From Lost to Found: A Pug Story

Chug

Search “Chug the Pug” on this blog and you will find countless entries on this little black bean of a dog that came into our lives to help us through a rough patch, and then continued on his merry way,

peeing in my husband’s shoes, losing an eye to a porcupine, snuggling up with the kittens,

chasing bulls out of the yard, showing up the bird dogs with his pheasant retrieval skills, snoring, snorting, howling and just all around creating hilarious chaos and merriment wherever he went.

He was a character in our lives out here at the ranch, one I loved to torture by dressing him up in a Santa suit and making him pose for countless photos.

A lap dog by breeding, Chug the Pug hated to miss out on an opportunity for adventure, proving time and time again that there are no limits, just mind-set.

Dogs on the boat

Chug the Pug, my search partner


My new readers may not have heard about our chubby little one-eyed pet because about a year and a half ago Chug decided to make his rounds to the nearest rigs and oil sites around our ranch to meet his neighbors, get his belly scratched and feast on table scraps and the occasional steak while he waited for us to come and find him.

It was a problem for us, all the kindness he was shown on these rigs, because it meant more wandering for an animal who could previously be trusted to stay within the safe limits of the farm yard.

And it meant that one day, when we went to retrieve him, he was nowhere to be found.

After a couple months of my husband taking daily trips up and down the highway, passing our name around to oil field workers who move in and off site by the days and hours, and checking with neighbors, I finally decided that Chug the Pug had likely hitched a ride with a lonely trucker and was sitting shot gun with a bandana around his head an his tongue hanging out the window, off to find a bigger adventure.

I liked that story better than any alternative. It helped me come to terms with the fact that I’d never see him again. 

And that’s the way that it was… that was the story I’d tell…

Until a couple weeks ago when I found out the rest of the story….

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Coming Home: Lost dog finds his way to the right home
by Jessie Veeder
7-26-15
Forum Communications

I sat behind the desk at my office and picked up the ringing phone. Young and determined, we were in our third year of marriage, had just moved back to our home state, just lost our first pregnancy and were chin deep in renovating our first home in an attempt to get our grown-up story on track. 

For two years our lives were covered in sawdust, paint and power tools. We worked during the day and in the evening we re-seeded the lawn, built a new staircase, laid carpet and lost two more pregnancies along the way.

You need to take out a wall? Get your hammer and break it down.

You want a baby? There wasn’t a doctor in the state at the time that could give us the blueprint for that.

When I picked up the phone that day, I heard my husband say, “I just saw a poster. There are pug puppies for sale. Little black ones,” he said. “I’m going to call.”

So he called. And two weeks later he brought home a little black smush of a puppy with a pink tongue and curly, wiggly tail.

Because we needed a distraction. Something else to love.

Fast-forward through six years filled with home renovations, new jobs, three more lost pregnancies, and a move out to the ranch, and that little pug became the star of our lives and the stories on my blog, his cow-chasing, raccoon-wrangling, porcupine-fighting adventures winning over the hearts of my readers across the country.

Until a year and a half ago when he decided to explore a rig over the hill from our house and didn’t come home. When my husband’s nightly searches didn’t yield any answers, I came to terms with the fact that I would never see Chug the pug again.

Until last week when I looked down at my phone and found a message from a stranger staring back at me.

“I think we have your dog Chug. Our friend found him on a rig and brought him home. It selfishly breaks my heart to message you but I just read your blog and I knew I had to … you can call me …”

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I dialed the number.

“He just loves cats,” she said.

“I know,” I said.

“And he loves to go out on the boat and swim … We bought him a life jacket … The neighbors adore him. He sleeps in our bed with us … he’s well loved …”

And then the line went quiet. Two strangers, 60 miles apart, connected by an animal, each with her own bond, not knowing where to go from here.

So we made plans to meet up the next day. I would be through Dickinson on my way home from my 20-week ultrasound, halfway through a pregnancy we never thought we’d know with the chance to see the dog that helped us through the worst of things.

I anxiously knocked on the door and was greeted by a woman about my age, a tiny little yorkie and a one-eyed, barrel-chested black pug with a little extra squish around the middle.

I reached down to scratch his chin and pull on his soft ears, and he looked up at me, as well-loved as a dog could be.

I looked at the woman with her clasped hands and nervous smile. She invited me in, introduced me to her friends who had gathered for moral support or to be witness to this uncommon story, and we all started gushing about this small world, missed opportunities and how my online documentation of Chug led her friend to help find me.

And then there was that silence again.

She spoke.

“I contacted you because if it was my dog I would want to know what happened to him. This is a tough situation, but …. we can’t have children, and these dogs are like our kids.”

I looked at Chug rolling around with the yorkie on the floor, then down at my growing belly and back at the woman whose struggle for a family was all too familiar and fresh in my mind.

“Maybe he came into your life for a reason,” I said.

Judging by the sighs in the room and the tears in my eyes, I think we all agreed.

And so the decision was made. I said my goodbyes and pointed my car toward a life we could only dream of when we first called that little dog ours.

A girl needs a dog

Date night

It was a Wednesday night date night.

Because it was 90 degrees and the lake is so close.DSCN3455 DSCN3457 DSCN3459Because we used to be more spontaneous like this, and it’s just going to get harder I imagine.

Because I might not be good at taking selfies, but this is a good man.DSCN3462 DSCN3463 DSCN3464 DSCN3468

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Because the badlands touch the big lake here, and the geese float in the bay and the carp come up to feed and jump and the sun turns the shore golden and the water dark blue…DSCN3472 DSCN3473

Because someone needs to be there to witness it…DSCN3474 DSCN3475 DSCN3476 DSCN3478 DSCN3479 DSCN3481 DSCN3482 DSCN3483 DSCN3484 DSCN3486

Sunday Column: How ranch people become lake people

Lake Sakakawea Sunset

It’s been hot out there lately. I just pulled my first harvest from the ground in my garden and it got me thinking about the long, hot weekends spent on the ranch when I was a kid.

Back before we had a boat just a couple lawn chairs and a cooler full of pop and juice boxes to lug to the shores of Lake Sakakawea, on days like this my sisters and I would come up with a plan to get a chance to swim in that big lake that was so close to the house (well like 20 mile or so) we could smell them catching fish out there.

At least that ‘s what we’d tell dad in our subtle suggestion that maybe baling hay could wait for the day.

Maybe it was time to hit the lake.

A few weeks ago I met a young girl who said she reads my column in the paper every Sunday. I thanked her for being such a loyal follower and asked her what she would like to read more about.

“Oh, I like the stories about your childhood,” she said.

And so, inspired by her and a recent trip to the lake where we loaded up the coolers, sunflower seeds, summer sausage sandwiches, nephew, sisters, gramma and grampa and headed to the big water on the new pontoon only to hit the water just in time for rain, I decided to write about the simpler days, enjoying the short lived summer on the “beaches” of that big body of water…

Coming Home: When the day’s just right, ranch people become lake people
by Jessie Veeder
7-19-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com 

It’s hard for ranch people to be lake people.

Between trying to keep the cows in the fences, the hay baled and the lawn mowed, there’s not much time left to spend an afternoon with a fishing pole in one hand, a beer in the other and your feet up on the dash of a fancy boat.

But when you live so close to the biggest lake in the state that you swear you can see it from that hill out east if the sky is clear and you tilt your head just right, it’s pretty hard not to work a few lake days into the schedule.

When I was growing up, a chance at a lake day meant the conditions had to line up just right to make my dreams of jumping off a flat rock on the shore into the cold, deep, murky water of Lake Sakakawea.

First, it had to be Saturday or Sunday, and both my parents needed to be home with plans on doing something that was utterly miserable to accomplish in the blazing 90-degree heat.

Which means that, secondly, it had to be either the month of July or August, and said blazing 90-degree heat had to magically fall on a Saturday or Sunday.

Now, we all know how rare it is that those two circumstances converge, but when they did, we girls needed to be on it. We needed to wake up with the scent of the lake in our nostrils, ready to feel things out and set the plan in motion.

Maybe Dad would come in from working on a broken-down baler, all sweaty and fed up in the already hot midmorning sun. Maybe Mom was in her shorts pulling weeds from the walkway, stopping every so often to put her hands on her hips and shield her eyes.

Maybe the bugs were a little bad out there because the wind wasn’t blowing and it wasn’t quite noon, and so I took the opportunity to walk out and pull a few weeds myself, sure to mention what a great day it would be for a little swim in the lake.

And then maybe we caught Dad in the house splashing water on his face at the kitchen sink so I said something about how I heard that the fish were biting up at McKenzie Bay while my little sister was out digging worms in the garden, and pretty soon the seed was planted. Mom started whipping up summer sausage sandwiches, Dad started hunting for the old tackle box on the garage shelf where he left it the previous July, and my sisters and I packed up our favorite beach towels, pulled on our swimsuits, loaded the lawn chairs in the back of the old pickup, grabbed a bag of sunflower seeds and milled around in the driveway waiting impatiently in the hot sun, but not saying a word as our parents made the slow migration toward the vehicle.

Now, back in the youth of our family, there was no budget for things like boats or Jet Skis, so we didn’t have to fuss with that. No. Our biggest concern was avoiding the potholes on the worn highway, leaving the windows open so we could spit seeds and cool down, and, when that big lake appeared before us in the windshield like an oasis nestled in the hot cliffs of the Badlands, it was our mission to find an acceptable “beach” on those rocky, weedy and muddy shores.

Lake Sakakawea

And for us, “beach” meant that the legs of Mom’s lawn chair didn’t sink in to her butt when she sat down, the poky Canadian thistle didn’t reach all the way to shore and that there was at least an acceptable amount of sand and/or flat rocks where we could throw out our beach towels, make our picnic, stick a fishing pole in the ground, eat our sandwiches and watch the fancy boats and Jet Skis drive by before finding a place to wash the heat, work and worry of the summer off in the waves of a lake that belonged to us for the few sweet, relaxing, fly-bitten hours that we, too, transformed into lake people.

Lake Sakakawea  

What we never thought we’d know…

So yesterday, we saw our baby…BabyOr a little fuzzy silhouette of it anyway, a snapshot of what I’ve been working so hard on growing the last few months of my life. 

There is the hand that I swear pushes on my bladder every five minutes…

And there’s the foot I can feel poking and fluttering on all sides of my belly button at all hours of the day.

Baby Foot

I’m surprised we could get any pictures at all considering this kid never holds still.

Trouble already.

I can’t believe this is happening.

This picture, this sonogram, looks like every other sonogram I’ve every seen really. It’s a little smudge of a baby the size of a mango, but this time the little smudge of a baby the size of a mango is ours.

It was a date I’ve been looking forward to since we decided to put a family together all those years ago. I imagined what it would be like to make plans to head to the Doctor’s office together where I would lay on the table in a dark room with Husband at my side, staring at the screen where our little one would be the star of the show.

I wondered what it would feel like. I wondered what I would think. I wondered if I would cry or just hold my breath.  I wondered if Husband would hold my hand or just put them in his pockets the way he does when he’s concentrating on something. I wondered how he would act. I wondered what he would say…

I found out yesterday.

He said “Oh, look there, I think I see a mustache.”

And so that’s how that went.

And it was wonderful.

We were normal people with a normal pregnancy doing normal things that normal couples get to do when they have a baby on the way.

And then they printed off a reel of photos of little white smudges of feet and ears, a belly and bended knees a whole world and life forming under my skin and we listened to the heart beat and Husband put the number in his memory and we walked on air out of there to sit at a table at a restaurant and order anything we wanted, to sit as long as we wanted, to say whatever we wanted about this moment as we lived it…

Because we never thought we’d really live it…no matter how our friends and family willed it to be or reassured us it would all come together…that they’d been praying.

How do you ever know.

I didn’t.

And if I would have known how it might all turn out in that moment I’d been wondering about, it wouldn’t have mattered as much when we finally lived it.

And it mattered so much. That day, yesterday, with my Husband clutching the reel of our first baby’s photos, practically skipping out into that hot, humid air blazing on his pickup in the parking lot in a town that took us a three hour car ride to reach, was simply one of the most ordinary, extraordinary moments of my life, one I never thought I could give him… give us.

And there we were, eating lunch in the summer sun together talking about strollers and cribs and how much tiny camouflage he plans on purchasing in the next few months.

There we were, two planning on three. Just like that, like we’ve never had our hearts broken time after time. Like we never had a moment of thinking otherwise. Like there was never a doubt we’d ever arrive here.

What can I say about this except that sometimes when you hold out hope, hope gives in.

Some would call that faith.

I don’t know what I call it except maybe a gift, just like every other life that exists here. After all of our trouble and worry and struggle, how it happens at all is a true and utter miracle.

We spent the rest of the afternoon milling around furniture stores, trying out couches and opening drawers on bedroom sets. Husband picked up some jeans and I tried on dresses. We bought a first aid kid and bathroom supplies and wandered through the baby aisle confusing ourselves.

I had a feeling that if I would have asked for the moon that day, my Husband would have set out building a ladder tall enough to let him wrap his arms around it and bring it down.

But I don’t need the moon…no.

Just a scoop or two of ice cream for the way home at the end of a day we never thought we’d know…

Sunday Column: Rolling out the Welcome Wagon

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This is the view around here these days.

I can still see my toes, but the opportunity is growing smaller by the minute.

It’s a strange thing to know that my shrinking pants mean a growing baby. And this week I’ve officially met the halfway point of this baby-growing process.

And while the baby’s been growing,  me and the belly have been hitting the road pretty hard, playing music and promoting the new album, celebrating weddings and 4th of July, mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, making dinner plans, sitting in the sun and trying to catch a nap here and there.

With so much time spent behind my guitar, I’m thinking this baby is going to come out with a set of lungs prepared for an amplified world.

Jessie Ft. Lincoln

And I have a hunch it’s really gonna like bacon.

Because that’s been on the main menu around here these days…

In less than five months now, it will no longer be me and my belly going about our business, but me and Husband working to show this baby our world.

I am not prepared.  But I think I’ll tackle it the way I’ve tackled all of life’s unexpected promises–with a flexible plan, a willingness to take it day by day and a few moments of panic here and there for good measure.

So that’s what this week’s column is about…that flexible plan and how I am certain life is just going to be more fun…

Coming Home: Family traditions will be more fun with little one
by Jessie Veeder
7-12-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I’ve been thinking lately about traditions. I suppose it’s expected, because in less than five months we’ll welcome a tiny new member to our family and spend our time showing her (I’m just going to go with “her” for now) around this place, introducing her to the people who love her and teaching her about the things that make up our everyday lives.

As my waistline continues to grow and the little movements in my belly start becoming more present and familiar, it’s beginning to occur to me that the countdown is on. We’ve been waiting seven years for this, and now we need to get it together.

And I’m not just talking about adding to my sparse collection of baby gear (I currently have three onesies, a dresser I picked up at a flea market and a free pacifier they gave me when I broke down and bought my first pair of maternity jeans), but we have less than five months to roll out the Welcome Wagon.

I mean, we all know I love a good party, and I just can’t help but thinking about all the things that will be so much more fun with this kid around.

Like, for example, when she arrives it will be just in time for Christmas. Finally. A baby for Christmas after seven years of saying to one another, “Well, maybe next year we’ll have some little presents under this tree …”

If all goes as planned, this is the year, which reminds me, I need to start looking for a tiny Santa hat.

Because before she can even see 20 inches in front of her face, she’ll be sitting at her first Christmas Eve Pancake Supper (likely wearing that tiny Santa hat), and I just can’t really imagine it, no matter all the people warning me that my life will never be the same.

Well. No. Of course it won’t.

God willing, of course it won’t.

Last weekend, we celebrated the Fourth of July the same way we have every year since I was a kid myself by heading to my grandparents’ lake cabin in Minnesota. We met up with my aunts, uncles and cousins and ate summer sausage sandwiches, tried our hand at catching sunnies, built a campfire and watched the fireworks go off all around us.

As I was yelling “No running on the dock!” for the 47th time to my nephew and little cousins, it occurred to me that in a few years that will be my kid running on the dock.

And so I felt the need to warn my family that, based on my husband’s history and genetics, it’s very likely that this baby bump will turn into a child attempting to jump head first off the end of the dock fully clothed and without proper swimming lessons on her way to test out the neighbor’s water trampoline, invitation or no invitation.

Because I’m realistic about the way behavior traits and personalities pass on, and I am fully prepared to blame my husband for all wild and unruly conduct.

And then I looked over at my cousins, who I watched grow up on the shore of Lake Melissa, and realized that next summer the two youngest, the twins, will be making plans to head off to college.

I remember when we all found out they were going to be born and at the lake cabin my family cheered and hugged as small waves licked the rocks outside the picture window and my uncle tried not to faint at the new news.

Seventeen Fourth of Julys later and here we are, basking in the ease of a tradition, regulating squirt gun fights, reminiscing on years past, anticipating a growing family together and telling me to be careful on the rocks.

This year my car was filled with a guitar, gear and merchandise after a show I caught with the band on my way across the state.

Next year we’ll have to clear out some room for a car seat, a stroller and a tiny little swimsuit.

Which reminds me, I need to start shopping for a car seat, a stroller and a tiny little swimsuit, because, well, it’s time to start loading up that Welcome Wagon.

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Sunday Column: The Rules of Fencing

IMG_3349Happy July everyone. My favorite month of the year. I rung it in in family tradition by heading east to my grandparent’s lake cabin in Minnesota to hang with the relatives and do lake things.

And while the rest of the ranch and me were out in Minnesota last weekend frolicking in the water, eating summer sausage sandwiches, lounging in the sun, taking in the fireworks displays, DSCN3428DSCN3433DSCN3420 DSCN3417  DSCN3414

and trying to balance two Veeder girls and a baby bump on a paddle board…

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Husband had to stay home to work and take care of the cows.

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Now, don’t feel too bad. In the summer, with the tall green grass and plenty pasture land, taking care of the cows really just means making sure they don’t get into the neighbors field.

And that’s pretty much it.

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I was feeling guilty a little bit, except that I know the man is fine with the responsibility, especially since his recent purchase…the two-wheeled cow checker–for when you’re pretty sure the cows are in, but just want to zip around to make sure so you probably don’t need to go through all the trouble of getting the horses in and saddling up.

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It’s the perfect tool for a man who has the heart and spirit of a twelve year old…

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And so that’s what Husband did this weekend. He mowed the grass and worked on wiring the garage and finishing the basement and he checked the cows.

And, not surprisingly, a few were out.

So he got them in. With the dog and a dirt bike.

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And then, as it would tend to go, while he went back to check the fences for the undiscoverable holes, he looked behind him to witness one feisty and athletic old bovine, the one he just put back in her place, making a leap back to the other side, like a 1,500 pound mule deer.

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Because sometimes even the best cowboys with the best dogs, the best forms of transportation and the best fences cannot tame a cow convinced that the grass is greener…

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Coming Home: Rules of fencing, the never-ending chore, are never forgotten
by Jessie Veeder
7-5-15
Forum Communications

There are jobs at the ranch that are truly enjoyable at times. Fencing is generally not one of them.

Fencing at the ranch involves wood ticks, nasty brush, a kazillion horse flies, barbed wire, pliers and a lot of bending over.

And if that doesn’t sound pleasing enough, ranchers get a little extra comfort when they pull on their flannel jammies at night knowing that they are never at a loss for work as long as they have barbed wire fences.

Some of my earliest memories as a ranch kid are of hopping in the pickup on a hot July day with my dad to go check fences.

I remember leaning against the stick shift of the old truck as my dad drove slowly down the fence line, stopping every few moments to get out, grab a staple or new fence post and make a repair. I remember eating warm ham sandwiches, sweating and swatting the buzzing bugs that multiplied in the thorny brush patches where the fence was always down, the poke of the barbs and the hum of the Clint Black song coming through the am radio of the old work pickup.

But mostly I remember being hot.

And so as long as I live, I will never forget the 10 (or was it 11) basic rules of fencing the Veeder Ranch, because monumental and never-ending tasks like these leave an impression on a kid.

1) Choose to take your trip in the heat of the day. It’s not a smart option, but the only option for procrastinators who like to have coffee, bacon and eggs, and then another helping while they catch the end of CBS Sunday Morning.

2) Intend to apply a thick mist of Deep Woods OFF to ward off the hawk-sized bugs, and then forget to bring it along as you head miles into the wilderness. Because how else would you be able to really test how much buzzing and biting a human sauna can endure?

3) If you think you may need five to seven steel fence posts to get the job done, be sure to only locate one to take along. Because a man needs a challenge, and figuring out how to re-stretch a half-mile of wire using a rusty plier, reused fencing staples from 1918, a pocket knife and one measly fence post is the type of feat only a real Renaissance/MacGyver-type specimen can handle. Which brings me to the staples …

4) Forget them in the shop.

5) But for the love of Martha, don’t forget the dog. I mean, running for 3 to 4 miles at top speed behind the four-wheeler to a location void of water or an adequate breeze is the perfect death-defying act for a cow dog. Go ahead, just try to leave him behind, but don’t be alarmed when he pops up over the hill and makes a beeline to the tiny bit of shade the midday sun provides off of your small ATV.

And while you’re at it…

6) Forget to bring your good leather gloves. Instead, pull on the pair with the hole where your right pointer finger is located. Because the No. 7 rule of fencing just happens to be …

7) Bleed. You’re not fencing until you’re itchy, poked, stabbed, bruised and bleeding.

8 ) So make sure to bring company. Because if a man cusses in the pasture and there’s no one there to hear it, is he really even angry?

And if you’re cussing anyway, you might as well …

9) Sweat. Sweat out all that water that you forgot to pack. Sweat so you must roll up your sleeves just enough to expose your flesh to the thorns you must reach into to yank up trampled fence.

10) And then bleed again, cuss louder, sweat a little more, turn around to find that your companion has disappeared over the hill to pick wildflowers, decide that only a really smart and athletic cow could maneuver through your fence repairs, head home for lunch with every intention of returning after the meal only to revisit the site the next morning to find those extra plump, extra lazy cows are in the field again.

11) Repeat until the ground freezes.

Peace, Love and Fence Posts,

Jessie

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With so much summer stretching out ahead…

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Smoke from fires in Canada are making our world hazy and hot. It sort of coincides with my mood this week as I mill around waiting for the 4th of July and my annual road trip to Minnesota where I’ll spend a few days with my family at my Grandparent’s lake cabin.

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I have to leave Husband behind because he’s on call…at work…to water my garden…and to all of the animals on this place.

I know we’ll all have a more relaxed vacation knowing someone’s back at the ranch, but some days it seems like we spend more weekends apart than together.

That’s actually probably true, especially in the summer when my schedule is packed with performances.

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It will all cool off and slow down in a matter of months and here we will sit, waiting for the holidays, waiting for a baby…

Summer is so fleeting that I just want to squeeze every ounce of pretty and warm and bright out of it if I can.

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Last night we joined my parents for a supper of grilled steak kabobs and vegetables on their back deck that looks out into the coulee where the crick runs, a place I used to spend every waking summer minute as a kid.

As the sun sunk and my mom and husband worked on finding the bottom of the bottle of red wine, I looked out over that familiar coulee and started counting the fireflies flickering and making their presence known to us.

Of course fireflies exist in a world this green and lovely.

Why not just make it more lovely with tiny dancing stars close enough to touch?

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If there was ever a winter I cannot remember it.

If I was ever cold, the feeling escapes me.

If I ever worried before–about money, about this unborn baby, about my parent’s getting older, my husband on the road or my goals being met–in that moment, I knew nothing of it.

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If I ever knew anything but the tall green grass reaching up over the fence line, the dogs lying lazily in the front yard, the cat catching grasshoppers in the lawn, the garden slowly growing, the wildflowers dotting the prairie, the horses grazing on the hilltop in the home pasture, the laughter coming from the lungs of my mother, the handsome man sitting next to me wearing jeans spotted in grease, a result of what he called “a good day at work,” the little kick in my tummy or those flickering fireflies, I  couldn’t recall it.

Not now. Not at the beginning of July with so much summer stretching out ahead…

A speech for a season of celebration…

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We’re a week or so out of the ranch wedding weekend extravaganza and while the two newlyweds are off in Jamaica honeymooning, the rest of us are here, basking in the North Dakota’s official summer heat.

Last weekend was my hometown’s annual reunion celebration called “Homefest” and Husband and I spent last Friday on Main Street catching up with old friends and Saturday I got a chance to sing to the crowd of longtime residents, new residents and people visiting home again.

The party never stops around here in the summer when we try to cram 12 months of fun into the few summer weekends we get up here.

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And so it goes with those brides and grooms planning to get married. They generally want to do so in the summer so they don’t freeze to death on their way to the church or lose their guests in an unexpected blizzard.

So to honor the wedding and party season, I wanted to share with you the little speech I prepared for my little sister’s wedding. It’s about love and the time we share between the celebrations…

Cheers to love. Cheers to summer.

And cheers to finding the best ways to celebrate it all.

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Now, imagine me, my hormones and my emerging baby bump trying desperately not to lose it and burst into tears in front of our friends and family…
Today we celebrate love. That’s what weddings are about. The joining of two people because they met somewhere, and they clicked, so they went on a date to a movie or for drinks and they hit it off, so they went on another date and another one and then maybe she caught a cold and had to break plans and stay home and he showed up with orange juice, Champaign and chicken noodle soup—and no one had ever done anything like that for her before so she tried to find ways to keep him around, meet his parents, bring him to her family ranch, get him on a horse or two and convince him to start a new life in a wild place.

And maybe along the way there were disagreements, an old Ford Explorer might have blown up, plans might have been made and broken, wine spilled, …a cat might have been hit by a car…(and lived…don’t worry, it lived)…

But in between those weird and unexpected moments that life throws us, in the quiet times known only by the two of them, there were stolen kisses, reassurances when they were unsure, a hug stolen while she put the dishes in the sink, because at that moment he just loved her so much he had to touch her, inside jokes shared over yard work and eating lasagna on the couch together watching HGTV….

He might have bought her diamond earrings and surprised her by leaving a giant picture of a giraffe he painted in her apartment.

She might pick him up a new shirt she knows he’ll like on a shopping trip or drive a good 20 miles out of town to bring him leftovers or Taco Johns for lunch when he’s working weekends….and those are all nice things…

Really nice things.

The things you do when you have finished falling in love with each other and just are.

In. Love.

But it’s not just the love thing these exploding cars, giraffe paintings, unruly cats and stolen hugs equal out to.

No. When you get to this point, the “let’s get married” point, it is about more than just love.

I know this because a wise man once asked me to marry him by asking me to be his family.

I thought about that today as my little sister stood up in front of the people who love them and a man who brought her chicken noodle soup when he didn’t know her very well yet, but knew he wanted to take make her feel better…

With this ring, you two are family.

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But even better,

With this ring, we’re all family.

And what a wonderful thing that is! Two young and adorable people fall in love over drinks, a late night delivery of chicken noodle soup and a road trip gone ary and a few years later we find ourselves traveling from all corners of the country to gather in front of a barn that has stood for almost 100 years on a place that has existed in one family for an entire century…all because a 100 years ago two people fell in love and made plans to work together for as long as the future gave them…

The same wise man that gave me my ring once said “Love is living every day to make the other person happy.”

It’s a nice concept and not one that I can always say we remember to implement…but in love not every day is easy…and in love, not every day are we at our best.

But I bet our great grandparents and grandparents and parents will agree that love found them raising babies and careers and finding things to cook for supper together, but it’s not just love and only love that has kept them fighting and stealing kisses in the kitchen and eating lasagna on the couch watching HGTV together…

And so I’m so glad love made Alex my little sister…

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and now love has made Travis my brother…and love has made us all, under this big tent in the middle of nowhere and the middle of everything…

Family.

Turning to the hills…


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The summer has never looked better around here. Despite the crazy months that lead up to late June, I have taken a moment or two to admire how the grass is growing and how happy the cattle look out there munching away.

It’s funny to think that, if everything turns out according to plan, after all of these years, this will be the last summer of my life spent walking these hills with the little voice of worry and wonder about what we should do to make ourselves a family.

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Since I was just a little girl, I’ve always taken to these hills to work things out, to be alone, to take a moment, to breathe. The first sixteen years of my life in these coulees were spent wandering and creating and singing and dreaming of what life would be like when I grew up and got a chance to work things out on my own.

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In between then and now I spent my time visiting these hills, riding and admiring and remembering and saying “we’ll be back someday,” and then packing the car to leave again.

And in those between years, when we were juggling new jobs and new houses, learning what it means to be an adult and losing hope for the family we were trying to make, when it didn’t work out, I found my way home to these hills to cry and ask why.

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Besides on the shoulder of my husband, these hills are the only place I’ve truly allowed myself to wail.

Because no one can hear you when you’re out here alone.

And the trees don’t have ears to wonder about those sorts of things.

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When we finally found our way here for good, five years ago this summer, a period of time that seems so long and so short all at once, I walked these hills with many moods and agendas on my shoulders…to get my butt in shape, to work out a new career plan or creative project, to train the dog, to shoot photos of wildflowers, to check the horses in the field in the winter, to get the creative juices flowing, to ward off a bad mood, to scream at the top of my lungs or to just breathe.

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Not once in the last seven years have I walked these hills without the quiet voice in the back of my mind that wondered about all those unborn babies…and the ones that might make it to this earth to be ours and grow up in these hills like we planned it.

And so I don’t really know what to do with the news that perhaps, this time, the dream might come true.

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That we found a doctor and the doctor found a problem and two little white pills fixed it and now I have a belly that makes it so I can’t button my pants and a due date that makes it so I can’t schedule shows into the winter and a house full of stuff we’ve accumulated during nine years of marriage and not one closet open or one room cleared out for another human, no matter how much we hoped to plan for this one day.

Because despite the hope, we just kept living, filling those closets and filling our lives with work and things and people we love, because that’s what you do when plans don’t work out, you just keep living the best way you know how.

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But what do you do when all of the sudden you wake up with a hunch and day by day you hope and wait and realize that maybe those plans are working out? What do you do when you realize what you’ve wanted for so long just might come to you after all,  God willing…

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How does a person handle being every bit as terrified as you are excited? What do you do when the people you love, upon hearing the news, congratulate you, tell you they’ve been praying, eyes swelling up with tears at the relief of it all?

We hug back and smile.

But honestly, we’re still in shock. In disbelief.

Because we don’t know how to be the normal people with a normal pregnancy and a normal plan.

We don’t know how not to be terrified.

But we also don’t know how not to be hopeful…obviously…or we would never have made it this far.

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Last night after an evening spent in town saying goodbye to a friend who has become part of our family over the last couple years, we pulled into the driveway and I stripped off my town clothes and pulled on a t-shirt, pants and my walking shoes. It was a beautiful evening and I needed to climb these hills, check on the way the setting sun hit the wildflowers, let the grass brush against my legs, smell the growing things and stretch my muscles.

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I think I can feel this baby move inside of my belly.

I don’t know if I’ll ever believe it.

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But walking out on that trail that leads to the fields, putting the barnyard behind me, my parents’ place to my right, my favorite pasture to the left and no particular destination ahead, it was such a familiar view, a familiar thing to do, but I don’t feel like myself.

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I haven’t felt like myself for months.

Perhaps I won’t ever feel like my old self out in these hills again…

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God willing.
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Sunday Column: Getting it done in the Wild West…

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Oh my, we had such an amazing weekend here at the ranch. I can’t believe I’m even (barely) awake today as we all come down from the high of friends and family and celebrating it all.

And I intend on telling you all about it, about the beautiful day, the beautiful couple, the food, the adorable ring bearer and flower girl…

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and of course, the dancing,  but first I’m  going to share the column I wrote last week in the hectic whiz and whirl of planning and cleaning and trying to get work done with no internet and no phone in the middle of the wild west.

If I sound a little stressed and frustrated I blame it on the nice cocktail of time crunch, deadlines, road construction, horseflies, heat and hormones…

But don’t worry, we’ve all calmed down a bit now…

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Coming Home: Busy road, slow internet, both inconveniences in the Bakken
by Jessie Veeder
6-21-15
http://www.inforum.com

Pink Road

I pulled my car over on the top of the hill at the approach next to the gate where there’s usually a white pickup with a company logo idling and a man inside checking his phone or writing in a notebook. Usually, I see them there and shake my head in annoyance, wishing they would find another place to park, as if the county road going through the ranch belongs to us only.

Because it seemed like it used to anyway.

But now these once quiet roads have turned into a sort of autobahn, not just for transporting oil, water or random equipment strapped to flatbed trailers, but also the men and women who have places to go.

And while they’re going, they have work to get done.

Because the men behind the wheel on these roads don’t take many breaks, unless it’s to pull over for a phone call or to enter numbers on a laptop plugged into the console of their pickups, a regular mobile office right there on that approach on top of the hill next to the gate.

This is the reality of the weekday workday, not in town but out at the ranch these days. And while the wheels on the portable offices kick up dust on the road above my house, I sit in my back bedroom-turned-office and write about it, report on it, and make phone calls to tell its story.

And then, just as I hit send on one of those timely and important emails, the Internet cuts out.

I don’t panic. This happens a lot. Because no matter how fast we say it has changed out here, things like reliable high-speed Internet 30 miles from town are still a mystical dream of the future.

I’ll just communicate the old-fashioned way and pick up the phone.

But there’s no phone.

And so it’s a Thursday afternoon, I have a deadline, and two of my three links to the civilized world have been taken away.

My third link? Driving an hour in 30 miles of road construction to an office I can access in town, because we’re in the middle of progress, dang it, and progress means a little suffering along the way … and a little ingenuity and resourcefulness.

I thought of those guys in their pickups on that approach on top of the hill next to the gate and I grabbed my laptop, cellphone and notebook, pulled in to where I got a good cellphone signal, tapped into my hotspot and spent a good hour or two getting work done in my own mobile office.

Fast-forward to the weekend when my husband and I attempted to haul a little tractor from the ranch to Williston, N.D., and found ourselves along the highway with a flat tire on the old trailer and an even older spare that didn’t fit. Six phone calls later we landed a contact with a new tire business open past 2 p.m. on Saturdays, drove back to that trailer along the highway, and got it done.

And in between it all I’m arguing with the post office about a pair of my husband’s very important and needs-to-be-here-like-yesterday khaki wedding pants that got lost in the mail. Because it’s a long and winding road to the Wild West. Especially when you’re a pair of khakis coming from New York.

Turn in Road

Sometimes the Wild West just isn’t on my side.

Yes, some things would be undoubtedly easier if we just put this house on wheels and moved it to the suburbs of Minneapolis, where people don’t get flat tires, always have reliable Internet and don’t have to sit in their cars next to cow pastures to get a cellphone signal.

But, oh, the sweet clover smells good these days, even alongside a busy highway changing a flat.

Even without Internet.

Because this is not Minneapolis, even though these roads are no longer ours alone.

But if we stay on course, they will undoubtedly be smoother, the Internet will be faster, and the mobile lives kicking up dust above the house will get a little easier every day.

In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be on a hill somewhere trying to get some work done.

Calf on Road