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
This is a Tale of Two Dreamers.
The first Dreamer is Chet the Unhandyman. He and his DVD movie collection have lived on the Mountain with Gwen the Beautiful and me for two years. He came here to start a new life because his old one had gotten away from him.
I’ve known Chet for fifteen years, and tried to help him even though he’s difficult to like. Chet’s sarcastic and cynical and thinks he’s the smartest man he’s ever met. He lived in the trailer we call our “Annex” for over a year before trying to get a job, and regular readers know what’s happened to every job he’s gotten.
That’s right. Gone in three days. Because not only does Chet never seem to get his work—whatever it is—done, he drives people crazy while he’s not doing it, mostly by relating everything that’s happening around him to everything that’s happened in movies.
At fifty-six, it’s as though the only things that are real to him are the films he watches over and over and over again. Can’t find Chet? Look in front of the TV, where he’ll be dreaming dreams of himself as a character in Casablanca or Citizen Kane, or the little boy in Shane calling, “Come back!”
Dreaming dreams that aren’t his own.
The second Dreamer is Burl Jr. Until I saw him in Paradise yesterday I thought he was still in Bristol, Virginia, where he’d gone searching for love. But here he was, pulling me into the Music Store and showing me an old acoustic guitar. “Beautiful, isn’t she? Listen to the tone.”
He strummed a couple of chords so perfect they sent shivers down my spine. His boss, DW, looked over at me. “Burl bought that guitar from the father of the girl he went to see. Guess what it cost him.”
“It cost me the girl,” Burl Jr. admitted. “Brittany.”
He picked out a blues that sounded as innocent as he is. “I found her where I met her, at the Golden Corral. I told her straight out I’d come back to be her man. Then I moved into Motel 6 and started going to Brittany’s house everyday. Met her little girl and her mom and dad.
“The old boy’s a musician. Been touring forty years. What a guitar player! He and I played music on the front porch every night. He gave me this guitar, and that’s when Brittany took me aside and asked what I wanted to do with my life.
“I told her I had several possibilities but wanted to be like her father. And she freaked! She said he’d been the worst dad in the world, always gone, always broke. She said she’d never let herself love a musician, no matter what!
“I was dumbfounded. I sat in my car and started picking at the guitar, and realized that making music about how I felt was as important to me as loving or being loved. Maybe more.
“Next day I drove back here. I’m renting a room, and as soon as I’ve saved enough money I’m hitting the road to make it or bust.”
Burl Jr.’s dream stayed with me as I drove home. I stopped at the Annex, where Chet’s been holed up since he broke his foot. The doctor had said he could get back to his Cloud Creek chores this week, so I asked what his plans were.
“Oh, I think I’ll take it easy for a couple more weeks,” Chet said. “Don’t want to turn into The English Patient here.” And he turned back to Jaws on DVD.
A few minutes later I was dialing the Music Store. When Burl Jr. answered I asked if he’d like a free trailer to live in. “All you’ve got to do is feed the animals and look after things when Gwen and I are out of town.”
“Wow,” Burl Jr. said. “I could build up a real nice nest egg that way. End of the month okay?”
Now I’ve got to tell Chet the Unhandyman it’s time for him to move on. Because the way I see it is this:
Two dreamers. One represents everything I’ve worked hard not to be. The other reminds me of my hopeful self once upon a time. Which dreamer would you rather see across your clearing everyday? Which dreamer would you rather help fill with the sweet fire that is life?