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
A couple of months ago, when Gwen the Beautiful and I were over at Doug the Dog Breeder’s house, he and his wife Anita introduced us to Dora, a young woman with a month old baby.
Dora and her husband, who wasn’t there, were renting a trailer on the property next door. They were new in Paradise and, “We love it here,” Dora said.
After Dora and her baby left, Doug filled me in a little.
“Dora’s husband’s name is Sebastian,” he said. “Hails from Texas. Dora’s from Oklahoma. They moved in last week. Sebastian’s a carpenter. Not good enough to do finish work, but he’s a decent framer. He’s already got himself a home remodeling job.”
“Sounds industrious,” I said. “Like a man making a good start.”
“Yep, sounds that way.”
But I could see from the look on Doug’s face that he wasn’t all that sure. A couple of minutes later, after Anita and Gwen went outside, I found out I was right.
“There’s something wrong with Sebastian,” he said. “I can’t put my finger on it, but I know it’s there. He’s twice as old as Dora is. Won’t talk about his past. I don’t trust a man with no stories.”
Doug’s an ex-lawman. A former federal marshal. When he says he doesn’t trust someone, I listen. This time, though, there wasn’t anything more to listen to. Not until last week, when I stopped by to see Doug’s latest litter. Six round, fat, little golden retriever pups.
Across the yard, through the fence, I saw Anita and a middle-aged woman I didn’t know come out of the trailer with Dora and the baby. They walked over to a beat-up old Dodge with boxes piled up inside and a U-Haul trailer attached to the back.
After a last hug from Anita, Dora and the baby got into the car. The other woman took her place at the wheel, and they drove off. “That’s Dora’s mother,” Doug said. “Taking her daughter and granddaughter home.”
“I thought they were happy here,” I said.
Doug looked out at the road. “Remember what I said about the husband? Sebastian? Turns out he was a convicted felon in Texas.
“Dora met him on the internet,” Doug continued. “He came to see her in Oklahoma, and sparks flew. They got married without Sebastian ever telling his bride what he was. Mama didn’t like him and kicked him out right after the baby was born. Dora chose to stand by her man.
“Things went pretty well for awhile. Then, a couple of weeks ago, two Deputy Sheriffs came by and arrested Sebastian for violating parole, and for not registering as a sex offender, which is what he really is. Dora’s been crying ever since.
I thought about what Doug was saying. “How do you suppose the law knew to find the guy here?”
Doug shrugged. “Could have to do with the fact that somebody who knew what he was doing dug into Sebastian’s past. And that same somebody also learned that the people whose house Sebastian was working at everyday had a young son, same age as the boy who figured in his conviction.”
We left the puppies. Walked over to the run where Doug keeps Boomer, their hundred and twenty-five pound daddy.
Doug was still talking: “It could even have to do with the fact that it’s one thing for a man to try to mend himself and another for him to welcome back an old pattern guaranteed to cause misery to everybody around him–”
Doug looked like he had more on his mind, but Boomer’s happy barking as he saw his favorite human interrupted him. The dog high-tailed it over to our end of his run, barking and wagging and leaping excitedly.
Like all folks who are good with dogs, Doug had a pocketful of treats. “Hey, Boomer! Here you go, boy!” He reached over the fence and fed his big friend.
Boomer chowed down. Barked for more. “Know what I love most about dogs?” Doug said. “We can change their patterns. All it takes is a little work. And they can’t lie or hold back about it. All they can be is honest and open and true.”
He scrounged a few more liver snaps from his pocket. As Boomer gulped them down, Doug’s face squinched up into a look I couldn’t quite identify but was either ineffable sadness or radiant joy.