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
When you live in the country you’ve got to “roll your own” special places and occasions. And Paradise County is as country as you can get in these United States.
The closest movie theater is forty-five minutes away. The closest restaurant where you need to wear go-to-meetin’ clothes instead of jeans is five hours from here. And the last occasion calling for anything resembling a formal attitude was my oldest son’s wedding four years ago.
Last week, Gwen and I had a Roll Your Own Moment that lasted most of the day. We were on our way to the nearest Wal-Mart when we discovered that the highway bypass we’d been watching get sliced, blasted, and steamrolled into a mountain for the last two years was open for business.
“We’ve got to take the new road,” Gwen said.
“But Wal-Mart’s on the old road, just a couple of miles away.”
“And it’ll still be there on the way back. C’mon. Aren’t you the guy who always says, ‘The road less traveled is the place to be?’”
“That’s Green Acres,” I said. “Green Acres is the place to be.”
But I got her point. The new road wouldn’t be the new road for all that long, so why not take it before it got old?
We knew where it went, of course. Around Paradise’s neighboring city of Flippin and then back to the highway. But we didn’t know how it went. What we would see, hear, feel, smell as we drove along.
So off Gwen and I drove. Past beautiful bluffs and rolling hills that were home to houses and farms we’d never known where there before.
“What a great barn!” Gwen said. “That’s a lovely property over there, don’t you think?”
Lovely it was.
Except for the sign that marred our view: “FOR SALE.”
We saw several more FOR SALE signs. “They must be selling because of the bypass,” I said. “The folks who live here are being flushed out like quail.”
“The price of progress,” Gwen said, shaking her head.
But what progress it was! Before we knew it we were on the other side of town, back at the main highway.
“Look,” I said. “We can be at KT’s Barbecue in just a few minutes.”
Gwen grinned. “I wasn’t hungry till you said that…”
She laughed, and off we sped to our favorite place for lunch. When we finished our repast we had a new decision to make. Geographically, KT’s is halfway between two Wal-Marts, so, “Should we go back Flippin way?” I said to Gwen. “Or go on to the in Mountain Home store where they’ve got a bigger selection?”
“If I were you, I’d stay with Flippin,” offered a bright-eyed woman from another table. “With the new bypass it’ll take less time. Even with the little detour you need to take while they clean up this end of the road.”
The bypass turned the tide. Back to Flippin Gwen and I went, noticing even more land and property signs amid the new scenery. The words “FOR SALE” dotted the hillside like fallen leaves. Then, while Gwen was off looking for some gardening supplies I found Doug the Dog Breeder at his usual table in the deli area.
“What do you think of the new bypass?” Doug asked me as I pulled up a chair.
“’It’s the place for me,’” I sang. “But I feel bad for the people whose lives it disrupted.”
“I wouldn’t worry about them,” said Doug. “Those boys’re about to get rich. Property values along the bypass are sky high. Every bank and chain restaurant in the country is looking to build along there. A year from now that’ll be a five mile strip of mini-malls, my friend.”
On the way home, I told Gwen what Doug had said.
“Mini-malls?” She groaned. “That’s not the country. That’s suburbia!”
Which got me to thinking. On the one hand, who can say it’s a bad thing if hard working neighbors get to fill wallets that have been way too empty way too long? Or if we wake up one morning with a friendly neighborhood entertainment multiplex just up the road?
On the other, I lived for over thirty years in a steroidal suburb called L.A. I’ve seen every disaster the ‘burb way of life can cause.
Alas, poor bypass! Are you Michael Landon’s TV route to Heaven—
Or ACDC’s Top Ten Highway to Hell?