’ll be back soon,” Emmy said, and, as she does every morning, she ran into the woods.
“What’s ‘soon?'” Belle said.
“Doesn’t matter,” said Decker. “Whatever it is, she’ll be longer. That’s how she works.”
Decker was right. That’s what makes him such a great dog. He’s always right—except when he’s raising himself up over the kitchen counter to scarf down a layer of chocolate cake before any human comes back into the room.
My next morning stop was the chicken pen. I refilled the chickens’ feeders and gave them fresh water. And I counted them. I always count the chickens when I go in there, to make sure everyone’s alive and well.
As long as I was done watering animals, I topped off the horses’ trough. Then I went back into the house, started some coffee, and sat down at the computer to read the news and see what friendly and not-so-friendly email had arrived.
I tried to be quiet about everything but was keenly aware of how loud the opening and closing of the fridge and various cabinets sounded. How my desk chair squeaked. My keyboard clacked.
“You’re going to wake up Gwen,” the house said.
“Hope not,” I said.
“Really?” the house said.
“Erm…maybe not,” I heard myself reply.
The house smiled. I saw it in the way the sun suddenly shone in through the open curtains, lightening the logs that are our downstairs walls. Inanimate as the place in which I live is supposed to be, it was as right as Decker had been.
I really did want Gwen to awaken. So I could hold her. Look into her eyes. Most importantly, talk to her. Because she’s the one human on this planet I’m always ready to talk to.
The steady plink of the coffee dripping stopped. I started for the coffee maker, stopped as, from outside, I heard a yip.
Emmy was back from the woods.
I opened the front door and in she strutted. “Ready for my treat,” she said, “while you get the kids.”
I gave her some jerky strips. Went outside to let out Decker and Belle. Decker bolted first, making straight for the front porch of the house. Belle started after him, then stopped and turned back to me. Bowed the dog bow. Took off in Decker’s wake. As usual.
I hurried after them. All three of us entered the house.
My favorite voice. I looked up at the landing just below the loft where Gwen and I sleep. Gwen was awake.
“Good morning!” Emmy, Decker, Bell, and I said.
As one, we rushed to engulf the mistress of the manor as she made her way downstairs.
Another great day in Paradise.
And it had hardly gotten started.