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
Doug the Dog Breeder’s recent comments about patterns of behavior have gotten me thinking about the animals at Cloud Creek Ranch.
Common wisdom says animals in general are creatures of habit. But Brody experience says, “Not the dogs, cats, and chickens here. For them, change has become the order of the day—as of this week.
Take our dogs, for example.
For over three years, since the birth of Decker the Gentle Giant and Belle the Wary, the dogs had the same morning pattern. At seven o’clock, after I fed the horses, I would let the two younger dogs out of their yard and they would run into the house with me to join their mother, Emmy the Bold, for breakfast.
Emmy always finished first. Then she and whichever of her kids ate the quickest would rush to the door so I could let them out to roam the woods for about an hour.
The remaining dog—usually Belle—would curl up on the couch until the others returned. As soon as I opened the door, Decker, run ragged by his super-energetic mom, would shove his massive way inside and Belle, like his partner in a tag team match, would take his place, going back into the woods with her mother.
This week, though, Belle has proved herself the Queen of Creative Thinking.
Instead of coming in for breakfast and trying to rush her food down in a usually futile attempt to eat faster than her brother, now she stays outside and waits for Emmy to join her. Then off they go.
“Food?” Belle says. “Who needs it? I’ve got first dibs on the action!”
Then there’s the cats. Thei change in behavior looks to have been a joint decision of Baggy, the twenty-five pound look-alike of Fantasia’s hippo ballerinas, and Roberto El Gato, the tuxedo cat who never has let anyone but Gwen the Beautiful touch him.
(Actually, no one’s ever even seen him but Gwen, Youngest Daughter Amber, and me. That’s what being born in a box alongside a busy freeway does to even the bravest of critters.)
For almost five years, the two cats were for all practical purposes the owners of the back of our house, as anyone with a working sense of smell could attest. The guest room, downstairs bathroom, hallway, and laundry room were their domain, and neither cat so much as ventured beyond an invisible boundary line.
Imagine my surprise, then, when this week they decided to broaden their horizons.
Suddenly they’re everywhere. Splashing papers off the partners desk Gwen and I share. Taking over as centerpieces on the dining table. Sprawling across Gwen’s pillow in the evening. (They still won’t touch mine, which has taught me to be grateful for small mercies.)
What made them change the pattern? I don’t have a clue. Maybe they just did it because they could. Or maybe they did it to prove they could. Or maybe they’ve been talking to Belle.
Then there’s the chickens’ new behavior. For years the same thing happened every time I entered their domain. They’d cackle and flutter and flap themselves out of my way, eating the bread I threw only if I threw it farther than my shadow.
All except the old brood hen. She would sit in the coop, atop the day’s eggs, and sing and sigh and spread her feathers so I could pick her up, pet her, and take away those yummy little omelet makers.
When the hen died last year the next hen in line replaced her but would have no part of me. The sight of me would make her shriek and puff herself up and fly from the nest, abandoning the future kids and “saving” herself.
Ah, but this week it’s a whole new ballgame. I walk into the chicken yard and the chickens come swarming to me. Not only do they not care how far I throw the bread, they clamber all over my feet to get at it.
And the new brood hen! She sees me and sings and sighs and spreads her feathers. When I reach down to her she draws herself up into my arms and vibrates as though purring. “What’s mine is yours!” I hear her say. “Take whatever you want.”
Humans are special? Isn’t that the usual thing we humans say? That we’re the only animals who can grab the bull by the horns and initiate the kind of change they hope will improve their lives?
Not here on the mountain top above Cloud Creek.
Not this week anyway.