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
One of the first things you notice about Paradise is that people are always polite. Please. Thank you. Sir. Ma’am. It didn’t take long before I fell into the habit as well. Before I knew it I was “sir”-ing with the best of ’em, and so proud of my new humility that I could burst.
Just because folks are being courteous doesn’t mean they’re being friendly though. Let’s face it. Strangers equal discomfort when you’ve known almost everyone in town all your life.
For the first six months Gwen the Beautiful and I lived here our neighbors smiled when they saw us, but that was about it. I’d catch them out of the corner of my eye, watching me with expressions that said, “Who is this old boy?”
We spent our first Ozarks Thanksgiving with only each other. I told Gwen how wonderful the turkey tasted in six different voices so she’d feel like a hostess.
For Christmas we went to her mother’s in Silverlakes, California so we could be part of a family instead of having to press our noses against the glass.
All this changed when The Baxter Bulletin published an article about the media colony we were establishing at Cloud Creek Ranch. Suddenly I was a celebrity.
I first discovered this at the feed store. I went in to get some hay and the young woman behind the counter smiled and said, “You’re famous.” She picked up her toddler son, who was always behind the counter with her, and aimed him toward me.
“This is Larry Brody,” she said. “He’s famous.”
Her son reached out and pinched my face. Another woman who worked there ran over. “Careful with Mr. Brody,” she said.
Neither of these women had ever done anything more than say, “Can I help you, sir?” before. Now they were saying, “Saw your picture in the paper,” and suggesting I might want to wait a few days and get the special alfalfa-bermuda blend when it came in.
I went up the highway to the hardware store. The manager greeted me with a big, “Howdy, Mr. Brody,” and everyone else in the place, which is even more crowded with good old boys than the barber shop, nodded and said hello.
When I said I was looking for weed killer two customers took me to the right aisle. One asked how I liked the weather and explained how important the change of the wind was to him as a farmer. The other had a funny story about the time he’d used the wrong kind of poison and taken out his whole front lawn. And when I say the story was hilarious, I mean it.
My next stop was the bank, which is so small that it’s quicker to go inside than to use the drive-up window because the teller at the window has to run inside and then back out to the window again anyway.
I handed her the deposit, and she told me all about how her son wanted to learn about TV. “We can’t pay much, but I read that you take trades. We might be able to part with some chickens…”
So it went wherever I walked in. I had a place now. An identity. I wasn’t a stranger anymore, and I loved it. I basked in the attention. Why, I was so famous that the Rotary Club asked me to speak!
The following Monday at noon there I was, standing at a podium in the back room of the pizza place across from City Hall, telling the Mayor and assorted Rotary members why being creative was as good as being rich and watching them hang on my every word.
Until, that is, a new arrival entered. A casually dressed young man who apologized for being late and immediately was the center of well-intentioned jokes about “Just what were you doing with your time?”
I was finished. The Young Guy owned the room.
The Rotary President saw the look on my face. Motioned me over and pointed to the new arrival.
“That’s Kenny,” he said. “Manages the Wal-Mart.”
He leaned in closer. Spoke directly in my ear. “We’ve got an old saying here. ‘If the pond’s small enough, the big fish doesn’t have to be all that big.'”
My Big Fish Moment was over. But the good old boys at the hardware store still tell me their stories and listen while I tell them mine.