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
When I first settled into Paradise I thought about how good a place it would be for our horses, Huck the Spotless Appaloosa and Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang.
After all, they’d been living for years in Southern California,
where the only way to make grass grow is to spend more money watering it each month than people in most other places spend on their mortgages.
Cloud Creek Ranch has a fair-sized pasture complete with a spring fed pond that my neighbors swear hasn’t gone dry once in the last fifty years. I envisioned the two horses grazing contentedly—with me looking on instead of schlepping hay as I’d been doing back in L.A.
That dream, however, got blown out of the water early on.
Because Huck’s been my equine brother since he was a foal, and as far as he’s concerned he should be living in the house, not outside. And certainly not as far outside as the pasture.
“I can’t see you from down here,” he told me. “Can’t hear your voice or Gwen’s. No way I’m staying that far away.” And he backed up his talk with the kind of horse screaming that made it sound like he was going through torture that would put me smack dab behind bars.
So instead of chomping their way through the pasture, Huck and Elaine inhabit a corral about ten feet from the main house. Sure, grass was growing quite well there when we put up the fence, but it’s a lot smaller than a pasture and a week later the grass was gone.
Eaten. Crushed. Burned out by horsepucky. Anyone who knows horses knows how that goes.
And anyone who knows horses also knows what corral life means.
Schlepping lots of hay.
And, in the late winter and early spring, trying to find enough of it to schlep. Especially if the horses are totally devoted to alfalfa.
In California, Huck and Elaine dined on alfalfa that was moist and sweet and ribboned with little purple flowers. And why not? Alfalfa thrives there. But in
Paradise the ground is too hard and rocky for long alfalfa roots. The hay’s got to be imported, and as time slips further and further behind the last summer cut, alfalfa becomes more and more scarce.
Last year’s drought conditions have added to the problem, and to cut to the chase, last week I started feeding the horses bales of Bermuda, orchard, and Timothy grass, and the result has been One Mighty Battle of Wills.
Huck hates the stuff. And let me know it from the beginning.
“Pfaugh! Yuck! You call this food?” His voice rose shrilly. “It’s not even soft enough to be bedding for a pig!”
He shook his head. Pawed the ground. Squealed and reared. Kicked the water trough.
And when Elaine came over he wouldn’t let her touch it either. He pushed her away, and when she returned hungrily he nipped her. One of those horse authority bites that takes a smaller chunk out of whoever it’s directed at than an anger bite but still hurts a lot more than a bite filled with horse love.
“Don’t do that,” he said. “Don’t let Larry B see you eat this junk. We’ve got to stand firm. Hold out for what we deserve.”
Huck’s been standing firm since that first day. Making a bigger show of his disdain for what every other horse accepts without a problem with every meal. He’s even taken to running at the flakes and scattering them or pushing them outside the fence.
Except that it’s all for show.
Late at night, when he thinks Gwen the Beautiful and I are asleep…when he’s sure no one is watching—yes!—that’s when Huck saunters over to the strewn Bermuda and orchard and Timothy grass, like a street dude whistling and looking at the sky, and starts scarfing it down. Lets Elaine join him in the repast.
And in the morning, when most of the hay has “magically” vanished, he swivels his big eyes at me and screeches, “Alfalfa! Alfalfa now! You @#%$!” and turns up his nose at the Bermuda et al I give him instead.
At first Huck’s attitude angered me. Now, though, I find myself watching and laughing at his refrain:
“Fight for what’s yours! Don’t let The Man see you bend!”
I couldn’t ask for a better horse brother.
Or one more like me.