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
With Chet the Unhandyman bedridden with a broken foot, I’ve gone back to my pre-Chet lifestyle of getting up early every morning to feed and clean up after the horses.
“Clean up after,” of course, means shoveling horsepucky. Which is as close to nature as a man can get without being horsepucky.
Spiritually, pucky shoveling is one fine chance to talk to God or the universe or whatever you believe in. For the past couple of weeks I’ve spent much of the mornings telling my life story to whatever’s listening, and then listening for a response. What I’m hoping for is applause. But what I’ve heard so far sounds more like a sigh.
Physically, shoveling horsepucky is major exercise. I enter the corral with wheelbarrow, shovel, and rake. I go to the nearest pile of pucky, put my shovel down in front of it, and rake the pucky in. Then I dump my shovel-full into the wheelbarrow. And do it again.
When the wheelbarrow is full, I push it over to the fence—and—yes—dump it alongside other horsepucky dumped there in days gone by. In other words, all I’ve really done is move the pucky from the middle of the corral to the side, leading to the immortal question, “Why?”
There is a why. Horsepucky shoveling achieves two purposes.
First, it keeps the pucky from killing the grass and depriving the horses of more fuel with which to create more pucky. This only works, though, if you get to a pile soon enough, and right now I’m a good thirty-six hours behind Huck the Spotless Appaloosa and Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang. So this part of horsepucky shoveling is, for all intents and purposes, utter horsepucky itself.
The second purpose of horsepucky shoveling is to keep flies from breeding and making life miserable for horses, dogs, cats, chickens, cattle, and, not so incidentally, humans like ourselves. Just between us, my life experience tells me that nothing keeps flies from breeding. But if you do it right you can cut down on the crop.
The trick is to not just dump the shoveled horsepucky into a mound along the fence but to spread it out in a thin layer so the sun bakes out all the nutrition those sweet little maggots need to hatch. I do the best I can, but I know full well that if I made my layer as thin as it should be it would cover not only the entire corral but also half our woods.
The best thing I can say about all this activity is that I get to hang with Huck, which is a terrific way to start any day.
Proud cut hunk that he is, Huck watches over his little herd more closely than a mother hen eyeing her flock. Since I’m part of Huck’s herd (or he’s part of mine; we’re still not settled on which of us is boss), he watches me closely from the minute I step outside, following my every move as I enter his domain.
Huck doesn’t understand what my pucky shoveling is about. He can’t imagine that any living being would bend down and peck at the ground unless it was for food. And if I’ve got food, then it must for him, right?
So as soon as I start shoveling Huck’s at my side, sticking his nose into every shovel-full to see if something good is waiting for him there. And with each one he raises his head back up and looks at me through huge, almond-shaped eyes and says, “Are you nuts, My Brother? What’re you wasting time with this pucky for?!”
And, every time Huck says that, I respond the same way: “To be with you, My Brother.”
“Why don’t we just chew some grass together?” Huck responds. “Or stand side by side and nibble along each other’s necks?”
He bares his teeth to show what he means. I bare mine. Huck shakes his head. “Awfully small,” he says.
“But my brain is very big.”
“Then why’re you shoveling up all my pucky?”
And on we go from there, bickering brothers even closer than Butch and Sundance.
I’m sorry about Chet’s foot but glad to have this time with my spotless brother. In fact, tomorrow morning I’m going to try something new. I’m going to tell Huck the story of my life—and then I’m going to teach him to applaud.