Sunday Column: A Baby Jesus #4

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I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas weekend. We have one more holiday visit to make to wrap up Edie’s first Christmas. We’ll hit the road tomorrow for eastern North Dakota to introduce her to my mom’s side of the family and her cousins, great aunts and uncles and of course,  great grandma and grandpa.

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It’s safe to say between the food, the visits, the gifts and the games, baby Edie fits well into our Christmas traditions.

And she’s already started a few of her own.

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This week’s column is about her a stage debut, baby Jesus, a fart in church and other meaningful messages.

Sunday Column: We all have a story about how we came into this world
by Jessie Veeder
12-27-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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Edie made her stage debut as “Baby Jesus No. 4” in church last Sunday.

As the story of Mary, Joseph and the angel unfolded on a stage filled with neighbor kids in homemade costumes, moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles and cousins looked on adoringly, waiting for their kid to take the stage as a camel or a wise man.

Turns out Edie’s first church fart led to a poop explosion that leaked through the special “Baby Jesus No. 4” outfit I picked out for the occasion, which also seeped onto her dad’s pants, which sent him and his sweet, stinky daughter to the back room for a quick change, only to have her re-emerge down the aisle dressed in fuzzy footie pajamas right on cue and right in time to lie down in a bouncy seat manger among a half-dozen barn animals, a dove, a monkey, a skunk, a couple shepherds, the angels, Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus Nos. 1, 2 and 3.

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The little country church where I grew up is experiencing a baby boom, and there was our Edie, second to youngest by a day, right in the middle of a Christmas story with carols, memorized lines and a close call with the Christmas tree, the advent candles and a toddler in a donkey hat.

It struck me then that Edie’s only 4 weeks old and already she has a memory. Not one that she’ll recall necessarily, but one I will retell to her year after year, about her first Christmas, her first stage debut and her first trip to that little church.

When I was young, I used to love to hear the story about the day I was born. It was a drought year, 100 degrees for days on end and a tough year for cattle. I was expected mid-July, but it was late August and my dad drove my mom over summer fallow fields in their old pickup to help induce labor.

But I came on my own time, in a small hospital in my hometown, delivered by an old Norwegian doctor with a thick accent. And when my dad held me for the first time, he looked out the window to find the sky had opened up and it was finally raining.

I don’t tell it as well as my parents do, because it isn’t my memory. But it is part of my story, a part that I loved to hear because it made me feel like my coming into this world had something to do with the long-awaited rain.

When I tell Edie the story of her birth, I will tell her how peaceful it was, arriving at the hospital in the early hours of the morning. I will tell her how she came to us quickly and without issue, and how I wailed a breath of relief and gratefulness when I heard her cry.

I will tell her how we got to take her home on Thanksgiving, which was fitting because we were the most thankful we’ve ever been, and so began weeks of an endless stream of guests, friends and family lining up at the door to meet her.

Watching all 20 or so children stand up in front of the church last Sunday to help tell the most famous birth story of all and seeing our tiny baby girl among them, I couldn’t help but think that each and every one of those children have their own special “coming into the world story” that they will hear year after year.

And some will hear about that day in church, about how she recited her lines as Mary perfectly, about how he ran down the aisle on a stick horse, the most gallant and swift 2-year-old king of all, about how he almost knocked the Advent candle over into the Christmas tree and about how only Baby Jesus No. 4 could get away with such a loud fart in church.

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Oh Christmas Card, Oh Christmas Card

Well, every year I go through it. The great Christmas Card debacle. 

Most years it’s because I can’t find one single photo of the two of us where I’m not making a strange face, wearing a weird hat or holding a drink not appropriate for the celebration of Christ’s birth.

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Last year the thought of another Christmas Card made me contemplative– sad for the things we lost and grateful for what we have.

This year with little Edie hanging out in her bassinet by the Christmas tree, you would think I would have jumped on the Christmas Card order right away, anxious to get the photos of our little bundle out to the world, announcing her arrival.

But it turns out she’s created another Christmas debacle entirely.

I mean.

How.

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Can.

I.

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Chose?


I spent two days taking photos of her and the next week staring at her when she’s awake, and when she’s sleeping or with her dad, I spend the rest of my time looking at photos of her.

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Finally I called in my husband to help me make a damn decision.

He was no help at all. Except he said he was going to sit there with me until I decided…until I made the damn order.

Because at the rate I was going we were going to miss the Easter card deadline.

Ah well, I’m happy as hell for this to be my hardest life decision as of late.

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I know things with a newborn can change on a dime, but so far, besides the cold her momma contracted in the second week, this kid has been nice and predictable, eating like a champ, packing on the pounds and pooping/burping/sleeping at the right times.

(Well, except for the few times she’s literally pooped in my hand…but I’ve learned my lesson…to give her a little space to grunt in out before going in).

So there’s that.

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And that’s pretty much all I’ve been doing…talking about pooping/burping/sleeping/eating…

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And welcoming all her visitors.

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Decorating the tree.

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And ordering gifts and supplies from Amazon.

Good thing my FedEx guy likes making this trip, because he’s been making it every day.

If anyone needs boxes, I’m your girl.

And if you need me, I’ll be in my sweatpants staring at my baby.

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Merry Christmas from our little family.

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The beauty in not knowing…

The thing about chronicling my life the way I have over the last several years, is that it gives me the opportunity to look back and recognize how things have changed.

Or haven’t changed.

And how far we’ve come.

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Last year at this time I was working on putting together a Christmas card and was struck by overwhelming feelings of being grateful and sad at the same time as I searched for a photo of my husband and I to send to relatives and friends, feeling a little sorry for us and a little pathetic.

Read the full post here: The Holidays, how they hold us and haunt us. 

I couldn’t help but realize that most couples our age were setting up photo shoots with their little ones, decorating Christmas trees and Christmas cookies together in a house filled with toys and bouncy seats and stuffed animals and putting elves on shelves or dressing the kids up for photos with Santa.

The holidays have always been a little rough for the two of us, as they are for anyone who has lost someone they love or has yet to start the family they’ve been dreaming about. With each passing year you wonder if it’s ever going to get easier…

I couldn’t have known last year at that time, when I picked out a photo of the two of us sitting on a cooler under the hot Montana summer sun, a little tipsy from a few beers, laughing and holding on to one another, that just a few months later I would call my husband into the bathroom to confirm that I wasn’t seeing things.

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That there were indeed, two pink lines.

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And you couldn’t have told us then, seeing those lines for the seventh time, that it would all work out this time. That on December 9th I would be picking out little bows and hats for our daughter’s first Christmas photo.

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I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me then, in the middle of my musings about being thankful but wanting, that if we just wait patiently, in one year we would be bundling up our almost two-week old, strapping her in her car seat in the back of the pickup for a drive around the ranch to pick out her first Christmas tree.

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Everything has changed, yet it feels so familiar to have this baby laying next to me in her bassinette as I write this. It feels just fine me holding my breath hoping she’ll give me just a few more minutes to finish up before she wakes up and is ready to eat.

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It feels like we were never without her…although we waited so long.

How could we have known?

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We could not.

To live with uncertainty is to live knowing that it could be tragic, but then, it could all turn out after all.

Sometimes it all works out after all.

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Sunday Column: What’s in a name

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When I wrote this column a few weeks ago, we were still waiting on the arrival of our baby. We didn’t know if we would be naming a boy or a girl, what her eyes would look like, what color her hair would be, the length of her toes or the squish of her nose or anything about her little spirit.

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So it seemed to me like a daunting task to pick out a name for a human we hadn’t yet me, although we had a name for a boy and a name for a girl picked out for years. We were prepared.

But I wasn’t prepared for it to fit so well. As soon as they handed me my baby girl, fresh out of the womb and onto my chest, her eyes were wide and looking, her lungs filled with air for a good wail, her arms and cheeks and legs filled out and the first thing that came to my mind was that this girl is fierce.

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When I held her in my arms those first few moments of her life, when she latched on for her first feeding, bare skin to bare skin, we were both wide awake and learning and somehow the confidence this little being exuded, her complete understanding about how to be a baby, seeped into my skin too and gave me courage. She knew what to do.

I knew what to do.

We were going to be just fine.

And sure as the sun, she was an Edie.

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She was going to live up to her name: Edith Elizabeth, but we would call her Edie. Edie is what we called my grandmother, a woman this baby could look up to. Her name would be a story she would hear about a cowgirl and a teacher and a woman who laughed with her whole body.

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A caretaker and a lousy housekeeper who would rather go along on a roundup or a cattle feed or a fence fixing outing than stay inside the house, although I heard she always had the coffee on and a snack or supper on hand for anyone who stopped by.

Little Edie will carve out her own story, go on her own cattle drives, grow up to cook in her own kitchen and have her own adventures, but I am so happy to give her the gift of a name with a history of a great woman who lived a good life on this ranch.

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And may she do the same.

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Coming Home: Parents challenged to find a name that sticks

by Jessie Veeder
11-29-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

My grandmother’s name was Edith Evangaline Delores Linseth Veeder. My cousins and I used to sit in the back seat of her Oldsmobile while she drove us to town and sing her name out loud to the tune of “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,” amazed at how perfectly her names fit into the tune.

If she didn’t appreciate her gaggle of grandkids making sport of her name, loudly and on repeat for a half-hour as she tried to concentrate on the road, she didn’t let on. She just laughed and interrupted our jingle by telling us the story of how her sisters were each allowed to pick out a name for her when she was born.

Edith, Evangaline and Delores made the cut.

Naming kids in a family of twelve must have been a creative feat in its own right, so it made sense that her mother enlisted some help.

As my due date creeps up, the significance task of giving a child a name as an identity has been on the top of my mind.

And it’s not because my husband and I are wavering on selections or arguing over middle names. It’s quite the opposite. Since we’ve been trying to have a baby for so long, we’ve had names for our boy and girl picked out for years.

But the idea that a tiny, smushy, freshly made person will take his or her first breath and we’re charged with providing a forever name without knowing a thing about this kid, is a big commitment.

This coming from me, who tried to change my name to Stephanie when I was in kindergarten after a little boy named August raised his hand and asked to be called Gus.

His request gave me the impression that kindergarten is where we get to change our names. So I raised my hand and declared that everyone must now call me Stephanie.

My sweet teacher looked at me and calmly declared she thought Jessica was a nice name and I should keep it.

I was pretty disappointed. But little did I know that I wasn’t being so unique. About thirty percent of girls born in that time period were also named Stephanie. The other seventy percent were, in fact, also named Jessica.

The proof is found every time I sit in the waiting room at my doctor’s office. When the nurse comes out and calls for “Jessica” at least three of us, all in our late twenties or early thirties, stand up.The same scenario likely happens to the Stephanies of the world, but I bet that never happened to Edith Evangaline Delores Linseth Veeder.

Anyway, I found a middle ground when my family moved back to the ranch when I was in second grade and, struck with a sudden urge to shorten things up, I introduced myself to my new country school classmates as Jessie, and I’ve been Jessie every since.

When it comes to choosing nicknames, it seems my family has a long history of changing things up.

For instance, my dad, Gene, was named after his father, Eugene, who was called ‘Pete’ his entire life and Pete’s brother, Edgar, was known as ‘Lorraine’ until his dying day.

When I asked about this random re-naming process I was told it had to do with how the two real-life brothers, Eugene and Edgar, took after two fictitious brothers, Pete and Lorraine, in an old story somewhere. And so the boys were renamed.

Funny to think about the ways we fit our labels in the end. I was named after the woman in the movie “The Man from Snowy River” because my mom could see me arriving with a fiery spirit and dark, curly hair like the character. Turns out she sort of had a premonition about things.

I have my own premonitions about this baby, and after a strong and painful kick to the bladder that woke me up wailing last night, I feel like I need to start researching names of famous ninjas.

Because without seven kids already born and named before this child, it’s up to the two of us to provide this new human with a name worthy of singing…or, at the very least, a name that sticks.

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Welcome Home Baby!

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Edith (Edie) Elizabeth was born on Tuesday, November 24th at 11:50.

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Named after my grandmother (Edith) one of the best cowgirls and all around women I know and my mother (Elizabeth) one of the bravest, she came into this world proving to be the healthy, active, fierce being I thought she’d be at 8 pounds, 11 ounces and 21 1/4 inches long.

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As soon as she took her first breath in this world she opened her eyes and looked right into mine and if ever there was a life before she came into it, it was only to prepare me to be hers forever.

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Words have yet to be invented to describe what she is to us.

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Before she was born my neighbor, a cowboy who raised three girls up the road from us, told me that on her first breath it will feel like she was ours forever.

Like there was no life before her.

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He was right.

I was nervous to meet her. Nervous I wouldn’t know what to do.

I didn’t trust my instincts.

But we were sent a good one. She knows how to be a baby. I know how to be here momma. And we’re getting along just fine.

We made it through the birth and the welcoming crowd and the first feeding and the first poop and the first sleepless nights and the long drive home

and when we crossed the cattle guard on Thanksgiving day my husband said “Welcome home Edie baby, this is all yours.”

And I will never forget it.

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Welcome to your ranch Edie. We can’t wait to love you forever.

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Sunday Column: ‘Tis the season

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It’s been a great, but long week here for this big bellied momma out here at the ranch. Hunting season, coupled with the fact that my doctors said I could birth this child any minute, has set this place off in a new sort of buzz.

Each year about this time my dad’s brother flies in from Texas, bringing with him a son-in-law or two to show them around this place. We look forward to having him here all year and spend the time around the supper table talking, eating venison stew and coaxing stories out of the brothers and our neighbor up the road about the shenanigans they used to get into as wild boys growing up out here.

As my belly grows by the second (like literally, I think it grows by the second) I couldn’t help but notice how our family has grown. Last night mom and dad hosted a fish fry supper for thirteen as my uncle brought with him both of his son-in-laws and his nephew to join my brother-in-law over, big sister, little sister and her new husband and the rest of the ranch gathered in the house to eat and wonder when the heck I might pop.

I looks like pretty dang soon.

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Husband spent a good portion of the afternoon loading up his pickup with our baby-go gear and trying to figure out how the hell to get the carseat in…and then out…of the backseat.

I heard him talking on the phone to his mom saying something like “There’s a manual fifty-seven pages long about how to install the damn thing, but not one word on how to get the thing out.”
And who knew we would have to sit together and read the directions and diagram on the diaper genie. But that’s what we’ve been doing. That and taking calls from relatives and friends on my condition, wondering if we should just go to the big town already (we have a three hour drive) and wait it out there and put everyone at ease for the love of GAWD!
I don’t know.
All I know is I should probably pack the camouflage onesie Husband asked about, because he just informed me he plans on wearing camo on the way home from the hospital and he would like it if he and the baby matched…
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Priorities I tell you.
Priorities.
Anyway, here’s the column from last weekend I forgot to post in my struggle to stay upright in the final countdown.
Peace, Love and Baby Gear,
Jessie and the bump
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Coming Home: Hunting holiday season means time
spent with loved ones
by Jessie Veeder
11-15-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

‘Tis the season.

Yes, we’re already one week into celebrating a North Dakota official holiday. The chill is settling in the air, and men and women are pulling on neon orange knit caps over their unruly hair, growing sweet beards (well, the men anyway), stocking up on whiskey and pulling out the cards for poker night.

Yes, the official deer rifle season opening day arrived, reminding me that this once was a valid reason for an excused absence from country school.

Turns out, that doesn’t carry in the working world, but I tell you, there were plenty of North Dakotans out there that day who opted to dress head to toe in camouflage and hunker down just under the skyline instead of going to work.

Meanwhile, the ranch has done its annual transition from horse and cattle operation to hunting camp. Every refrigerator on the place is stocked with Budweiser. Every cupboard is supplied with whiskey. The camouflage hats are tossed on chairs, boots piled in entryways, rifles polished and sighted in, and the calendar filled with scheduled visits from family members who make walking these hills with their sons, sons-in-law, granddaughters, nieces, nephews, wives, husbands or brothers a tradition year after year.

Because out here on this ranch, hunting season is less about the big kill and more about the time spent taking a break to appreciate this wild place with the people you most like to be around.

It’s always been that way.

Because contrary to the magazine and movie portrayal of ranch life, it’s not all riding your best horse into the sunset night after night. There are beautiful moments, yes, but they usually occur after you’ve acquired a fair amount of poop on your boots and slung a good string of cuss words into the air after racing that sun home from a job in town to catch the cows in the fields or a fence broken down.

Keeping a place like this up and running is 17 full-time jobs it seems, something that I didn’t realize growing up sitting next to my dad in the feed pickup rolling out a bale of hay for a line of black cows well after dark on a winter night.

Coming home from one full-time job to start another was likely not a rancher’s dream, but keeping the place up and running was worth every after-dark hour. I understand it a bit more now that we’re charged with the same task moving this place into its next 100 years.

I understand it now, helping my husband and dad make new plans for the corrals over supper served past dark or pushing back a trip to the lake in the summer because the cows got out or hay needs to be put up.

But then there is hunting season. The calves are shipped out, the cows are settled in, the weather is in between hot and bitter, and there’s a window, an oasis of time, to spend harvesting the land in a different way, to sit in silence on a side hill with one mission: To be still. To look. To listen. To be a part of the natural order of this landscape.

And all that time you’ve spent riding through the trees after a bull that won’t stay in, all the cows trailed along fence lines and trips to check water in the dams have you familiar with where the bucks bed down at night or where they rub the velvet off of their horns.

So you carve out the time to sit in the rising sun, watching the day break next to someone handpicked to share the experience with you.

Some of the best days of my life have been sitting in the glow of the sunset next to my dad, my husband or my uncle looking closely, blending in and holding still in a moment.

And if the opportunity presents itself to take an animal, it’s just more fodder for the memories, and more meat in our freezer for the long winter. But at the end of the day, for us, it’s about being together in a familiar place, in our own special sort of holiday.

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The wait (to love you forever…)

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I’m a big ‘ol ticking time bomb. Any day this baby could make his or her arrival and the wait will be over.

We’re in the in-between phase. The hurry up and wait. The preparing to prepare.

I never thought I’d look like this.

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I never thought I’d feel the kicks or the hiccups inside my belly or the panic that I HAVE to get the microwave clean or I might spontaneously combust.

Never thought the arches of my feet would ache like this.

Never thought I would understand the way a body wakes you up every two hours in preparation of what’s to come.

Never thought I get this big.

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I just watched a cow in the pasture trying to get up from a rest, with a ‘one, two, three…heave, ho…’ sort of technique and I could relate to her.

I watched another one attempt to lay down, and I nodded my head in solidarity.

It’s weird. And most of the time it’s not so pretty. Just last week I had a mental breakdown about moving the board games from one closet to another.

Seriously.

And my poor husband can’t find a thing in the kitchen because, according to him, some crazy pregnant lady keeps rearranging things.

I don’t believe him. I have no recollection of such acts. I tell him maybe it’s him who’s going crazy.

He doubts that theory very much.  

I don’t know who’s rearranging the kitchen, but I do know I have the strongest urge to vacuum right now. And last week I felt just as urgent about capturing a few photos of what the two of us look like in this phase of ‘pre-parenthood.’

So I forced my little sister to take some, right after I finished the donut she brought me from town. The poor thing didn’t know what was coming, but she did a great job (and she’s not even the sister of mine who’s an actual photographer).

Anyway, in a couple weeks (or tomorrow or the next day) we will be three.

But here we are, still just the two of us (sort of) and counting down the days.

I don’t think my husband has ever taken a better photo, he’s just sort of radiating, a smile as big as his wife’s belly.

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For a long time there were only your footprints & laughter in our dreams & even from such small things, we knew we could not wait to love you forever.
-Brian Andreas-Storypeople

Remembering the Veterans who built this place.

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Today, on Veteran’s Day, I want to pause to remember the two strong Veterans who founded the Veeder Ranch so we can call it home today.

Edgar Andrew Veeder, born October 5, 1894, in Stearnes County Minnesota was the first child born to Benjamin Wemple and Antoinette Marie (Volc) Veeder.

In 1907, Eddie moved to McKenzie County where he lived with his parents in the Croff community. He lived and worked at home until he was twenty-one.

In 1915, he homesteaded the Veeder Ranch in Bear Den Township before being drafted into the the Army, serving in the 77th Infantry-Machine Gun Company at Camp Custer Michigan.

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After he was discharged at Camp Dodge, Iowa in 1919, Eddie returned to farm and ranch in Bear Den Township.

Eddie married Cornelia Belle Harrison on September 4, 1917. In 1925, Eddie bought his brother, Hank Veeder’s homestead, also located in Bear Den Township and continued expanding his holdings by purchasing additional homesteads in the area. In 1928, he bought a threshing machine and for the next fifteen years he did custom threshing in addition to running cattle and raising crops on the place. Through all the years that he lived in the community, Eddie always took an active part in the building and maintenance of the area. He was a member of the township board for many years and was responsible for keeping township roads and bridges open and in good repair.

Eddie and Cornelia, who died of heart failure in 1932 at the age of thirty-six, had five children, the youngest, my grandfather, Eugene (Pete) Veeder.

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After the death of his wife, Eddie, with the help of his sisters, maintained the home until all of the children were grown. It must have been difficult, especially during the Depression, to provide for his family, but he was always cheerful. He enjoyed his children and grandchildren until his death in 1961.

After their father’s passing, Pete and his brother Lorraine each bought half of the family ranch land. Pete was inducted into the Army February 16, 1945, at Fort Snelling, Minnesota, took his basic training at Camp Hood, Texas, and was then stationed for a time in Korea. He was the recipient of the Asiatic Pacific Service Medal, Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal and Army of Occupation Medal (Japan). He was discharged at Fort Lewis, Washington on December 19, 1946. Pete then returned to farm with his father and brothers.

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Pete married Edith Linseth on August 24, 1951 and the two of them raised crops, cattle and three children, Kerry, Wade and my father, Eugene (Gene) on the original homestead.

Today the Veeder Ranch remains in the family, operated by Gene and Beth. My husband Chad and I have built a home here, making us the fourth generation to live and work on the Veeder Homestead. 

Remembering these two great men’s lives and service to their country and grateful for the legacy and land they worked hard to keep.

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Sunday Column: Dreaming of horses…

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Coming Home: Dreaming of horses, the best gift a ranch kid can get
11-9-15
by Jessie Veeder
http://www.inforum.com

A funny thing happens when you’re in the home stretch of your first-ever pregnancy. Between all of the unpleasant symptoms we’ve all heard about — the heartburn, the aches and pains, the insomnia — you suddenly find yourself with an overwhelming need to purchase a festive Christmas baby hat because the most important thing in the world is being prepared for this new baby’s first Christmas photo under the tree.

It’s all you can think about, never mind that you don’t yet have the car seat properly installed or a single diaper stocked up. If you have this hat, you will be ready.

But three days later when that handmade Rudolf hat with the red button nose arrives in your mailbox, you’ve completely forgotten that 5 a.m. panic order altogether. Because you’ve already moved on to the next obsession.

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And lately, for me, three weeks away from my due date, I’ve decided I should really be thinking seriously about this kid’s first horse.

It’s not logical, I know, not in the sequence of things anyway. I mean, I have a good few years to find the right animal, one I can trust to take care of my firstborn as he sits tall in the saddle beside us, chasing cows or checking fence, honing his skills and his way around this place.

But to have a horse of your own as a kid is a unique and life-shaping privilege, one not granted to every child, and one I want to give to mine. Because I remember how I was one of the lucky ones. I inherited an old red mare from my grandma. Her name was Rindy, and she was short and squat with just the right amount of attitude and a rough trot.

I would ride her bareback in the summer, learning about balance and patience as I searched the tree lines for raspberries, leading her to big rocks or side-hills to help me swing my short legs up on her back if I happened to climb down or fall off.

 

I broke my arm tumbling off Rindy.

I broke my foot jumping off her in a youth rodeo.

I won “best groomed” at a sleepaway horse camp because she couldn’t find a mud hole to roll in like she did at the ranch each time I groomed her the night before a 4-H show.

I put red, white and blue yarn in her mane and rode her in the county fair parade.

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I rode double, or triple, with my best friends on her back, trotting through clover fields, seeing how fast we could go before we all tumbled off, leaving her grazing a few yards away as we rolled around on the ground laughing.

And in the fall I would saddle her up, pulling the cinch as tight as I could around her round back, and she would puff out her belly to trick me into thinking that’s as tight as it would go only to let the air out once I climbed on, her way of controlling her comfort level, I suppose.

Oh, that horse was something. But that’s the thing, anyone who had a horse of their own as a kid will tell you stories like these about an animal that helped raise them in an environment that has the potential to be intimidating for a kid.

But a horse out here gives a kid some power. I felt like I was worth something on Rindy’s back, like I could help move a cow through a gate or learn where the fence lines run. I had a partner, a big companion that gave me new abilities. I was stronger and bigger up there. I was capable.

Who wouldn’t want to give that gift to a child if they could?

And so I have that Christmas hat in the drawer, we’ve set up the crib, I’m washing onesies and putting away diapers, and late at night, when the world is dark, my husband’s chest rising in sleep next to me, I lie with my eyes open in our bed, a hand on my swollen belly, waiting on this baby and dreaming of horses.

Maternity Haze

The biggest project of my life….

Belly B&W

Ok, so I am a project focused sort of woman and if the last three weeks of pregnancy don’t count as the biggest project of my life, then nothing does.

Last weekend the beautiful women in my life threw me and this baby an unforgettable shower, complete with waffles, bacon and donuts,

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diaper cakes (courtesy of my nieces),

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diaper cake

a watermelon in the shape of a baby (courtesy of my mother-in-law)

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an endless supply of baby books

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and and even bigger supply of love and support.

And while I sat there surrounded by these incredible women, opening these beautiful gifts, I was in disbelief that this was actually my shower I was attending (even though the bacon induced heartburn tried its damnedest to reassure me it’s true). 

But there were other forces of nature working to reassure me. Four capable and handy men, my husband, dad, grampa and uncle, spent the morning of the shower putting together the crib (at last!), installing the light fixture and even hanging the curtains in the nursery so we would be one step closer to getting this place ready for our brand new family member.

Did it really take four grown men to assemble a baby crib you ask?

Yes. Yes indeed it did.

But I was so thankful to see it there when I got home and unloaded boxes of onesies, toys, blankets, bottles, pacifiers, pajamas, a diaper genie…

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and socks so tiny I just can’t get over it.

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My mom came over on Sunday to help me sort and tidy up, because organizing is like her therapy (and what’s more fun than organizing adorable baby shoes or onesies rolled into the shape of cupcakes?).

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And the two of us laughed, oohed and aahhed and marveled at the fact that in a few weeks an actual human will be wearing those teeny, tiny diapers she was putting in the drawers.

When Husband came home from his fireman duties serving pancakes at a local benefit, he set up the chair and gave it a good test run…

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And this week I’ve been hanging out in this space every chance I get.

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Yes, in between working, writing and figuring out what we have to eat in this place, I’ve been making my way to the nursery to sort and wash baby outfits and blankets,

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pack the to go bag, order a rug and a toy box, make plans for some shelves, and channeling my inner 4th grader to create some chalk art on the wall, an idea sparked, of course, by my baby-brained obsession with Pinterest.

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I’ve seriously never put as much thought (or funds?) into another room in the house.

It’s ridiculous and I’m aware of it. But it’s been fun to see how each piece I picked out, and each gift given to this baby by people who love her already, fit into this space.

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To be honest here now for a minute, I’ve always wondered about my mothering instincts. Even after all of these years of working and hoping to become a mom, I have never been fully convinced that I possess the sort of confidence and know-how that seems to be born in some of the women I know. Where they effortlessly maneuver a newborn, I have been known to nervously and reluctantly cradle the tiny fragile beings while frantically searching for a chair for reinforcement.

Where they are organized with supplies and informed on the latest baby products and how to use them, I over research and panic at the saturation of information before calling it quits and heading to the fridge in search of chocolate.

Almost every new mom I’ve seen lately makes new motherhood look effortless and beautiful while in the back of my mind I try to shut off the images of me and this baby flailing and struggling in a world that I’m scrambling to domesticate in time for her arrival.

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I do not have swept floors.

I do not have a meal plan.

I do not have a stocked and organized pantry or a house put together and void of sawdust.

I am most comfortable in the dirt and the wind and out from under a roof.

But I know I can love this baby, even though I haven’t been convinced I’ll instinctively know how to swaddle it, bathe it, feed it and carry it around like a fifth limb while I fold laundry, do dishes, cook a gourmet meal or feed the horses.

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But my uncertainty doesn’t scare me as much anymore. Not now that I spent a day surrounded by women who I can call upon to give me advice or direction when I need it. Not now that I’ve started to create this space in my home for this new life.

Not with my mom down the road, a drawer full of tiny baby socks, a room almost ready and a plan to be myself and do my very best by this kid.

Because I might not know what I’m doing quite yet, but I like a project…and this is the biggest project of my life.

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