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
One of the joys of life is meeting new people you really like.
Yesterday, thanks to Wanda the Arkansas Angel we did just that.
“Now that Burl Jr.’s gone you two have to get somebody else in that trailer,” Wanda said over the phone the other day. “You and Gwen are busy people, out making the world a better place. You need somebody here to take care of the Ranch.
“And,” she added, “to watch over you.”
“I don’t need anyone watching over me, Wanda,” I said.
“Oh no? What about that time you stopped eating because you were so caught up in an idea you had that you didn’t even think about food? That book might’ve changed the world if you hadn’t had to stop writing because you kept fainting from hunger.”
Gwen the Beautiful was on the extension. “After all these years I’ve learned the trick for making Larry eat,” she said.
“It’s not just Larry we’re talking about, Gwen. You’ve gotta take care of yourself. You’re getting healthier and more beautiful everyday, but there’re still limits to your vision and your strength.
“I’m talking about the basics here,” Wanda continued. “Keeping the clearing trimmed. Feeding the animals. Fixing and cleaning and watching over everything when you’re away. Those are the chores. Now I’ve got to find the right folks to do ’em.”
It didn’t take long for Wanda to decide she’d found them. Just a few days later she drove up The Mountain with her friends James and Dorrie. “They’re good people who work with me at the Church Food Bank,” Wanda had told us earlier that morning. Dorrie’s raised a dozen children, and James is the handiest man in the south of the Missouri state line.”
As Wanda and James and Dorrie got out of Wanda’s car, Emmy the Bold ran up to them, wagging her tail and calling out. “Pet me! C’mon!”
Belle the Wary, who was outside with her, played it cool, as she usually does. But when James reached out to pet her as well she was so taken by the gentle wave that exuded from his body that she forgot to growl and snap and just whimpered a bit and said, “Over here, behind my ear…please?”
Inside, the greeting got even better. As soon as James sat down on the antique English bench we use as a couch, Decker the Giant Hearted jumped onto his lap and stuck his face up against James’s and said, “Hey! Welcome to the club! You’re my kinda guy.”
Decker’s big enough to have sent quite a few Good Ol’ Boys scurrying. James just scratched his chin and said, “Shucks.” And meant it too.
Unless you’re living in Los Angeles or New York City, where cynicism and sarcasm rule, how are you not going to like that kind of guy?
Wanda and Dorrie brought in one of Wanda’s specialties—enough lunch for thirty people, to be eaten by only five, and as soon as she’d said Grace she led Gwen and Dorrie into a conversation that was…well, it was as domestic as all get-out, as we say around here.
James looked at me. Leaned close. “I’m thinking the two of us ought to go outside,” he said quietly.
I smiled. “C’mon, James. Let me show you around.”
“Don’t forget to take your beef stew as you’re walking!” Wanda called out, and then she turned back to Gwen and Dorrie.
Slurping our soup straight from our cups, James and I visited with the chickens and the horses.
In the chicken yard, McNugget the Banty Rooster and his hens went all aflutter when they saw James, even though they’re perfectly at ease with me. James quietly backed out, and smiled as order instantly returned.
In the corral, Huck the Spotless Appaloosa pushed himself close to James. Nuzzled him. Most people are frightened when something as big as seventeen hands high Huck gets that close. James just gave him a hug.
“Looks like you treat this horse very well,” he said to me. “A man’s got to treat animals with respect. I don’t hold with that tough-love thing.”
An hour or so later, Wanda, James, and Dorrie drove out. “Such nice people,” Gwen said. “Maybe we should think about asking them to stay on.”
“‘Maybe?'” I said. “James is fantastic. A great guy. Warm and sensitive and intelligent. He and Dorrie have got to live here.”
After all, how could I not love any man who’s so much the way I’d like to be?