About Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

I am working on living and writing my story. I grew up singing and writing music and spent five years of my young adult life touring colleges and coffeehouses across the country. I have had a life long love affair with Western North Dakota and the 3,000 acre cattle ranch on the edge of the badlands where I grew up Now, at 26, after a couple albums, a couple of moves, a couple of dogs, a couple of jobs, one large home renovation and some heartache, I am back at the ranch to sing and write and ride my ponies and hang out with my husband and work to help share my passion with others by opening up the 3,000 acre ranch that provided me with the space to create and breathe and be wild to visitors from around the world. I am in the beginning of this journey, but I want to tell you how it's going :) Oh, and just in case you want to know a bit more about the woman behind the words...I have big hair. I trip a lot. I say stupid things. I snort when I laugh. I'm a home renovator and a damn good cabinet refinisher. I married the right man. I hate car shopping. I would adopt all of the dogs in the world if I had a big enough yard (and support system). I am addicted to coffee and candy and peanut butter.

Why not here? Big music in a small town.

Husband’s checking the air on the pickup tires and I just changed my guitar strings. Tomorrow morning bright and early we’re loading up our boots and guitars (and coolers) and heading west to the Red Ants Pants Music Festival in White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

Or, more accurately, a cow pasture near White Sulphur Springs, Montana.

I’m pretty excited. Because look down here, look close under Charley Pride and Brandi Carlile, Ian Tyson, Corb Lund and Holly Williams.

See it there, my name? Jessie Veeder. I made the poster.

Woot!
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Which means I also made the big stage and I can’t wait to play on it out under that big Montana Sky with some of my favorite musicians standing next to me, and more on the roster to take the stage throughout the weekend.

This festival is near and dear to my heart for so many reasons, the brain child of Sarah Calhoun, founder and inventor of Red Ants Pants, tough work pants that for women, this festival proves that real music about real people playing real instruments still pulls at audiences from all walks of life creating a kind of crowd a girl like me dreams of playing for night after night. 

Sarah is one of those kick-ass women who is sweet and tough and smart and just ballsy enough to not only start her own business in a small town in rural Montana, but to bring big musical acts to that same small town in the name of doing some good here.

Sarah’s non-profit, the Red Ants Pants Foundation, was founded in support of women’s leadership, working family farms and ranches, and rural communities. The proceeds of this festival benefit the non-profit’s grants and help run timber-skils and women’s leadership programs. 

If I could have Sarah over for drinks on Saturday nights I think the two of us could get into some trouble.

Today there was a little story on me in Missoula, Montana’s paper, The Missoulian, in preparation for my trip to Red Ants. Read it here:

Bakken-area singer/songwriter moves to Red Ants main stage
by Megan Marolf
The Missoulian 

So many times in my life I have been asked why not Nashville? Why not L.A. or New York? Why don’t you try to make it somewhere

Some days I have wondered these things myself.

And then I ask, Why not here? Why not home?

I think that’s what Sarah was thinking when she dared to make a big ass plan for a small town.

And I have to say, me and the couple thousand people making the trek to the middle of Montana this weekend, we just love her for it.

See ya there!

Jessie

Sunday Column: On summer, and the uninvited…

In the spring of the year we dream of all the possibilities the summer will bring. We prepare for the work that needs to be done and make plans to hit the lake and take long rides to hunt for raspberries.
IMG_0080We clear the deck of snow and ice and wait patiently for an evening warm enough to enjoy a cocktail out under a setting sun where we eye the garden and visualize it’s late summer bounty…

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Yes, in the longest winter of our lives, we dreamed of our garden. Of plump, ripe tomatoes. Of cucumber sandwiches with bacon. Fresh garden carrots, with a little dirt still stuck in the cracks. The snap of a pea pod. The crunch of a bean steamed with butter.

The satisfaction of the taste of our growing things…

This May I helped Pops plant those little seeds in neat rows, the cucumbers in mounds, the tomato plants neatly caged up. We hoed and weeded and watered and watched those little seeds sprout…

We covered them when the frost threatened…

And then we left for Minnesota for a little getaway, hoping that the rains would come and keep things moving along…

Hoping the sun wouldn’t scorch things while we were gone.

Hoping the hail didn’t tear the leaves.

That’s the thing about North Dakota. Growing things have to grow fast, we don’t have much time for stretching toward the sun.

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The weeds know this better than any other living thing I decided I when I went to check on our little plot of dirt when we made it back home.

“Where are the pea plants? Where are the carrot tops?” I exclaimed as husband and I started pulling up little thistle plants and vines that didn’t belong.

“Wow, I something’s wrong! There should be peas here! They should be tall and lush! There should be carrot tops for crying out loud! Keep pulling, keep looking! Get Martha Stewart on the line, we’ve got issues here! A garden emergency!”

Husband just shook his head and calmly pulled and hoed at the things that needed to be pulled and hoed…

I grabbed the hose and sprayed frantically, cussing my black thumb and the idea that we had the guts to abandon a garden for a week at such a crucial time.

Could it be that we won’t have peas this year? Could it be that we won’t get fresh garden carrots or beans on the side of our steak supper?

Could it be the weather?

Could it be too much rain?

Not enough?

Could it be I planted things too deep?

Could it be…none of these things…

No.  It’s  just her.

Dad's Deer

See her there trying to hide behind the patio furniture?

She’s taken over. It’s a buffet and it’s her “all you can eat” secret.

And she’s at Mom and Pops’ every night.

Her favorite dish? Peas.

Dessert? Mom’s geraniums.

And nothing can stop her. Last night I heard her hissing at the dogs.

Step out on the deck and she barely lifts her head, each bite and munch crushing our garden dreams…

A million acres of sweet clover and this girl prefers Pops’ tomatoes.

Funny how, in the middle of the deep freeze of winter, our summer memories skip over mosquito bites, black flies, pig weeds that grow over our heads, barn swallows that make nests in the garage and shit on my car and pretty, bossy, little deer that bite the heads off of petunias.

Ah, every season has its battle. This week it’s all about ours…

Coming Home: Battling the annoying side of nature
by Jessie Veeder
7-20-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Cheers to the best parts of summer and here’s hoping all your house guests have been invited…

My column, Coming Home, appears Sundays in the Fargo Forum and weekly in the Dickinson Press and Grand Forks Herald. 

 

A day in the life…

And now for a day in the life of a woman who refuses to get a real, regular job and insists on taking on new activities as part of her “business plan” so she has time to take off singing, or photographing something or chasing a cow on a whim. 

Monday night, get home late from a random job shooting photos of a truck in the badlands. Husband gets home from a fireman meeting. 11 pm.  Says cows are out on the road. Call Pops, we’ll deal with it in the morning…

Tuesday morning, wake up girl, you’ve got a column to write, an interview today to meet a quick deadline and a trip to the big town to practice with the band tonight. Squeeze Husband goodbye and tell him to call if he sees the cows. I’ll go get them, you think in your early morning delusions…

But first, coffee. Ignore the dishes. I’ve heard they start doing themselves when left long enough.

Walk to the office. Clear off a spot on the desk for coffee cup. Check a few of those emails, but then get distracted by the photos of big horns I took in the badlands yesterday when I was supposed to be out scouting for places to take photos of oil trucks.

Yes. Look at these beauties…click…click…I should post these on the blog…

Phone rings. Husband says no cows in sight on the road. Decide to wait for the boys to come home to find cows. Decide it’s time to get to that column…

Stare at a blank screen for three to thirty minutes, I can’t be sure…somehow find myself watching a funny cat video on YouTube…

Focus Girl!

Type type type some musing about those damn burdock plants that will not die in our yard and how I think Husband might actually go crazy if he doesn’t get the garage doors on fast enough to prevent more barn swallows building nests and shitting on my car…then wonder how those black flies keep getting in the house…wonder if life would just be easier if we lived beside a sidewalk beside a lawn that was planted and groomable…

 

Wonder why I spent all that time trying to mow down the wild clover with Pops’ one bladed mower in our un-landscaped lawn last week only to come home the next day to Husband’s ambitious earth-moving, landscaping project turning up the freshly-mowed earth. We should really talk more…

Seems like an earth-shattering piece of journalism here…

Say “Shit” because it’s already noon and I have to tame my hair and get out the door in 15 minutes for an interview down the road about 30 miles. Run upstairs, decide hair is untamable, put it in a ponytail, brush teeth, deodorant, grab camera, pen, paper, check dog and cat bowl for proper levels of food on my way out the door…

Turn on radio, open windows, cruise down the gravel road with dust flying…wait. Cows. Those are our cows. Great…pull over so I can get a closer look…curse my flippy floppies as I trudge through poky grass …yup, those are ours. Call Husband. Let him know I’ve found the cows. Talk about when he’ll be home to help me…

Get back in car. Call interviewee to tell her I’m running late. Get to appointment, have a nice chat, stop for gas and a bag of Cheetos because I forgot to eat lunch.

Point car back toward home. Decide Cheetos are a terrible choice for lunch. Drive by where cows used to be and fail to see any cows. Decide to wait for the boys to come home.

Arrive at home. Start writing story. Respond to text saying Little Sister is at the barn scouting out wedding sites. Say I have to wait for a phone call but I’ll meet her down there.

Get phone call to tell me my phone call is cancelled. It’s now 4:00. Cool. I think I have time to catch horses and get cows in before I have to head to the big town to practice at 7. Get on 4-wheeler. Hope it starts. Call Husband to remind me how to put the damn thing in reverse. I can never remember. I should make a note and tape it to the seat.

Head down to the barn and say hi to Little Sister. Convince her to help me catch the horses. I swear I just saw them on the side hill. She can hold the grain bucket while I drive. It will take three minutes.

30 minutes, three Little Sister screams concerning the safety of her life on the back of the 4-wheeler, 3,000 horsefly bites and countless cuss words from yours-truly later, still no horses in site.

Go up one more hill…shit…4-wheeler is acting up again…it’s powering down…didn’t the boys change the fuel filter? Nothing? Sister squeal. Dammit. Shit. Dammit. Shit…

See if we can get the thing home…come on you piece of crap…

Make it through the gate to the big corral and that’s it. 4-Wheeler stall. Little Sister departs. I cuss and get in the pickup with the grain bucket. The horses must be in the trees. Text Husband.

Damn Horses. Damn 4-wheeler.

Husband calls. He’ll be home in 10 minutes. Make a goal to have horses in in 10 minutes. Drive old pickup around the corner. Spot the paint in the trees. Awesome. Yell “Come on Boys!” out the window of the pickup where I  am dangling a grain bucket. Horses come running.

Finally.

Get them in the round pen. Wonder why the easiest ones to catch are the ones we don’t want to ride. Give them a bite of grain (because I’m not a tease) and catch the two bays. Brush. Fly Spray. Saddle up.

5:30 PM.

Shit. I have to leave here in an hour.

Decide to trailer to the cows. Hold horses while Husband gets the pickup hooked up the trailer. Think that he’s moving sort of slow for someone who’s wife is in a hurry. Tap my toe. Hold my tongue.

Finally.

Load up the horses. Follow him in the pickup so I have a quicker way home if things go south.

Drive down the gravel road, spot a cow and a calf. Pull over. Wave to Husband who pulls in.

6:00 PM

Unload the horses, swing on and head for the cow who has magically disappeared. Take a route through a big tree row while Husband swings around. Try to keep horse from eating every damn piece of grass that touches his nose. Swat at the horseflies. Swat at the mosquitos. Wish I would have worn a long sleeve shirt.

Come out on the other end of the tree row. Spot the cows. Yell to Husband. He comes running. Notice how great the two look against the dropping sun. Wish I had my camera.

Follow the cows along the trail, up a butte, watch for holes, along the fence. Watch as they head toward the trees. Kick up the pace to head them off.  Go around the trees while Husband cuts a path behind the bovines. Watch as they all come out in an orderly fashion. Regret yelling at Husband in frustration. Apologize. Tell him he’s handsome. He tells me I should really start eating lunch. Push them through the gate to the dam.

Wonder where they got out. Ride the fence line to find out.

Declare what a nice evening this is. Swat at the horseflies biting my neck. Sweep off the swarm of gnats on my horse’s neck.

7:00 PM. Gotta go. Kick it up to a lope around the big butte to the road. Spot Pops on his 4-wheeler by the road. Stop to say high and bye. Leave the boys to chat. Lope off toward the horse trailer. Load up the bay. Get in the pickup head to the house. Strip off my clothes on the way up the stairs. Change into clean stuff. Look in the mirror, ah what the hell. Run downstairs, grab my guitar and head out to the highway.

Text band tell them I’ll be late. Just a half-hour.

7:30 PM

Turn up radio, roll windows down, drive…stop for gas station pizza, rethink my diet plan, get to town. 8:30.

Tune guitar. Promise to learn new songs. Make plan for next show. Laugh. Sing. See you later guys.

11:30 PM.

Get in car. Radio on. Windows up. Head home, bugs smashing on my windshield. Headlights pointing toward the badlands. Pull into the doorless garage, trudge up steps, pull off clothes, land in bed.

1 AM

Breathe. Think I should get a real job. Think life would be easier. Think I’ll think about it tomorrow. Think that was fun…

 

 

 

Sunday Column: On memories and plans

One of the best parts of writing my weekly column is taking off across the state and running into people who read it and connect.

They recognize me from the terrible photo my husband took of me when I first got the gig. We were on our way out the door somewhere and I needed the photo that day…and I actually did my hair…so big that apparently it doesn’t fit in the frame…so I stood next to the lilac tree and told him to shoot. I’m sure we had an argument about timeliness and timelines and things like that…

Ugh, I need a new photo…

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is I appreciate the feedback that I receive, the little notes in the mail with a card letting me know that you’ve passed on the clipping about making chokecherry jelly in my grandma’s kitchen to your aunt in Minneapolis, or that my dad reminds you of your dad, or that you can sympathize with taking trips to town and carrying with you a couple outfit changes, a computer bag, camera bag, a pair or two of comfortable shoes, snow boots, ice scrapers, bug spray and anything else to prepare your for the thirty or so mile trek…day after day…on the dusty roads of North Dakota.

I love that you catch me in the grocery store and tell me your own stories about your mother or your grandkids or your dog who’s getting old, but oh, a girl needs a dog.

I’m glad we can connect like this, through words and stories. I’m glad that I can sit down on Tuesday mornings and draw from a memory or a wonder or the sweet smell of clover coming through the open windows and know that there are people out there cutting hay, or having coffee, sitting at a desk with their windows open who know where I’m coming from, because they come from the same place…

Below is a message I received from one of my readers last night as I climbed in bed, a perfect summary of what it was I was trying to say in my latest column:

You have to believe the buds will blow–believe in the grass in days of snow–ah, that’s the reason a bird can sing, on his darkest day he believes in spring!   

Coming Home: Memories help us get through tough times. 

http://www.inforum.com/content/coming-home-memories-help-us-get-through-tough-times

by Jessie Veeder
7-13-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing me. Thanks for stopping me on the stereo. Thanks for sharing your stories. Thank you for believing in this place the way that I believe in it…

Hazy Skies

There has been a haze in the air for the last couple days. Fires in Canada couldn’t hold their breath any longer and so some puffs escaped our way, lingering in the calm, hot air and reminding me of living in Montana in August.

When the wind doesn’t blow here in North Dakota it’s sort of eerie, like there’s some secret we’re not being told.

This place is full of them, untold secrets. I’ve always thought that.

How the snow ever fell on all this green and gold I never understand come mid-July. How it could look anything like this, my skin anything but brown and warm, my hair fuzzed just a bit from the heat.

How pink flowers spring from the same earth that was frozen seven feet under just months ago…

and the once wooly horses shed their coats and transform into sleek, high-spirited creatures I can’t comprehend because I have decided it’s magic.

And so I can hardly stand to be inside.

There’s plenty to do out there in terms of work, so I wander around a bit, grab a broom and sweep the garage, pick a weed or two and then sort of wander off to a couple hilltops to see how the flowers look from up there. The purple coneflowers out in full force, sprung up overnight among the grass and clover stirrup high.

I was away less than a week and look at all I missed.

How can I be lonesome for a season I’m standing in the middle of? How can I be scared that I might not catch it all? It’s ridiculous to be so anxious about the flowers. It’s ridiculous to be so worried that I might blink and miss the best part of a summer sunset.

When I was a little girl I was convinced there were parts of this ranch that were yet to be discovered and so I was determined to explore every inch. I walked the trail beside the creek bed in the spring, throwing in sticks to see where the cold rushing water would take them. In the summer I took off my boots and walked directly in that water, my bare feet navigating trails to the big beaver dams.

In the fall I would crawl to the tops of the banks and count the colors. In the winter I would bundle up and trudge, trudge, trudge…not to be kept away no matter the weather.

It wasn’t until I grew up and came home, camera pointed out of every window, dangling off my neck on every ride, every walk, that I discovered the gift of this place is the very thing that makes me crazy and sends me walking, searching for the undiscovered places. The most beautiful things.

This place never looks the same. Every day, every shift of light, every turn of season, every passing cloud, every breeze, every snowflake and raindrop changes it completely.

Gray sky, gray grass. Gold sun, gold flowers. White snow, white trees. Rain clouds, sparkling leaves.

It’s nature, but isn’t it interesting? Isn’t it magic how something so many miles up in the universe can change things for us, our mood, or intrigue, or plans for the day.

May the fires in Canada soon become a memory and the ashes turn to the greenest grass.

Because up here, the wind, the wind changes everything.

Sunday Column: Balancing act.

I hope you all had a patriotic and festive Independence Day Weekend. Husband and I extended ours into this Tuesday and I’m writing from the porch of my grandparent’s lake cabin in Minnesota while dearly beloved packs up our things and we get ready to head back west.

Back at the ranch Little Sister’s fiance has been keeping things in line, watered and fed while we were here pretending to be lake people and forgetting we have any responsibilities besides eating donuts for breakfast and applying sunscreen while we move from the shade to the sun and back again.

Besides the ranch, life at my grandparent’s lake cabin is my favorite kind of living.

Because sometimes, as you know, the living out there isn’t so easy for me…

Coming Home: Life on the ranch isn’t always precisely balanced
http://www.inforum.com/content/coming-home-life-ranch-isnt-always-precisely-balanced
by Jessie Veeder
7-7-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

See you at home!

Among the clover.

I wish you could smell the sweet clover out here this time of year. I step outside and I’m flooded with a wave of memories of all that I used to be, summer after summer growing up out here. It smells like work and evenings spent sliding down hills on cardboard boxes with my cousins. It smells like ingredients for mud pie and playing house in the lilac bushes by the red barn. It smells like bringing lunch to dad in the field above our house, horseflies and heat biting our skin.

It smells like my first car and the windows rolled down, taking back roads with my best friends as passengers, kicking up dust as we tested the limits of teenage-dom.

It smells like my leaving, bittersweet. My last summer as a kid here before it was time to go and grow up already. Be on my own.

And it smells like coming home, take a right on the pink road, stop at the top of the hill and look at it all before heading down and turning into mom and dad’s for a glass of wine and a steak on the deck that looks out toward the garden and up the crick bed where I used to play everyday.

Pink Road

Last week we had family here from Texas, a couple of those cousins who used to help me make mud pies, a couple of aunts and an uncle I adore and then, of course the grandkids. The ranch was buzzing, laughing, full of life like I remembered it when I was growing up and our grandparents were alive and serving us push-up pops from the small from porch of their small brown house.

Funny how the world changes when suddenly there are kids running through the grass, pulling up dandelions, blowing bubbles and making memories on this place like the ones I hold so close to me.

After the Centennial celebration was over we did nothing but sit on the deck and visit, catch up, eat and then run inside to watch the rain pour. We laughed at the kids as they played and fought over toys and I looked at my cousin, the one closest to my age, the girl I used to wish was my twin sister, a mother now, and I thought, well, weren’t we just the same size as her baby A? Weren’t we just five years old running through the clover, itching our mosquito bites, begging for popsicles and just one more hour to play outside.

Now look at us, all grown up and still here on this place.

I was so thankful to be here with them on this place.

Because I know it didn’t come without a cost for our family, keeping it here for us, so future generations can smell the clover and be young and wild out here…

Country Cousins

I know that we did nothing but be born to good people who know the value of the land, not in dollars, but in something that is hard for me to find words for right now.

Pride?

Work?

Home?

A place to belong?

On Monday when the rest of his family loaded up and hit the road, Uncle W, stayed home one more evening. Little Sister came out and we saddled up our horses and headed out east, riding along and listening to the two brothers remember what it was like to be young out here.

Little Uncle W always found hanging back on a roundup, eating on a Juneberry bush.

Young Pops getting bucked off on the road when his little brother popped over the hill on his tricycle.

Milking cows and riding broncs and chasing girls and growing up together, out here on this place.

How many gloves and hats and scarves have been left dangling in these trees, scooped off heads and hands of little cowboys and cowgirls rushing on the backs of horses running through the trees?

How many wild plum pits have been spit at one another?

How many mud pies have been made in this barnyard, topped off with little pieces of sweet clover.

It’s so quiet here this morning as I get ready to head to a show tonight and then on to Minnesota to celebrate the 4th of July. If I had my way we’d all live out here together, my cousins and us, and those kids would be over the hill forever being raised by kids like us, and we would rehash memories and then create new ones.

Every day, out here on this place the way it used to be.

But that wouldn’t work. There’s space out here, but not that much…not enough…

So I’ll take the clover. I’ll breathe it in and I will remember when it itched our bare little legs in the summer while we searched for kittens in the nooks of the red barn.

Then I’ll remember the weekends, weekends like these, when they came to visit us out here along the gravel roads, and how small the kids were and how they were so little, because they’ll grow up too fast you know. Just like we did, out here among the clover.

Sunday Column: 100 years!

IMG_1995The party of the century took place in my hometown this weekend. I sit here this morning at the ranch, my cousins and aunt and uncle visiting from Texas likely milling around the cabin in the barnyard over the hill, getting ready for another day in North Dakota, just one of the many family’s who made the trip back home to celebrate.

It’s fitting then that they would be spending their nights in the very spot that raised my grandfather and then raised my aunt and dad and uncle, right above where the old shack used to sit, right next door to the old red barn, family feet still making tracks in this mud.

Summer Barn

I can’t tell you what it means to me to have them here and I’m sure they can’t explain that the miles and time don’t make a difference, that this is always home.

I am certain that among the thousand plus people who celebrated with us, most would say the same.

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There’s coffee at my desk and I’m nursing a sunburn and tired feet. I have the whole summer ahead of me now, packed with more stages, more cows to chase, more events to plan and more sun to catch, but what I’m thinking now is “phew, we pulled it off.”

And that I’m proud to have been a part of it.

Because for two years we’ve been planning the bands and the art show, the kids games and the sidewalk sales, the film festival and the magicians, the clowns and the books and the auction and the big free feed under the tent.

We didn’t plan on rain, but we knew it was inevitable. We didn’t plan for a party in the mud, but we had one and it was great.

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We’re a young establishment, this booming small town in America. Things have changed since the railroad made promises and the first little wooden store took shape on the desolate landscape. Every day time passes and residents make decisions to build, to come, to leave, to stay.

Within those 100 years there have been booms and busts and years spent standing still waiting for and making our own opportunity that might help keep the streets alive with young people and babies again…

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Within those 100 years land has been bought and sold and split and kept. Businesses have changed hands, closed doors or stayed right there in the family.

Kids have learned between the walls of schools and out in the streets, riding bikes to the pool or driving their first cars out to help with a branding at a ranch in the badlands.

I am one of those kids. This weekend I was surrounded by them, tapping their toes to the music on the big stage, dancing and laughing, buying each other a beer, swinging around grandchildren, sitting down with a roast beef sandwich and catching up, just like they’ve done for decades.

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And isn’t it refreshing to know that no matter how things have changed us, no matter how fast the cars can go now, how we can fly across oceans, no matter that we can see each other on computer screens though we’re thousands of miles apart, still after all of these years there’s nothing like celebrating shoulder to shoulder, embrace to embrace, laughter to terrible joke.

There’s nothing that beats a good old fashioned party together.

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Congratulations hometown. Here’s to another 100 years and more!

Coming Home: We call it a century. 100 years. The Centennial
by Jessie Veeder
7-29-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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The golden hour…

IMG_9124Summers don’t last long enough here. But the days are long and so we make up for it by squeezing every last inch of sunlight out of our waking hours.

We have supper at 11 pm. Quick. Whip something up. We need to sleep so we can wake and do it again.

I like every inch of this time of year, but I like the witching hour best, the time right before sunset when everything on earth is bathed in a golden light and the creek bottoms cool and the clover smells fresh and crisp and like every childhood ride I’ve ever taken.

IMG_9099Last night I rushed home from meetings in town to meet up with Husband to push some bulls and a few cows through the gate to the west. I ran inside and switched from my sandals and fancy shirt to boots and jeans and jumped in the old green pickup and on down to the barn. I rearranged the tack room and swept away dust while I waited for him and the horses to come down.

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It would be a quick and easy ride, the cattle right by the gate. We saddled up and admired our animal’s sleek backs. They’re summering well, we said. Fat and sassy, full of gas.

We swung on and out of the barnyard and pushed those cows with their new boyfriends toward the creek. And they went well and so did our two bays and when they were through that gate we decided to keep going ourselves, to check the dam on the other side of the pasture. To just ride a bit and be out in it.

To make sure all the other cows were in between the fence lines.

I wish you could have seen it, the way the green looked neon and the purple flowers popped from the earth in the bask of the 9:30 sun sink. On a different Wednesday evening I might have brought my camera, but I left the house on a deadline and, sometimes it’s nice to just be there without the burden of trying to capture it the way I see it, because sometimes it just isn’t possible.

And sometimes it’s nice to just talk about nothing really and ride along.

IMG_9112Sometimes it’s nice to just say, “What a night! What a night!” and believe it between the two of you.

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We made our way to the dam, spotting a hawk and a coyote and a couple deer along the way. Oh, and some cows. There were cows too.

Good thing there were cows.

And then the sun that was kissing the top of my husband’s hat, filtering through his too-long hair, making him look like a western movie poster, sunk down over the horizon, chilled my skin and turned our stroll into a trot, back across the new spring on the hill, down through the valley where the plums grow in the fall, up along the deep trails, across the flat, to the creek and through the gate we left open.

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Feeling proud of our accomplishments and hungry for our 10 pm supper, we popped up over the hill that would take us to the pink road, past the grain bins and down to the barnyard.

But not before we came upon the cows and their boyfriends, the same ones we just pushed through that gate, munching and strolling exactly where we found them an hour or so before.

“Cows” I exclaimed as if my husband didn’t have eyes.

“Yup,” he replied in typical Husband fashion. And then, “Shoulda probably shut that gate…”

But if there ever was a night to do a chore like that twice, it was that night. Because in the golden hour or in the dark, we would rather be out there than anywhere…

And anyway, tacos taste best at 11 pm.

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Sunday Column: Small Town Celebrations

IMG_7502Summers in small town America are full of celebrations. There are street dances, rodeos, parades, reunion picnics in the park, golf scrambles, back porch parties, bon fires and fiddling jamborees.

Because there is much to celebrate in the summer, being able to stand outside without getting frost bite is one of them, but the most important is community. That’s the point of it all.

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This year on this side of North Dakota many small towns are throwing a celebration of celebrations in recognition of 100 years of pulling together and living and growing, struggling and thriving together.

The Centennial.

The big one.

My hometown of Watford City is one of those communities and this week is the week we put up the tent, pull in the stages, set up the bouncy houses for the kids, buy our friends drinks and take a few days to recognize and appreciate how far we’ve come.

The forecast looks good and I can’t wait see people enjoying the party we’ve been planning for over two years. A party that’s 100 years in the making…

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As a musician in this area, I’ve had and will have the privilege of entertaining at a few of these celebrations throughout the summer. It’s one of my favorite things about what I do, coming in as a guest in these communities, in these small towns along back highways, standing before them telling my story while I get to witness theirs.

I get to see them all out there, together, eating pulled pork or roast beef on a bun, commenting on the tough decision they had to make on which homemade bar to choose,  sipping lemonade and talking about grandkids, or the weather, or the big football play in 1979 or that time they snuck out of school to drink whiskey and go fishing at the river…

There’s something nostalgic about a small town celebration in the middle of summer, in the middle of an old main street. And it’s not that they’re all the same or that they’re a simple undertaking. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s in the unique details that come together to showcase a place and what’s important to the people who’ve made it.

It’s in the town’s cowboy marching band or the 4-H kids serving coffee and lemonade and that wave of relief you feel sipping from styrofoam cups knowing that they still make kids like this out here.

It’s in the Cattle Women serving up beef on a bun and their famous potato salad. It’s in the hometown gymnastics club tumbling down the sidewalk and worrisome but proud moms with arms full of candy and frisbees their children picked up at the parade.

And it’s the parade, the Heritage Club’s team of horses and the man who drives that fine looking team every year.

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It’s the way the grass is cut just right in the park before the celebration by the man who has taken his job seriously for twenty years. It’s the “boy this place looks nice” and “What a beautiful day” echoing off the thoughtfully planted trees.

It’s the kids running around coated in bug spray and dirt chasing each other up and down the street without a care because someone’s watching them…we all know who their parents are…

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Last week Pops and I loaded up our guitars and headed to the southern border of North and South Dakota to help the two states celebrate 125 years of being states…I wrote about it in this week’s column, I wrote about the smell of the fresh cut clover wafting through the open doors of the Armory, I wrote about the high school choir singing the South Dakota song, the crowd sitting around tables carefully covered in colorful cloths, fanning the humidity off of their skin while the kids played Red Light/Green Light out back on the lawn and the sun went down and a storm brewed in the thunderheads on the horizon…

I wrote about it all here…

Coming Home: Time is relative in summer
by Jessie Veeder
6-22-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

And this week Watford City will celebrate our booming town with a festival featuring all the small town trimmings, complete with parade, street dance, craft show, magicians, reunions, clowns and free supper under a big tent. I’ll put on my sunscreen and practical shoes and run around making sure everything is going just right, hoping that the wind stays down…talking about the weather…

Talking about time and how summers here just don’t last long enough…

You can find my columns weekly in the Fargo Forum (Sundays), Dickinson Pressand the Grand Forks Herald. All columns are reposted on this blog.


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