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
Summer isn’t exactly the best time to visit Paradise. With the temperature in the hundreds and humidity to match, my favorite summer activity is camping in living room, up against the air-conditioning vent.
Still, for reasons boiling down to our friends explaining, “This is when I’ve got time off!” Gwen the Beautiful and I have had more than our usual share of house guests over the past few weeks. We looked forward to all of them. But what we hope and what really happens aren’t necessarily the same.
Our first guest was Jim the Banker. Shortly after Jim arrived, he and I visited the feed store to get some chicken scratch. When we walked in Jim stopped short. Took a deep breath. “Smells like pigs!” he called out.
Everyone in the place turned, staring at him. “Why are they looking at me like that?” Jim whispered. He raised his voice. “Pigs!” he said. “Pigs!”
The stares turned to glowers. I steered Jim out the door. “C’mon,” I said. “We’d better get back home.”
Jim looked forlorn. “But I don’t want to leave. I was born on a farm. The smell of grain always reminds me of pigs. And I really miss our pigs.”
Our second house guest was Lex from Upstate New York. He was driving across country with his two Doberman Pinschers.
“This is going to be a great visit,” Lex said as he let the Dobies out of his car. “You and Gwen and me and Bruno and Helga—“
That’s when we heard the deep, rumbling growl from one of his dogs. And turned to see her standing nose to nose with Emmy the Pit Mom.
“Oh,” said Lex, “I forgot to tell you. Helga hates other dogs.”
Decker the Giant-Hearted came running to his mother’s defense, followed closely by Belle the Wary. Joining Helga was Bruno, the other Dobie. Helga snapped at Emmy. Emmy lunged. Yours truly dived between them, and
Time now to mercifully move along to guest number three. Our old pal Kevin the San Francisco Realtor. He, Gwen, and I were doing great until we took him into Paradise for some Saturday night Music-On-The-Square.
“They call this blues?” Kevin said. “The music scene in San Francisco, that’s where you’ll find down home blues.”
Then there was his reaction when we joined a group from Big Paul’s Wilderness Outfitters for a morning of floating on the Buffalo National River.
“You call this a river?” Kevin said to everyone who could hear. “Northern California, that’s where you’ll get hardcore whitewater.”
Our fourth house guest was my Old Elementary School Buddy. He roared up on his new BMW motorcycle. Showed me not one, not two, but five handguns hidden on his body.
“Let’s stake out this bike near town tonight and see who tries to steal it,” he said. “Then, when they do…”
He did a quick draw from his boot. Made the same shooting sound he used to back when we were kids playing.
Guests five and six arrived together. Gwen’s Old Boyfriend Gary and his wife, Norma the Nerve Jangler.
We met them at the airport in Little Rock. “Hi, Gwenny!” Gary said. And gave Gwen a big hug.
“Glad to see you, Gary,” I said.
“You sure look wonderful, Gwenny,” said Gary. He hugged Gwen tighter.
“Eee–!” Norma screamed. She pointed at some good ole boys across the baggage claim. “I know their kind,” Norma said. “They’re going to steal our luggage. They do it all the time back home in Chicago.”
Gary was still talking to Gwen. “Remember that summer when we went to Taos…?”
And these are the highlights of each visit.
Because of all this, yesterday morning Gwen and I made a vow. “No more houseguests,” I said.
“Pinky promise,” said Gwen. We did the silly handshake we’ve done so many times with our kids.
I went outside to feed the horses. Huck the Spotless Appaloosa squealed as a dozen mares and their foals crested our driveway and moseyed over to the corral. Buck the Ex-Navy Seal’s little herd had gotten out of their pasture and were calling on their closest friends.
The happy horses pranced and snorted and nuzzled over the fence, and although I knew I was going to have to bring the ladies home eventually, I also knew Gwen and I had been wrong to make our vow.
There are guests…and there are guests.
And these are the kind I’ll welcome any time.