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 night brought Paradise its wildest thunderstorm of the season. Thunder roared, lightning crashed, wind and rain assaulted the earth.
It was glorious.
The aftermath, however, was a whole other thing.
This morning Burl Jr. the New Caretaker and I left the Mountain at eight o’clock on a quick run to Paradise Feed. The electricity was out, but the sun never lies. (Neither do the battery powered atomic clocks conveniently located in both the main house and the Annex.)
On our way we passed toppled trees, downed fences, and an aggravated power company crew. “Too bad we don’t have any traffic signals in Paradise,” Burl Jr. said.
“Because it’d be so much fun to see how people react when they go out.”
“I’m missing something,” I said. “But it’s not the traffic signals.”
At the feed store we were greeted by the biggest damage yet. Everyone who worked there was standing by the big forty-foot hay barn, staring in disbelief.
Burl Jr. and I stared too. Last night’s wind had picked up the whole structure, carried it about twenty feet, and then dropped it back onto the ground, shattering every support. It squatted where it hit, caved-in like a barrel with crushed staves.
Burl Jr. whistled. I shook my head. We were in the presence of the true power of the storm.
Phyllis, who pretty much runs the place, came over to the truck.
“You came for hay, didn’t you?” she said.
“I’m not going to get any, am I?” I said.
“We can’t go in there,” Phyllis said. “Only thing keeping the roof up is the twenty foot pile of Bermuda at the back.”
“We wanted alfalfa,” said Burl Jr.
Phyllis looked relieved. “Oh, then you would’ve been out of luck anyway.”
“When will you have any hay?” I said. “Alfalfa or otherwise?”
“When we get ourselves a new barn.”
“When’ll that be?” Burl Jr. said.
“Oh, I imagine sometime after the insurance company finishes roasting us over a hot fire.”
Phyllis went back to the barn. Burl Jr. and I went back on the road. Our destination—the next town, about ten miles away, and its County Farm and Feed.
A long, tall drink of water wearing a nametag that identified him as Albert the Manager greeted us with a grin.
“Why, we’ve got plenty of alfalfa!” he said. “No problem. Only eight dollars a bale.”
“Eight dollars!” Burl Jr. looked like he was about to choke. “That’s two dollars more than
“That’s not how I see it,” said Albert the Manager. “How I see it is that Paradise Feed doesn’t have any alfalfa for sale. That makes what we’re asking the going rate. That’s business.”
“That’s robbery!” Burl Jr. said. “You’re buying it from the same farmers Paradise Feed bought it from and paying the same price. Can’t be more than three dollars a bale.”
Albert looked thoughtful. “I guess you could wait for Paradise’s new barn,” he said. “Or you could lease yourself a big rig and drive 500 miles to Iowa City, Iowa where the farmers with the alfalfa are. You licensed for that?”
“We’ll take eight bales of alfalfa right here,” I said.
Albert was already writing up the sale. “Thank you kindly. Just bring this ticket to the big trailer outside.”
He gave me a familiar “Hey-We’re-All-Hard-Working-Men-Trying-To-Make-Our-Way-Through-This-World” kind of gaze. Turned back to Burl Jr. “Things change, son,” he said. “That’s how life is.”
Burl Jr. didn’t say anything. Not until he and I were out in the parking lot. “What was that old boy doing,” he demanded, “telling me ‘things change?’”
“Believe it or not, Burl,” I said, “he was trying to keep everything cool. And maybe teach you something about life.”
“I’m not a kid. I know how life is! That’s why I’m so mad.”
“That’ll change too.”
“I don’t want it to. I want to be me, fighting and kicking to the end!”
Burl Jr. wore a look I’ve seen in my mirror many times. I thought about all the changes I’ve gone through in my life. Who I was. Who I am. Who I’ll be.
I started chuckling.
Burl Jr. stared. “Why are you laughing?”
“Oh, I guess because it’s so much fun to see how people react when the traffic signals go out.”
By the time Burl Jr.’s seat hit the seat of the truck, he was laughing too.