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
Last Thursday Gwen the Beautiful left to visit Youngest Daughter Amber, who goes to school in San Francisco. By Friday I was almost as miserable as the dogs, who missed her so much all they could do was lie around and whimper while the rabbits zipped by.
To keep my mind off my loneliness I ran some errands. One of the first places I went was to Brannigan the Contractor’s house to pick up the Mossberg 12 gauge shotgun I stashed there last year. I didn’t want to have it at the house after Chet the Unhandyman moved in.
One reason for this was that Chet was depressed and I was afraid he might try to kill himself. Another was that he was depressing me and I was afraid I might try to kill him. Chet’s been in better spirits lately, though, so I figured I’d take back my property.
When I got to Brannigan’s I found out that his girlfriend, Sweet Jane, was also away. “You’ve gotta come back for dinner!” Brannigan roared. “I’m gonna have venison. Shot it myself in my own backyard!”
“No kidding?” I said. “Nice going.”
Brannigan looked sheepish. “Well, not that nice. It was a mercy killing. A doe jumped in front of my sister’s car right in the driveway there, and she broke its leg. So this isn’t so much ‘nice going venison’ as it is ‘roadkill.’” His eyes lighted up. “Yeah! We’re gonna have us some roadkill tonight!”
A couple of hours later, Brannigan and I, along with Chet, who may be a mite shiftless but is still a human being in need of a good meal, dug into the tender, delicious doe meat. Brannigan and I washed it down with stories we wouldn’t normally tell anyone we didn’t love like a brother.
The eating only took half an hour. The storytelling went on for five hours more. Chet tried to tell some stories too, but mostly they were just the plots of old movies, which wouldn’t have been a bad thing except that they were movies Brannigan hadn’t liked at all.
Still, Brannigan kept looking at Chet and saying how sorry he felt for him. How he was going to do something, “just you wait and see.”
I didn’t think much of it, but the next morning who should drive up into our mountaintop clearing bright and early but Brannigan himself. He pounded so loudly on the door of the trailer where Chet stays that it woke me in the house fifty yards away.
“Get up!” Brannigan bellowed. “Your long, dismal face won my sympathy. I’m gonna give you another chance!”
Which meant he was going to give Chet a job, even though the last time he tried that he had to fire him after—all together now—three days.
I staggered over to the trailer just as Chet opened the door in his underwear. Brannigan grabbed him. “Got us some building to do. Let’s go”
Chet blinked. One of his greatest skills is his ability to always find an excuse for being unable to work. This time he pointed to his old SUV “I can’t drive anywhere,” he said. “My battery’s dead.”
“I’m the one doing the driving!” Brannigan shouted. “Get your clothes on and get in the truck!” He turned to me. “This is for you,” he said. “One of the ways a friend makes life better for another friend.”
Brannigan and Chet were gone all day. They returned at sunset while I was feeding the horses. Chet didn’t say anything as he got out of the truck. He just vanished into the trailer.
“What happened?” I asked Brannigan.
“It went like this,” he said. “The old boy whose house we were working on comes outside and says to me, ‘I’m paying for these boys?’
“I say, ‘Yes, you are!’
“He points to Chet. ‘Even that old guy just standing there not doing a thing?’
“What can I say back to him,” said Brannigan, “but, ‘No, you’re not!’ And that’s the end of Chet’s day.”
Brannigan gunned his truck. “You don’t suppose I could have your Mossberg again, do you? And a few minutes with Chet?”
“I don’t think so,” I said. “That’s one more way a friend makes life better for another friend.”
“Then I’d say we’re even.” Brannigan said. He laughed, as, turf churning beneath his wheels, he pulled away.