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
A neighbor by the name of Ron Thomas stopped by Cloud Creek Ranch over the weekend to put an interesting proposition on the table. Interesting enough, I think, to share.
Ron’s in charge of the local version of an educational program called the “East Initiative,” and he wanted to know if I’d volunteer some time and energy for it.
The East Initiative is all about teaching high school and middle school students how to make the most out of their computer skills by applying them to the making of video. It gives them a solid foundation they can follow up professionally, or as hobbyists, or simply as appreciative viewers who genuinely know good work from bad.
The specific project Ron has in mind for his students is called “My Community.” It’s a contest in which they make short videos about their town. This, of course, is right up my alley. I would’ve agreed to help out even if Ron hadn’t offered me the fine Paradise payment of three miniature goats.
After Ron left, though, I got to thinking. I’ve seen some of the past winners of “My Community.” No matter how good they’ve been—and some have been very good indeed—they’ve all been pretty cut-and-dried.
“Here’s what our town looks like…”
“Here’s what it used to look like…”
“Here’s what we do in our town…”
“Here’s what we used to do…”
None of them give the flavor, the feeling of what it’s like to really be alive in that particular place, at that particular time. And to me that means both the audience and the video makers are missing out.
There’s a reason my thoughts wandered in this direction. The name of that reason is Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang.
Born wild in the inhospitable Nevada desert, Elaine is congenitally bowlegged and knock-kneed. Her front end has been breaking down for years, and now, at about 20, she’s loaded with bone spurs and chips, and the pain that accompanies them.
To relieve the pain, Elaine’s does what any sensible creature would do. She lies down. But these days it’s getting harder and harder for her to stand back up.
Painkillers have become an integral part of Elaine’s life. They taste terrible, so to get her to eat them I grind them up and sprinkle the powder into her afternoon mash. Then I watch to make sure her lover boy, Huck the Spotless Appaloosa, keeps his nose out of her bucket and in his own.
The price of failure at this assignment is an intoxicated wild man of a Huck who races around kicking and rearing like a horse from hell for an hour or two, demonstrating more power than it seems safe for any living thing to have—and a shockingly powerless Elaine who hurts too much to move.
Since the first time I found Elaine on the ground, unable to get up, I’ve helped her rise up more times than I can count. Sometimes I can cajole her to her feet. Other times it takes some yelling, or even prodding. A push here, a pull there, and then a quick dive for cover so I don’t get kicked in the head as she scrambles.
One result of all this has been that Elaine has become more relaxed around me than she was. She comes to me for petting. Likes to stand close and listen to me sing. Huck’s not happy about sharing my attention, but he seems to know Elaine’s time is limited so the only trouble he makes about it is a horselaugh or dirty look.
From time to time I’ve been known to proclaim, “Life is laughter!” but it’s clear that for Elaine life is very much a suffering thing. Until recently I hadn’t realized how difficult each moment is for her, and how much courage it takes for her to just get through the day. Now I’ve got to make that courage mean something, for her and whomever else I can.
Which is why, when I work with the students on their “My Community” project over the next few months, I’m going to encourage them to show the responsibility, the pain, the joy…the moment to moment emotional richness of their daily lives.
Will that make them winners in the competition? I can’t say. But if they can come close to carrying it off they’ll have created something wonderful and unique, and winners they will be.