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
Donny Zee, Paradise’s favorite school teacher and Storyteller, has fallen in love, and Gwen the Beautiful and I saw it happen.
This fine turn of events occurred last weekend, when DW, the owner of the Paradise Music Store, tossed a party in honor of his and Mrs. DW’s 25th anniversary.
It was the social event of the season, which isn’t as big a deal as it could be when you realize that Paradise has hardly any social events. Every once in awhile there’s a wedding in Paradise Park or a funeral at Paradise Cemetery, but as Jimmy Blue once said, “The only high society we got around here is folks who’ve been sampling their neighbors’ moonshine.”
So DW and Mrs. DW’s shindig was a departure from the usual state of Paradise affairs, and their house overlooking the Buffalo National River was filled to the rafters with celebrating friends.
The first people Gwen the Beautiful and I spotted when we pulled into the driveway were Brannigan the Contractor and his lovely better half, Sweet Jane.
“Gwen! Larry B!” Brannigan roared. “Isn’t it great to be partying at somebody else’s house? None of us has to clean up when it’s over!”
Gwen gave Sweet Jane a hug. “He makes it sound like he does some house cleaning.”
“Yes,” Sweet Jane said, “that’s how it sounds.”
Brannigan got the message. His gaze swept across the grassy field. “Look, there’s the Earthmovers! Hey, Dwayne—!”
Off he trotted. With a knowing look our way, Sweet Jane hurried after.
Inside the house, we found more old friends: Uncle Ernie. Jimmy Blue. Doug the Dog Breeder and his wife Anita. Sweet Jane’s sister Celia. Frankie the Accountant. Even Kenny the Wal-Mart Manager and his family were there, making this a Big Night indeed.
Also at the party were folks Gwen and I didn’t know, relatives of the DWs from out of town. One in particular, a lovely young woman, made a big impression. Especially on Donny Zee.
“…The biggest bear I ever saw, I saw right down below this house, on the river,” Donny was saying to the young woman as I approached. He leaned in as close to her as he could without his nose banging hers. “I’d stopped for a little call of nature, and there the big guy was, staring right at me.”
Donny smiled my way. “You were with me that day, Larry B,” he said. “Tell her. Weren’t that bear and I this close…?”
He laid one forefinger against the other, waited for me to reply. I hadn’t been there, of course, but I know how Donny operates. “Maybe even closer, Donny—” I started to say.
“Let’s not push it, Larry,” said Donny. And then, to the young woman: “We were eyeball to eyeball. It was just a matter of who’d blink….”
My job done, I moved on. Didn’t keep track of Donny or the young woman until I saw them both again outside as Gwen and I were leaving.
We watched as Donny closed the door of the rental car the woman was sharing with the rest of her family. Then, as it wound its way around the other vehicles, Donny turned to us.
“What a terrific woman!” he said. “Did you see how she looked at me? How she hung on my every word? I think I’ve found true love.” He nodded, more to himself than to Gwen or me. “I’m going to make something wonderful happen with that gal!”
Gwen’s brows knitted. “Donny,” she said gently, “I talked to your new friend at the buffet table. She’s from Philadelphia and never heard a real Southern accent before. She’s been listening so closely because—well, because she couldn’t understand a single word you said.”
Donny looked stunned. Then he smiled. “This is as good as it gets,” he said.
He saw Gwen’s puzzlement. “See, for a storyteller like me, the only thing better than a dream girl is a dream audience. And what could be a better audience than one that doesn’t understand me? Why, I won’t even have to try to make sense.”
And, whistling, he walked back to the house.