Sunday Column: Getting lost in my hometown

I’ve sort of been doing the North Dakota, small town tour lately. I’ve been hired to speak and sing at some special events, touching on topics like ranch living and what it’s like in Boomtown.

It’s been fun, hitting the open road and taking the exists on familiar highways that I’ve driven by but never turned fully discovered.

But it’s also been nostalgic in a way. Because I’m reminded in these small towns what my small town used to be like. Actually, I’m reminded that not all small towns are bursting at the seams, under constant construction and constant growing pains.

I’m reminded that some places stay the same. Quiet. Quaint. Full of people who know one another, their children and their children’s children.

The funny thing is even after watching my small town boom from 1,200 people to over 12,000 or more, I still think of my town the same way as I thought of it growing up. And, in a way, I see it that way too.  I mean, I’m not blind to the changes, but the way it was seems to sort of be ingrained in me.

Like, I still call the hardware store Hardware Hank, even though it hasn’t been called Hardware Hank since I was in junior high.

And when I give directions or talk about the new developments, I base locations off of where things used to be…like the old Chuckwagon cafe that closed when I was in high school or the where the bakery used to be…or where Larson’s used to live…

Funny how memory works. Funny how we connect to place in different ways and at different times. Funny how, in my mind, time sort of stopped for my hometown fifteen years ago…

Funny how this causes major issues when a new resident is trying to give me directions to a new development (that used to be a field next to my friend’s house) based on street signs…

Funny how annoyed I was at the reality of getting lost in my hometown…

Coming Home: Getting Lost in my quickly changing hometown
by Jessie Veeder
4-26-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Wanted: April Showers

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It’s been a busy couple weeks at the ranch. The weather has been warm and too dry for comfort and we’re deep into “getting the place ready for Little Sister’s wedding” mode. Which means we have projects, not just in the barnyard, but at our house too.

We’ve got two months and only so many weekends to finish the deck, finish the basement, finish the siding, finish the finishing touches and make a lawn grow where only a single pig weed once emerged.

But first, let’s take a ride on Husband’s new/used dirt bike and Pops’ precious Trail 90. You know, just to blow off some steam…

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Not that I’d ever driven that little motorcycle/scooter thing…no worries, this guy here is good with lessons….But he’s also adorable, which makes it hard for me to concentrate.

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“Just like riding a bike,” he said.

Except bikes have pedals and don’t die at the far edge of the field two miles from home when I finally figure out how to turn and suddenly become a professional and want to start working on a ramp so I can practice my jumps…

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I love you sweet man, and it looks like you’re going to have to get the tools…

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And the pickup…because me and the Trail 90 are getting a ride home…

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Ok, we can call the sod guy now. Because, after three years, won’t it be kick-ass to have a lawn?

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Yeah, that’s a lot of lawn. Like 7,300 square feet worth.

Like 10,000 tons of grass.

So we called in reinforcement and spent last weekend burning our forearms and getting in our squats in the name of landscaping.

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And I’ve spent the rest of the week obsessing over my sprinklers, where they’re pointing and how to aim them without soaking my jeans, drowning or shutting them off.

And the dogs have spent the last five days believing they’ve finally gone to doggy heaven, rolling and sun bathing and napping and dragging dead things on what they seem to think is their own personal, giant slab of carpet.

So there was that.

And we need rain. Not only for my sod, but for the rest of this part of the state that didn’t get the moisture in the winter or the April showers we expect this time of year.

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On Tuesday Husband left work, along with rest of the office, fire departments from three communities, the forest service and hundreds of volunteers to fight a fire near the lake that burned almost 5,000 acres and nearly took out one of our favorite campgrounds and marinas. He came home late covered in soot, stripped his clothes and showered that desperate smell off of him.

The fire was contained and, in the meantime, we just hold our breath for rain and for that pager to stay quiet.

And I adjust the sprinklers, wishing we could turn on the sky with a nob like that, add some tasks to the list in my head before setting it all aside to go out looking for spring.

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A second with Gus the cow dog.

And now for a split second with Gus…IMG_0923 IMG_0927 IMG_0929 IMG_0930 IMG_0931 IMG_0932 IMG_0933 IMG_0934 IMG_0936

Gus, the cow dog is energy embodied. Every minute is the best day of his life.

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And every minute of his life is chaos.

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Because he never sleeps.

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I swear it. I think I saw him sleep once when he was a tiny baby sitting on my husband’s lap, and that was after several minutes of the man lovingly forcing the pooch to snuggle with him.

And once he might have caught a good thirty seconds on the floor of my office because I provided him with such a nice blanket not even a terror tornado like him could refuse the pull of slumber.

Gus isn’t really into snuggling.

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He’s more into face licking, lap standing, and jumping three feet in the air upon your arrival. It doesn’t matter if you saw him two seconds ago. Every greeting from Gus is filled with the enthusiasm of a best friend you haven’t seen for years.

Come over at any given moment and you might find him tormenting the cats, ripping up the bed in his kennel, eating the cord to the heat lamp, attacking the broom when I’m trying to sweep, barking at the sky, eating cow poop and horse poop and cat poop and chewing on Brown Dog’s fat neck, then jumping up and over his back relentlessly, barking and taunting the poor old dog until he finally snaps …and then you will hear Gus The Tough wail the wail of a thousand deaths.

Because Gus has one other feeling besides happy. And that’s his hurt feeling.

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It’s pretty traumatic.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with him. I mean, I could teach him anything if I could only keep up with him. He’s smart as a whip. He comes back in a split second on a quick whistle. He sits when asked, and I’ll take it, even though he trembles and shakes the entire time as if the energy in him is bouncing around in that body poking and prodding and begging to be released.

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And when he makes his ears stand up like this, well, be still my heart. It’s frickin’ cute as hell and I can’t take it.

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He looks like a gremlin.

And well, he sorta is…

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Who knew this tiny little grunting fur ball that fit in the palm of my husband’s hand would turn into such a specimen…

And he’s only been alive for like six months.

Oh Gus, it’s fun to watch you grow. And I can’t wait to see how many woodticks/burs/mud/cowpoop you collect when summer comes.

Until then, let me reminisce you back to when you were small and innocent, when you peed puddles on the floor and weren’t such a threat to my cats… seriously, you need to go easy on those cats…IMG_4390 IMG_1573 IMG_1591 IMG_9881 IMG_0044 IMG_0027 IMG_9964 IMG_9958 dogs

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Gus, Gus, Gus…such an adorable bundle of energy and trouble brewing…

If you need us we’ll be out in it…

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Sunday Column: Thousands of miles away…


January is a tough month for us here in North Dakota. It’s smack in the middle of winter. It’s generally the coldest, the days are the shortest and the holidays are behind us…ahead of us? More winter.

To combat the January blues this year we decided to to break free before the New Year and ring it in somewhere warmer, somewhere that didn’t look anything like the rolling, white and brown ice colored hills and bare trees of the winter landscape at home.

So we packed up our swimming suits and our vacation hats, gathered our friends and headed to Mexico.

On a real vacation. One that wasn’t attached to some sort of work I had to do. (Which is typically the types of vacations Husband and I do).

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I told you about it a bit, I showed you the juxtaposition of it all in a slideshow of contrasting photos of bare skin and snowsuits.

But there was more to say about it I think. More to say about a chance to break free for a moment…

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It’s funny how a few days in a world so different, so far away from our own, sort of pulls you out of place, your own place, sweeps you off your feet, widens your eyes and lets down your hair.

But it wasn’t long before I started wondering what it might be like to really live there, on a place that touches the ocean. A place where cactuses stretch their arms to the sky and the wind blows sea salt and sand up on the shore, a place with sea fisherman instead of oil men.

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Who would I be here in this sand, under this sun? What would I love?

What would I do?

Coming Home: Finding yourself thousands of miles from home
Jessie Veeder
1-18-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

This week I’m back in Nashville, working on finishing up the new album. I’ll spend my days listening to instruments–dobros and guitars, fiddles and harmonies, fill up the spaces in my songs, songs about work and worry and love and landscape.

Songs about horses and home.

And I will sing and sing and sing to get every word right.

That’s the work I’ll do this week, hundreds and hundreds of miles from the buttes and the place that raised me…and I am so grateful for it.

Sunday Column: Full car, empty tank…

Rear View Road

In my life, by my own unscientific, not so mathematic, sort of a wild and exaggerated calculation, I estimate that I have driven approximately 7,538,390 miles.

But it’s probably more.

I mean, living 30 miles (give or take) from the nearest town and having acquired my drivers license and a 1982 Sorta Pink Ford LTD I liked to call Rosie when I was only 14, I’ve had ample opportunity to put plenty of road behind me in twenty or so years…

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Take that and add the five years I spent touring up and down the country singing for my supper and you think you could call me an expert…in maps, in traffic laws, in emergency preparedness, in flat tires and rear-enders, turn signals and every gas station from here to Ada, Oklahoma.

And I am. I am an expert in some of those things. Like emergency preparedness.

Just take a look in my car right now. I have everything you’d ever need if you were ever stranded…at a party…or a bonfire.

road 2A can of Big Sexy Hairspray. Sunflower seeds. A guitar stand. Blankets. Magazines. An extra pair of Toms slip ons. A beach towel. Wrapped Christmas presents I still need to deliver to my best friend and her kids in Bismarck. Thirty-seven half drunk water bottles and one sorta-full Snapple. Can cozies. A partridge in a pear tree.

Oh, and the backpack my mother-in-law packed for me in case of an apocalypse. There’s that to go along with the winter gear.

I’ve got piles of it.

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Yes, I’m a true North Dakotan, so in case the summer kegger doesn’t spontaneously occur, I’m covered for winter too.

So I should have known better…

Coming Home: Car stocked up for any situation, except running out of gas
1-11-15
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Hears to full tanks and full hearts.

Happy Trails.

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Frosting

Last week our world was covered in ice.
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This week, just in time for Christmas, it has turned nice and white (and rather slippery).

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The beautiful thing about this place and its erratic weather is that every day it looks a little bit different out there.

Every day it’s a little bit new.

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So I like to explore it. And when the new pup is involved in my little quest, it’s even more fun.

He’s just a ball of energy jumping around, licking the snow, biting the heads off of weeds and bouncing his way around, discovering his world.

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So take a break from what is hopefully your last working day before Christmas, sit back and watch my home transform from icy brown to white.

Because who doesn’t love a little frosting, especially on the holidays.

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Peace, Love and Merry Christmas,

Jessie

The Christmas Tree Plan

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This is what -2 with a -100 wind chill looks like.

Don’t let the sunshine fool you.

And so the scene is set…

Ahem…

‘Twas the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and one of the last free weekends Husband and I have in December to spend traipsing around our countryside on the hunt for a tree.

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So it didn’t matter that our blood could freeze right there in our veins, or that our eyeballs could turn to ice cubes, our snot into icicles dangling from on our nostrils. It didn’t matter that our very lives were in danger of being taken by Jack Frost himself, we were gonna get my darn tree.

We were gonna put on 37 layers of clothes, load up in the new/old feed pickup,

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turn off of the gravel and onto the dirt/compacted snow/ice trail, drive really slow and discuss our options while looking out the window.

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We were going to spot a couple potential spruce bushes relatively close to one another on the side of the buttes, park the pickup, avoid a puppy-cicle and leave Gus inside, grab the saw from the back, trudge up the hill to the first option

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and mumble into our scarves with our eyes half open (you know, to avoid the whole icicle thing) about the potential of a tree that is a 10-foot tall version of Charlie Brown’s, but has possibilities really, because, well, it’s here and we might freeze to death if we stay out much longer weighing our options.

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But then we’re going to decide to risk it, spot another tree down the hill, walk over to discover it’s the same size as the one in Rockefeller Center and consider the possibility of building an addition to accommodate, because, well, there’s that whole freezing to death thing we’ll still be dealing with before I will turn my face toward the sun to discover one last option blowing in the wind among thorn bushes a quarter mile away.

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So I’ll decide we’ll never feel our legs again anyway and we might very well lose our noses to frostbite, but we might as well assess the bushy little tree, decide it’s not so bad, decide it will work just fine before Husband will stomp down the thorn bushes and start after the trunk with his battery-operated saw with a battery that lasts approximately 3 seconds at a time, you know, apparently death-defying cold applies to power tools too…

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And we are going to finally get the thing down after one big push, drag it to the the pickup a half a mile away,

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decide we might be dying, throw the tree on the flatbed, open the doors, get back inside the pickup, crank up the heat, blow our noses that will be miraculously still attached to our faces, and head back down the road toward home.

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Then we are going to get one mile from home and Husband is going to stop the pickup in the middle of the road, get out, run to the ditch and drag the tree back on the flatbed.

And when we arrive at home, we are going to put the tree in the basement to thaw out, I’m going to say goodbye to Husband who is crazy enough to put on one more layer and sit out in his hunting blind for the rest of the day, then I will pour myself a cup of coffee, consider adding whiskey, make plans for an evening decorating mission, because it will take me a good three to five hours to feel my fingers again and call it a Merry Merry Christmas.

That’s the plan.

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Fa-la-la-la-lahhh-la-la-la-laaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!

Sunday Column: Mouse catcher, cow chaser, heart breaker…

Well, it’s all about the pets these days around the ranch. Just in time for the snow to fall we have a couple more furry friends to help keep us hunkered down and warm.

I tell ya, between keeping the tiny kitten inside, alive and well fed and working to prevent the puppy from destroying my boot collection and all of the rugs in the house, it turns out Big Brown Dog, the easy one, the established member of the family, just wasn’t having the takeover.

Seemed like he needed to create a way to be noticed…

So last week he went out for a run around the ranch, checking things out, making sure there weren’t any giant sticks or random animal bones he missed dragging into the yard. He needed to get away you know. The damn puppy was driving him crazy with his crying and jumping, and nipping at his nose.

He’s too old for this.

So he took a hike to clear his mind. He needed his space. He needed to follow his nose…

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Turns out his nose led him straight into some sort of trouble, because Big Brown Dog showed up back home after dark with one of his top canines poking through his lip.

And a scrape on his foot.

And on his face.

“What the hell did you get into you poor, sweet animal?” I asked him as I kneeled down by his bed in the garage.

He just looked at me with those sad brown eyes and said nothing, because no matter how I wish they could, they can’t talk.

I called Husband out and he scratched his head, and the dog’s head, and we wondered together there looking at him what sort of adventure didn’t quite turn out as our dog had planned…

So the next morning I hoisted the stiff, sore, pathetic, sweet 110 pound dog into the back of my car (front feet first, then the back end) and we drove to the vet where they fussed over him, put him under, did a few X-rays, put the lip back in place, stitched up the hole, pumped him full of meds, prescribed enough pills to sedate an elephant, and $430 later they sent us on our way.

But not before he took the world’s longest pee outside the clinic…I mean, it was like 45 minutes…at least three patients came and went before he was done…

And then I loaded him up (front feet first and then the back end) into the car and back to the ranch where he struggled up the steps to his spot by my side of the bed and slept the bad memories away.

Poor Hondo. Always a lover…never a fighter…

8 years ago, a month after Husband and I were married, we took a trip to a farm about 70 miles from the ranch and my new Husband picked out Hondo from a litter of squirrelly, wiggly, chubby, adorable brown pups. He picked the one that seemed the most even tempered. He picked the darkest chocolate one he could find. He picked the biggest. He picked the best.

I paid $200 for that dog. He was Husband’s birthday present. He was going to be his bird dog. His hunting dog. He was the third member of our family and he’s been quite the companion, the steady link, the wagging tail when we got home.

Hondo the lab as a puppy...awwwww

Hondo the puppy…awwwww

And he’s gonna be just fine. Right now he’s under the heat lamp on his bed next to the new puppy who is likely trying his damnedest to get the big guy to play with him.

I know from experience the softie will warm up to the pup, just have to let him heal up…and let the pup grow up.

And then the two of them will be off getting into their own kind of trouble out here together.

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I wrote this week’s column before Hondo went off and got himself buggered up, but he proved my point anyway. That these animals out here are part of the fabric of this place. Growing up out here as a kid, these dogs and horses and goats and cats and lizards we were charged with learning from and taking care of were what made the place magical.

But beyond their magic they served a purpose. They had a job to do.

Hondo’s job these days might be less bird-hunting and more companion, but the new members we’re growing up and introducing will have their place soon…

Mouse catcher.

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Cow chaser.

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Rain on a Dog's Nose Coming Home: Learning many lessons from animals
by Jessie Veeder
11-9-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

But for the next few days the big brown dog and I have a date in the morning for three pills stuffed in summer sausage and another in the evening before bed.

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The Pants Situation (and a PANTS GIVEAWAY!)

It probably won’t come as a surprise to you considering you’ve heard about my mother, the lady who owns a clothing store in my hometown, that in my life I have always been very aware of “the outfit.”

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I mean, this woman was raised in a family of four girls and then went on to raise three herself, so it goes without saying that there have been countless hours spent filling and flinging clothes to and from closets, discussing what to wear for Christmas, for Thanksgiving, for a date, to a concert, to a wedding, to my wedding, to your wedding, to the beach, to the bar, to a baptism and everything in between.

There have been arguments and tantrums over denim skirts and borrowed shoes, a great deal of philosophy spent on the concept of accessories and where to get the right purse and plenty of time wondering why the hell my fashion forward mother let me wear leotards and tights for the majority of my third year here on earth.

So I won’t even mention the hair bows and this mortifying Pirate shirt…
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As women we spend a lot of time standing in front of our closets, scratching our heads trying to piece together items in our wardrobe that will serve our purpose for who we need to be on that particular day.

Because in our daily lives, just as like our outfits, we rarely are asked to serve one purpose.

And while I can assume we can all appreciate fashion phases, I think even more than that women can appreciate clothes that actually work for them, not against them.

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Comfort, function and fashion, that’s me…

Maybe that’s why I liked leotards so much…the stretch…

Why? Wwwwhhhhhyyyyy?

Why? Wwwwhhhhhyyyyy?

Anyway, these self-imposed trends exist to remind us of the process we’ve gone through to grow on up into ourselves and find a way to present that self to the world.

These are the types of conversations I’ve had with my mother anyway.

The conversations with my dad? Well, they have always gone something like this:

“It’s cold out, you better wear layers, because when we get out there you can take things off, but you can’t put more on.”

And by out there, he meant, of course, wherever it was we were chasing cows or fixing fence or breaking down that day.

As a girl, and now a woman, out on the ranch, function trumps fashion, no questions asked. Even my mother appreciates this, although she’s been known to stand in shoes blistering her feet all night in the name of looking damn cute. And I can’t judge, because I’ve been there…but I can blame her for the blisters…

Anyway on the ranch if your feet ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy. Same goes with ears and hands. These are lessons learned through a few wrong choices made before an all day roundup in the chill of the fall air where there is nothing you can do about it but shut up and ride and take note that next time and every time you get your ass back out there you will wear:

1) Good gloves
2) Proper boots
3) A decent, weather appropriate hat
4) And the right pants…

Ugh, the infinite struggle of the pants.

I can’t tell you how many all-day wedgies I’ve endured throughout my life, convinced that they just don’t make pants for girls like me. Pants long enough to cover my boots, high enough in the waist to save everyone from the site of my crack, but not so high as to impose on my boobs and durable enough to save me from the embarrassment of blowing through the ass of not one, but TWO pairs of cheap jeans on a ride with world renowned horse trainer Craig Cameron.

Yes. This actually happened.

And then you know what happened after that? He offered me his Wranglers.

It was my last resort. There was another entire day to ride. I had to wear them.

And I’m not sure if that’s pretty awesome or pretty pathetic.

That’s been almost 10 years ago now and I still cringe…the same way I cringe at this unfortunate, but functional, look:

ANYWAY, a few years ago I met a woman who resides out in rural Montana who was annoyed with the idea that for years women had to fit their cute, curvaceous butts into men’s pants to get any work done. So she decided that if you can’t find what you need, maybe she should figure out a way to make them herself. So that’s what she did. She designed Red Ants Pants, durable work pants for women that celebrate our butts, hips and curves and the fact that not all of us are created equal in those departments.

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As a girl who spent her childhood in boy Wranglers until I grew some curves of my own, I thought, well she’s on to something isn’t she?

And indeed she was. Founded in 2006, Red Ants Pants was the first company dedicated to making work clothes for women. It’s sort of hard to believe considering women have been working their asses off right alongside the men since the beginning of time, but that’s where we are here.

Thank the Good Lord for Sarah.

So to celebrate her dedication to keeping me and you wedgie-free while we get things done, I’m giving away a pair of Red Ants Pants to you, my hard working, sexy readers.

All you have to do to be in the running is leave a comment for me here, on my Facebook or Twitter pages. You know I love to hear your stories, so share them here about your favorite chore, the dirty work you’ve done in your life, or, if you want to make me feel better, a time when you ripped the butt out of your pants in front of a national celebrity.

I’ll give you some time to share. The winner will be announced next week Thursday, October 30th.

I can’t wait to hear your stories and get you in these pants!

Peace, Love and Work Girl!

Jessie

 

 

A full life, a full freezer…

Heeeyyyyaaaa!!! It’s FRRIIIDDDAAYYY!

IMG_5109It’s been an exciting week at the ranch, beginning with this:

IMG_5538No, that’s not Ted Nugent, that there is my handsome, bearded husband with the bull elk he called in and shot with his bow in our favorite pasture.

Drawing an elk tag in North Dakota is a once in a lifetime experience, and being able to successfully harvest one in your own backyard with a bow and arrow is really a rare event.

To say I am proud is not quite enough. What I am is so completely thrilled for this guy, because in the past few months I have watched him immerse himself in a passion he has pushed aside for work and family and building us a house out here. And while all of those things are the responsible choices  people like him make, to see him take a breath and just be the man he is is just, well, better and more important than that fencing-the-yard-in-so-we-can-have-grass project…

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Because he’s been scouting the animals for months, watching bulls like this chase each other around the hills, vying for the attention of the cows, getting themselves all worked up and crazy and quite the sight to see.

IMG_5458He’s sat and watched patiently. He has gathered the right equipment and practiced shooting his bow every night.

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He knows what it means to take the life of a majestic beast that we admire so much off of our place. He understands the responsibility of it and he takes it seriously. And he took his shot quietly and alone and then called in reinforcements to get this animal home to be properly butchered, removing the hide to be tanned for leather, the horns for mounting on our wall and the meat to fill our deep freeze and our bellies for many months to come.

So that’s what we’ve been doing this week, ending our days by cutting and wrapping meat and answering phone calls from our excited sportsman friends and relatives looking for Husband to re-hash the story from the big hunt…because that’s part of it, the sharing of stories…

Oh, but we did take a break to take a drive to meet the newest member of our family who was born a week or so ago.

Be still my heart, I cannot wait to get this smooshy little creature home! And apparently I couldn’t shut up about it so Husband loaded me up in the pickup and took me for a drive to have a snuggle with him.

Four more weeks and counting. Hondo, get ready…you’re gonna love him I’m sure.

With all these distractions it goes without saying that there is enough dirt on my floor to plant carrots and laundry piled up in places where underwear shouldn’t be. Right now I am procrastinating working on making a dent in the dust an dirty shirts and then I’ll sit down and work on new music, getting ready to record a new album, sorting through songs like sorting through socks, matching up melodies and stories and rhymes.

There’s so much to do and the weather is hot, tricking us all into thinking that summer might linger like this good week we’ve had out here in our little piece of paradise.

Here’s to a beautiful weekend, full freezers and full bellies!

Peace, puppies and elk steak,

Jessie

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