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
The temperature here at Cloud Creek Ranch was 85 yesterday, and at this time of year that kind of heat means only one thing:
Outside. Inside. All around.
The temperature at Cloud Creek today hasn’t gotten above 55, and at this time of year that also means only one thing:
By the thousands. Littering the window sills. The floors. The drapes. The blinds. The dog bowls. The cat bowls. Even the litterbox!
Dead ladybugs everywhere you walk. Spotted orange beetles with flimsy round wings. An acrid smell when you crush their frail bodies, by accident or design.
And that’s just inside. As for the rest of the ranch—don’t ask.
I remember the first time the ladybugs made their appearance on our Mountain. It was a Suddenly It’s Indian Summer day in the first November we lived here. Gwen the Beautiful and I woke up one morning and looked out the window, and there it was, an orange cloud billowing all around the main house.
“How beautiful!” Gwen said. We ran downstairs and opened the front door to get up close to the beauty, and try to figure out what it was. Not that it took much figuring. The ladybugs swarmed inside, flew around, and then made themselves at home on the windows. It was as though they were saying, “C’mon! Take a good look!”
The little ladies continued to charm me when I went outside to feed the horses, the magic of being within this living orange cloud overcoming the annoyance of their flights into my eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. The newness of it all made my heart pound. “Ladybugs!” I shouted to the horses. “A November miracle!”
Huck the Spotless Appaloosa whinnied. Good conversation means a lot to him. Elaine the Not-So-Wild Mustang ignored me. She was brushing her nose against a fencepost, trying to rub the critters off.
Later that day when I drove into town I saw the true extent of the miracle. The cloud enveloped our place alone, stopping at the border we share with Buck the Ex-Navy Seal and Delly the Interstate Trucker. The ladybugs were ours and only ours. An omen. But of what?
Why, of ladybugs, of course.
Of a house where every step went “crunch.” Where you didn’t dare leave a jar open or a glass unattended unless you were looking for ladybug garnish or thought milk and ladybugs was even better than milk and Hershey’s syrup. Where discovering how bad the little sweethearts taste wasn’t something you did by choice. You just did it…every time you opened your mouth.
Three days after the ladybugs first arrived we traded in our truck because it was so infested.
The next day I gave up using the handy-vac in the house and turned to the bug bombs.
The day after that I said a little prayer apologizing for causing millions of Harmonia Axyridis deaths and spent all morning sweeping up the carnage. And celebrated the freedom to inhale air instead of flying beetles that afternoon, tossing back Gwen’s Sensational Home Brew (the dark Euro ale she used to make before discovering Irish Red).
In the years since, my wife and I have learned that no one truly escapes the ladybugs.
As soon as the temperature gets over 70 they’re back. Not in beautiful clouds billowing through the woods and the clearing, oh no. They’re back in the house, dropping down from the cedar ceilings and filling even the tiniest gaps between the pine floorboards.
They’re a fact of life at our place. Family…as in the obnoxious little children Gwen and I thought it was too late for us to have.
If not for air-conditioning we could never survive the summers. Not just because of the heat and humidity but because keeping our place at meat-freezing temperatures is the only way to keep the latest ladybug generation asleep. (Actually, I exaggerate. Come summer even the spotted ladies would rather hibernate than face the moisture in our air.)
And what, you ask, is the moral of the story? Well, I’m afraid it may well be this discouraging fact of human life:
Live with even the most wondrous beauty long enough and eventually you reach the terrible point that goes beyond taking it for granted and straight to the heart of, “Sorry, baby, but you’ve gotta be destroyed.”
Then again, it could just mean: