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
Every small town has its rebel woman. Ours is Brenda the Blonde.
Brenda’s in her mid-fifties and divorced, a little overweight and a lot bold. In L.A. she would be the wife of any one of a number of popular character actors. In L.A. she would have permanent lip and eye liner, breast augmentation, and hair extensions. Here she stands out by wearing make-up and high heels.
If working hard at being attractive was all there was to it, Brenda wouldn’t be the subject of much head-wagging. Stuff happens, you know. Especially when the closest movie theater is 40 miles away – and so is the closest bar. No, what gets folks lathered up about Brenda is this thing she’s got about speaking her mind. The woman wants what she wants and doesn’t care who knows it—although she can’t always get it out just right.
Gwen the Beautiful and I first met Brenda a couple of years ago. She was so excited about talking to “a real writer!” that I could barely understand a word she said. And when she drove up to our mountain she greeted us with hugs, kisses, and Bibles, twirled her hair like a mischievous eight-year-old, and said, “If you’re making anything you want the stores around here to sell just give it to me. I know all the old boys real well.”
I’d never seen anyone really go wink-wink-nudge-nudge before, but I saw it then.
Not being a manufacturer, I had nothing for Brenda to sell, but that didn’t stop a connection from being made. Not just by her but by everyone. The next time I went to the library Lily the Librarian squinted at me. “How’s Brenda working out?” she said in that tone women use when they think they’ve got you nailed. And, before I could reply: “Be careful,” Lily said and hurried away.
Phyllis at the Feed Store also had something to say. “Shame, what’s happened to Brenda. When we were in school she was such a nice girl. So cheerful.”
“Still seems pretty cheerful to me,” I said.
“You and every other man.” Phyllis looked at the door, then back to me. “Next time you two’re talking ask her what she does when she goes to Little Rock every weekend. Go on, ask.”
Over the next few weeks I got the same kind of thing at the supermarket, the hardware store, even the restaurant on the outskirts of town. There wasn’t a woman around who could wait to tell me “Brenda’s son threw her out of his house. Didn’t want his own mother around his kids. I hear she’s living in a tent off the 14.”
And woe betide the man who said, “I like Brenda. Always did.” As one old boy’s wife put it, “You get within so much as a mile of her and I’ll make you regret it to your dying day.”
After awhile Brenda stopped coming to the ranch, and the talk about her died down. She would call once in awhile, but even that dwindled.
A couple of months ago, though, Gwen the Beautiful and I saw Brenda in the square, dressed like a Beverly Hills bombshell. We mentioned we were planning to visit some friends in Oklahoma City, and Brenda’s eyes got so wide her mascara vanished into them.
“You’re going to Oklahoma City? Take me with you! Oh, please! I’ve never been anywhere!”
“You’ve been to Little Rock, haven’t you?” I said.
“I wish,” Brenda said. “Truth is, I’ve never even gotten south of Big Flat.”
She looked as though she was about to burst into tears, put her hand over her heart. “I know I’m just a small town girl on the outside. But I’m Madonna in here.”
Since then Brenda’s called us at least once a week. First it was to give us her new cell phone number. Then to remind us that “this phone’s service is great. You can call me any time.”
Yesterday, she left the most intriguing message of all on our machine.
“Hi, Brodys,” she said. “It’s Brenda. I just want you to know that you can still reach me on my cell. Or at the hotel where I’m staying. It’s a hotel in Palm Springs. Palm Springs, California. That’s where I am! You can call me at my Palm Springs hotel room right now!”
Time to celebrate. We don’t know how she did it, but Madonna has arrived!