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
Brannigan the Contractor’s been hard at work at Cloud Creek Ranch this week, building a run-through barn for Huck the Spotless Appaloosa and His Gal Rosie.
Gwen the Beautiful’s asked for some fancy doodads. A cupola in front, some old-fashioned trim, but beneath that it’s going to be a simple, three-sided shelter. Protection from the wind and the rain and the sun.
This morning, as I was out there with him, enjoying one of life’s greatest pleasures—watching another man’s toil—Brannigan turned to me suddenly and said, “Why?”
“Is this a philosophical question?” I said.
He shook his head. “I don’t do philosophy. I build things! But there’s something I’ve been wondering about for years. Why do you call this place Cloud Creek Ranch? Why do you call that little stream at the bottom of the back hill Cloud Creek? The only part of ‘Cloud Creek’ that’s got a name is the hundred feet winding through your property. And it only does that a few times a year.”
Brannigan’s question made me smile. It brought back a memory so warm I could wear it like a coat.
“Gwen and I brought the name with us,” I said. “Cloud Creek Ranch was the name of our old place, outside of L.A.”
“We had acreage in the mountains bordering Los Angeles and Malibu Counties,” I went on. “Pine trees! Live oaks! And a little seasonal stream that cut the land in half, connected by a land bridge.
“One morning, the first week we were there, Youngest Daughter Amber was looking out the window while Gwen made breakfast. ‘Mom! Quick! You’ve got to see this!’ she called out.
“Gwen went rushing over to where Amber was standing and staring down at the tiny trickle of a stream below a little meadow. It was a cool morning, and a fine mist rose from the water.
“As it got higher, the mist formed a kind of a column and worked its way higher still, against the mountainside, until it reached the top. There, it seemed to both tighten and widen, forming white puffballs that made their way even higher into the sky.
“Amber was about ten years old. But even then she had a special way of seeing things.
‘It’s making clouds, Mom,’ she said. ‘Our little creek is making clouds!’
“I was late getting dressed for the morning drive to school and entered the room in time to see both Amber and Gwen pointing at the new clouds.
“‘What’s up?’ I said.
“‘Clouds,’ Amber said. ‘So many new clouds!’
“‘I know what this place is,’ Gwen said. ‘We’re living at Cloud Central. The place where all the clouds in the world are formed. They waft everywhere—all around the world—from right down there. From Cloud Creek.’
“And that was it. Gwen came up with the name then and there.
Brannigan stood, listening, hammer at his side. Listening so closely that he didn’t even react when Belle the Wary, the least friendly dog on The Mountain, who behaves as though she’s been entrusted with a sacred duty of ridding the world of my pal Brannigan, came up to him.
“Cloud Creek,” Brannigan mused. “Makes sense when you’re talking to a ten year old. Sure!”
Then he noticed Belle standing at his side. “She’s not biting me,” he said. Slowly, wonderingly, he reached out to her. Belle flinched but didn’t snarl or bite. She just turned her head away.
“I don’t buy into all the magic you say goes on around here,” Brannigan said to me. He pointed at Belle. “But this is a kind of magic all by itself. A property where these mysterious things happen deserves a name of its own, don’t you think? Wouldn’t it be better to let this land’s personality come out in its name?”
“I’m not against that,” I said. “Any suggestions?”
Brannigan hesitated. The two of us turned our heads in the direction Belle was looking. She was staring out at the woods, and Brannigan and I could see a mist moving up from behind the trees to a place above the treetops, where it changed form.
“Isn’t that where the little stream behind this place is?” Brannigan said. He smiled. “I don’t do philosophy. I build things. And right now I’m building a barn on Cloud Creek Ranch.”
Without thinking, he patted Belle. Her head moved like lightning. She caught the edge of his hand in her mouth. But instead of biting, she held it there.
“Love this dog!” Brannigan roared.