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No sweeter arrangement.

upside-down-dog

By Tim Moody

I recently spent the weekend with my son, Luke, in southwest Oklahoma. He manages a large ranch there set in the hills of vast trees and rugged trails. I love going there because, for one thing, I get to spend time with him and his dogs, Maggie and Gus. And for another, I get to get out of the city and enjoy the peace and quiet of the country.

The ranch is a majestic spot set on nearly 3,000 acres and Luke has transformed it into a real paradise. The grounds around the ranch house, the barn, the shed, and the corral are immaculate. Big trees stand by the house and shade the nearby fire pit. It’s a perfect spot for morning coffee or friends around a fire at night.

There are cattle and horses that Luke tends to and across the rolling hills deer graze and raise their heads to stare if Luke and I pull up in the gator. Then they take off, running elegantly into the woods.

There are various tanks on the ranch, both large and small ponds. In the largest one Luke and I have fished and have jumped in to swim in the clear warm water.

Luke often takes me in the gator and we feed the cattle, drive over the roads he has cleared and graded, up steep narrow paths through thick sections of timber. We have seen deer, turkeys, armadillos, and wild hogs.

The weekend I was there recently we went over to property Luke has purchased across the road. He has his own cattle there and on Saturday afternoon we saw his first new calf. As we drove near the protective momma, we saw the calf was maybe only an hour old. It was just starting to stand up.

I love being there. It is therapeutic, healing, and invigorating. To be away from the roar of traffic, from the endless delays of construction throughout the city, from the long lines at the supermarket, and from the anonymity and isolation of urban life, is a delight for me.

There, on the ranch, the air is clean, the scenes are beautiful, the day unfolds quietly, softly, at an easy pace. I feel no stress. Luke and I chat about this and that, we laugh out loud at things we tell one another, and at times, we talk seriously about life and God and family. We grill. Luke is an amazing cook and there’s always a feast when I’m there. We ride the meandering hills. We listen to country and western music as we cruise through the trails and check deer feeders and follow the slow-moving cattle, some gathered in clumps under trees, calmly chewing and looking at us with big eyes of wonder.

“What are they thinking about?” I say to Luke. He hasn’t a clue. Neither do I. But there is something gentle in them that restores me.

Back at the ranch house I play with Gus and Maggie. Those dogs. What beautiful creatures they are. Such amazing companions. They know me so well now that when I arrive they are there to greet me. Gus jumps around and wants me to chase him while Maggie settles at my feet waiting for rubs across her head. Which I am happy to give.

Late in the evening Luke and I land in the TV room. We munch on snacks and watch a movie. Gus lays next to me on the love seat finally winding down while Maggie lays at Luke’s feet snuggled near him on the sofa.

When I am with Gus and Maggie I often think of Mary Oliver’s great lines, writing about her little dog:

“He puts his cheek against mine

And makes small, expressive sounds.

And when I’m awake, or awake enough

He turns upside down, his four paws

In the air

And his eyes dark and fervent.

‘Tell me you love me,’ he says.

‘Tell me again.’

Could there be a sweeter arrangement? Over and over

He gets to ask.

I get to tell.”

The ranch is my hideaway. Luke, Maggie and Gus, are my family there. It is a place of enormous welcome, quiet, exhilaration, and love.