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
We live in an age of extravagance, but small pleasures do it for me.
As far as I’m concerned, the Donald Trumps, Paris Hiltons, and Martha Stewarts can have their opulent lifestyles of international travel, bad hair (Trump), ridiculous clothes (Hilton), and world class tantrums (Stewart).
Just give me a day in Paradise and I’m happy as a pig wallerin’ in a new pond.
Yesterday’s an example. One of our dogs, Tiger, who we always thought was “the dim one,” has turned into a dog run escape artist, so Chet the Unhandyman and I went into town to get the makings of a gate she couldn’t bend back and crawl under.
In Paradise, just about any outing is a ceremony. A visit to the hardware store is no exception.
Phase one is Jawing. That’s where you greet everybody and find out how things’re going. Yesterday I learned that Frank the Manager had just returned from visiting his grown son in Dayton, Ohio. And that Joey the Counterman had quit to go to work for the local gravel company. Being groomed to take over the business, he is, or so they say.
After twenty minutes of Jawing Frank moved me into phase two: Business. “What do you need today?” he said. I told him I wanted a genuine, suburban chain link gate. Frank took out his price book and added up the parts. “Gate like that with posts and cement’ll run you about $125.”
“$125! That’s more than the whole fence! What’ve you got that’s a little less suburban?”
Frank took me out to the yard. “Steel stock panel. It’s a lot stiffer than what you’ve got. Yours for $11.99.”
Which is, of course, phase three. Anything Else is where you walk all around the store, looking at everything on every shelf trying to find something you really need. The ache of wanting’s not enough.
An hour and a half later I was at the counter for phase four, Paying. For the stock panel, a two-way spigot divider, and a straw cowboy hat. This could’ve taken about two minutes. All I needed to say was, “Put ‘er on my tab.” But I wanted to hear the old cash register ding! So I ate up some time paying cash.
On our way home we stopped at the Paradise Mini-Mart & Gas Station for a couple of slices of pizza.
Chet the Unhandyman and I sat down in the eating area where Tommy from St. Louis holds court. Tommy’s in his forties, pony-tailed, and so fast-talking you’d swear he was breaking the sound barrier every time he says, “Hey.” Another city boy who’s learned to love the country.
Yesterday he was talking to a couple of old boys I hadn’t seen before, debating lawn tractors versus bush hogs on our local terrain. (It was no contest. Everyone agreed that bush hogs were the only way to go…perfect not only for cutting grass but also for harvesting the rocks that, when you get right down to it, are Paradise’s main local crop.)
As I finished my pizza and went to throw away the box I bumped into one of Tommy’s friends who was doing the same.
“Sorry,” I said. “Maybe I should get myself a Seeing Eye Dog. Or at least a cane.”
The old boy grinned. “Don’t bother,” he said. “If you got a dog it’d probably bite you. And if you got a cane you’d probably just whack yourself in the shin.” He took my garbage from my hand and tossed it into the bin.
Chet and I went out to my truck. Suddenly Chet frowned. Turned to me. “Did you hear what that old boy said? He insulted you!”
I thought about it. “Yep. He sure did. But did you hear how he did it? It was absolutely painless.”
And beautiful too, in a way, the words rolling off the old boy’s lips like country poetry. A turn or two of phrase I never could’ve come up with. A rhythm I couldn’t match.
“How can a man get mad at that?” I said.
Small pleasures. They beat anything Trump or Hilton or Stewart will ever find wherever they may roam.