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
One blustery day Burl Jr. the New Groundskeeper and I were outside clearing out the raised garden beds at the back of the clearing so Gwen the Beautiful could plant Paradise’s second best crop—tomatoes.
(The Number One best crop, of course, is rocks. And no one’s got to plant ‘em. The rocks have got “growing wild” all worked out.)
“Ouch!” Burl Jr. dropped the vine he’d been pulling at. “Dumb stickers!”
I laughed. Burl Jr. fixed me with a hard look. “What’s so funny?”
“How polite you were,” I said. “Even though you were hurting and annoyed. That made me think of what Brannigan the Contractor would’ve said if he’d been in your shoes.”
“He’d be swearing a blue streak,” said Burl Jr. “He’d be going on so loud and so long that the crows would be crying for him to give them a chance to talk.” His brow furrowed. “What’s with you two guys anyway?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you’re such good friends. But you’re so different. Brannigan’s a yeller, whether he’s happy or sad. He’s always got something to say and no problem pushing right in to say it no matter what anybody else thinks or wants. I know people around here who’re scared to death of him.
“But you,” Burl Jr. went on, “you’re Larry B. ‘Larry B. Good’ some folks call you. Or ‘Larry B. Proud.’ ‘Larry B. Smart.’ You’re like a spy. Hanging around quietly and watching. Not like somebody who’d be Brannigan’s friend at all.”
“I don’t know about the ‘Larry B. Good’ thing,” I said, “but I watch so I can learn. And one of the things I’ve learned is that Brannigan’s not who people think he is. That’s only an act.”
Burl Jr. went to work on that vine with a rake. He nodded toward what he was doing. “Got to keep myself safe,” he said. “So who’s Brannigan really?”
“He’s a man who loves to draw. He did a little sketch of some cabins he wanted to build to replace the hay shed over there, and it was so good it looked like it should be framed. When I told him that he got all red in the face and shy and mumbled about how he’d wanted to be a cartoonist when he was a kid.”
“Brannigan the Contractor drawing Spider-Man? Ha! No way.”
“Brannigan the Cartoonist drawing Dilbert would be more like it,” I said.
“He’s a Dilbert kind of guy? Who would’ve thought?”
“There’s a lot of things about him no one would think. I remember when he and I first met. He really liked the property and wanted to see more of it. We took a walk down to the Old Settlers’ Cabins, and then to where the creek used to be.
“About halfway down there it was like he and I had disappeared and been replaced by Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. We turned into eight year old boys, creeping through the woods. Pushing through the brambles, on a Quest for the Source. Brannigan was convinced that if we could find where the spring the feeds the creek had been buried by bulldozers we could uncover it and make it flow again.
“We didn’t find the spring, but we had more fun that I’d had in years. You should’ve seen Brannigan, spotting tracks he decided were made by Bigfoot himself! He got so caught up tracking that thing I didn’t think I’d ever get him back up here.”
“Brannigan with an imagination? You’re rocking my world, dude.”
“He uses his imagination too. Know what he does on weekends? Goes to craft fairs selling beautiful hand carved candlesticks…and the hands that carved them are his.”
Carefully, Burl Jr. untangled the vines from the teeth of the rake. “So why does he hide that part of him?” he said.
I pointed to the rake. “Why’d you say you were using that?”
“To be safe.” A smile crossed Burl Jr.’s face. “Oh,” he said. “But that still doesn’t explain why you’re his friend.”
“I’m Brannigan’s friend because I’ve seen what a brave man he is. It takes courage to open yourself up to someone else, even for just a minute, and be who you really are.”
“Is this who you really are?” said Burl Jr.
I grabbed a spade. Started turning over some earth. “We’ve got work to do!” I said.