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.
Live! From Paradise! #4
by Larry Brody
A lot of people have asked how I got to Central Arkansas. Usually I say, “By truck.”
The fact is that for years I worked with a Hot Springs native named Harry Thomason who always talked about how his best pal Bill Clinton was going to be President of the United States and how Arkansas was the most beautiful state in the union.
After Bill was sworn in I started wondering about the rest, and when Gwen the Beautiful and I decided to leave the madness of “Hollywood” Arkansas seemed like a good bet.
My wife being from Oklahoma, we flew to Tulsa and started driving east. As soon as we crossed the border we knew Harry was on to something. We drove through Fayetteville and into the Ozarks, overwhelmed by all the rich, dark, and powerful shades of green.
Near Huntsville a realtor took us to see a hundred and fifty acres of woodland with a mostly-finished house in the center. Gwen and I especially liked the creek that tumbled joyfully a hundred yards away.
But then the realtor showed us its source. A well with a big diverter spilling into the woods. Gwen shook her head. “Why would we come all this way to live in another illusion?”
We drove farther and higher and the next day found ourselves following a winding two-lane highway into mist so thick and reflection so deep you couldn’t tell if you were looking up or down, outside yourself or within. Alongside us was a rushing river walled by high, jumbled rocks and stone-grabbing trees.
“I dreamed about this place,” Gwen said. “I think there are buffalo here.”
We stopped beside a rugged old sign reading: “Buffalo National River.”
We drove about twenty miles north to Yellville, the nearest reasonably sized town. While Gwen relaxed in our motel room I strolled to the town square, with its native stone courthouse in the center. Until that moment the only place I’d ever felt like I was at home was in Gwen’s arms, but I knew I was home now. I knew this town square, and it knew me as well.
The next morning June the Realtor took us to see several spreads. By lunch we knew that our decision was between two places along the I-14. Both good-sized log cabins. Both with the same acreage. One had room for all our furniture. One made us feel good.
We made an offer on the one with more room. The offer was turned down.
We made an offer on the one that made us feel good. Gladys the Seller was a school bus driver who raced her bus to the realtor’s office in order to sign before we changed our minds. The only point to be negotiated was when could we move in.
Gladys wanted us to close yesterday. We couldn’t do it until next week. To make it more attractive, she lowered the price.
June was shocked. “You’re paying less than it originally cost!”
We took the deal. And had a ranch fourteen miles from the Buffalo National River, our own mountain with the densest woods this side of Tolkien, a good-sized pasture, a pond at the bottom of the mountain on one side and a little creek at the bottom on the other. Original Settlers’ Cabins halfway down the creek side. A winding rock ridge wrapped around a quarter mile of caves.
Delly the Interstate Trucker, our nearest neighbor, was the seller’s best friend. “Gladys is living in Florida now,” Delly told Gwen and me one day. “She loves it there.”
She hesitated. Then: “She wants to know if you still like the house. Or if you’ve—“ practically stuttering now—“heard anything.”
“Heard anything?” I said.
“Gladys says the place is haunted!” Delly blurted out. “She says there’s ghosts!”
Gwen smiled. I started to laugh.
Because, yes, we’ve heard something. Voices. Talking. Laughing. Singing. Calling. Even arguing sometimes. Always from the next room, no matter what room we’re in. Or if we’re outside, from off in the trees.
I feel bad for Gladys. I’m sorry what she heard frightened her away. But Gwen and I have no problem. The ghosts make every moment a fascinating mystery. Our friends without form are the ones who invited us here.
They’re why the house feels so good.