Sunday Column: On weather and roots

Badlands Sunset

The sky out here is volatile. Perfectly pleasant one minute, and violent the next, those of us who grew up here in the north country have a sort of “expect the unexpected” instinct born in us when it comes to the changing weather.

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But it doesn’t mean we don’t get caught off guard. Just because we know that at any moment the clouds could build, one on another on another, and send the air swirling above our heads bending branches or sending hailstones flying, doesn’t mean we’re always ready for it.
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But that’s the thing about this sky. As soon as you come to trust that another calm 80 degree day will pile up on another 80 degree calm day,

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you head to the lake with your dad’s pontoon and friends from out of state to show them another side of the prairie, and just like that you’re caught out in the middle of the big water trying to out-boat a wall of hail and rain while a tornado warning buzzes on your smart phone and your little sister’s heart proceeds to lodge directly in her throat.

And suddenly I remember why I am a prairie person and not a boat person.

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Because if I were on a horse in that storm, I’d give him his head, close my eyes and he’d run us both home.

On a boat? Well… on a boat on the big lake with friends working to get to know this foreign place we call North Dakota  I felt so completely out of my element.

I wanted to show them the world that I knew and what we do out here when it’s hot. How we find ourselves a beach and set up shop. How we dig in the sand or the mud, pick rocks and sip drinks and thank God for the lake in the heat of the day.

And then the sky turned black and chased us down and everything I knew about what we do on a hot day blew away in the waves with the wind…

But when it was all said and done and we were back safely to shore, wind swept and nervously laughing, I think maybe I caught a glimpse of what it might be feel like to be, like the new friends who braved the adventure with us, on unfamiliar ground…

Coming Home: Wishing for solid ground in an unfamiliar place
by Jessie Veeder
8-2-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

The dark blue clouds sparked with lightning on the horizon in front of us, and the deep rumble of the thunder seemed to shoot up from the ground below our horses’ feet to settle and roar smack in the middle of my 10-year-old heart.

It was one of those calm and sticky summer evenings, the perfect combination of humidity, heat and timing just right for brewing a storm out of thin air. And so there we were out chasing cattle, my little sister on her white pony, my dad and me, miles from the safety of the barnyard, staring up at the sky growing darker by the second.

It was my first lesson in remaining calm in an uncontrollable situation that escalated quickly, the types of situations that, out here, are generally always caused by the sky or an animal.

Because there’s nothing nature does better than teach us lessons about our own human vulnerability.

Against an angry thousand-pound bull or a cloud full of hail stones, we are nothing but skin and bones, muscle and a built-in instinct to survive that we humans don’t exercise very often.

But out here, the animals do.

“These horses know how to get home,” Dad said to us, his silhouette darkening against a flashing horizon. “I know you can’t see the ground, but they can feel it. Just let their heads go and they will get you home.”

And there was our lesson in trust—in our dad, in our animal and in the inborn instinct that is survival.

Last night, the sky was brewing up storms across the state. The air was thick outside our house and the weatherman on TV predicted the unpredictable. There will be wind. There will be rain. There will be storms tonight.

The phones and Internet conversations began buzzing in a Boomtown filled with people new to the prairie. Where do we go? What do we do? When will it hit?

I’m a woman born and grown on the sweeping open prairies under a sky that will softly kiss the hilltops with light one minute, only to turn around to swallow up the land in a fury of wind and rain the next. I know this. I’ve seen its volatility and in some ways I’ve blamed its constant impulsiveness on my own. How could the drama of such sweetness and rage not get under my skin?

But these days, home on these familiar plains, I’m a minority. For the thousands of new residents who have come north from the rocky soil of a mountain range, the sandy beaches of the coast, or the dry heat of the desert, the roll of the thunder coming up from the horizon to rest in your gut is not a familiar feeling. And it can be terrifying to know that under this big open sky in the middle of America, anything can happen.

Even those of us whose roots are long planted here are still at risk of being taken off guard.

And so I’m thinking of my first lesson in the danger of our sky today, because last weekend, while taking new friends out on the boat on the big lake in the heat of the day I looked up at that horizon and watched white clouds turn to black, lightning flash, heard the thunder crack and felt the waves grow bigger underneath us as my husband put the throttle down to escape the white wall of hailstones and rain that were chasing us toward the shore on the other side of the lake.

I turned to my friend, a former Utah resident who has spent the past nine months discovering and learning about her new home on the prairie. I wanted to reassure her, but as I looked up at the darkening sky I felt my usual confidence in my home dissipate and my vulnerability swell on that water.

I wished desperately for solid ground and a trusted horse that would know his footing and bring us all home.

And for the first time, I think I began to understand what it might feel like to dig new roots in this fickle and mysterious place.

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From Lost to Found: A Pug Story

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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So it goes with love, land and family…

Veeder Ranch Centennial Card

Well, it’s finally here!

Wedding week at the ranch. The relatives are starting to roll in, (and helping to mow the yards), the fences are painted, the decorations are in a pile somewhere waiting for their places, we’ve got the burs out of most of our horses so they’re ready for company and we are watching the ever-changing North Dakota weather forecast to be reassured that it isn’t going to rain on our big parade.

Oh, and I vacuumed and scrubbed my floors, so things are getting serious around here.

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To say it’s been a busy spring around here would be an understatement. When we’re all working together for the common goal of beautifying this old place, every minute between work and sleep has a plan in place. And while there’s plenty of work left to do out here, it has been amazing to me how a love declared and a date set can get things in motion the way that it has. Weddings, for all of the hub bub and money spent, details agonized over and tiny bows tied, really become something special in the end for the way they bring the people we love from all corners of the country to celebrate a new family being formed.

I mean, how many times in your life do you get your aunt and uncle from Omaha in the same place as your mom’s family from the east coast and your cousins from Texas?

As the first round of relatives arrive, I can’t help but think that this wedding is extra special to our family in a lot of ways. For one, the baby of our little family has found someone weird, kind and patient enough for a forever future together.

But also because that future is set to begin on the dirt that holds our family’s history, where our great grandfather homesteaded before he went off to war, where he brought his new wife home, where they raised cattle and crops and five children. Where she planted yellow roses that still bloom in the bushes below the cabin. Where he lost her when she was only thirty-six and their youngest son, our grandpa, was only eight.

And on the very dirt where my sister will stand in a white dress waiting for her groom, our grampa  grew up to be a hardworking, dedicated cowboy who didn’t ride the rodeo or buy up thousands of acres, but carried on in his father’s footsteps and kept a steady and growing business of crops and cattle through tough times while raising kids, our dad one of them, who fell in love with the landscape and the idea of taking care of it, an important outcome for a man who dreamed of the future of his ranch with his family on it.

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And so on Saturday my little sister will stand in front of that barn as the fourth generation to chose to stick around her home. Before she walks down the isle with our dad on her arm, our ring bearer nephew and our flower girl cousin will proceed her dressed in thier best and representing another generation of kids to know and love this place.

Then my little sister will declare her love for a man who followed her west to this place and they will continue the story 100 years after our great grampa Eddie staked his claim and put up his homestead shack next to that barn.

Summer Barn

My big sister and I will stand next to her and I will hold her flowers as they kiss.

Then I’ll look over at my husband standing across the aisle and we will smile at the thought of the baby in my belly, due to come into this world at the end of November, at the beginning of a long winter and of a new and long-awaited chapter in the story of lives lived, families grown and dreams fought for out here on the Veeder Ranch.

And so it goes with love and land and family…it holds the past, the present and the ever evolving and unpredictable future…

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Sunday Column: Small town summer…

Summer is in full swing up here in North Dakota. School’s out. Wedding’s have begun. Garden’s are in and a full line up of summer fairs and festivals are marked down on the calendar.

Last weekend during a little tour across the state promoting my album, I got the privilege of being a guest of honor at a small town in the middle of the state. I was hired to do a concert with the band there during their Dairy and Ag days celebration,

and in addition, I was asked to be the Grand Marshall of the parade…

I took my job very seriously…

AND to help judge the Little Miss Farmer/Rancher contest.

This was right up my ally, such and honor and pretty much the most adorable thing ever.

So of course I had some things to say about it. I could have written a book on all of the characters, from the kids singing their hearts out in the choir before the band

The opening act waiting to go on!

to the little toothless princess candidate dressed in a sequins dress with a hoop that flew up and hid her face when she tried to sit down in the chair in front of us judges.

It was the epitome of what it means to be a small town kid in the summer.

It was the epitome of cute and wholesome.

It was what I had to write about for this week’s column:

Coming Home: Longing to be a kid of summer again
by Jessie Veeder
6-14-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

In small towns up and down the Midwest, summer has officially started. I know this not by the date on the calendar, but because in the next few months I’ll run into kids catching and holding calves at the neighbor’s branding down the road, rolling down the road in a tractor helping with harvest, or showing their steer at the county fair for a little extra cash.

I get to witness these kids of summer because my job as a singer takes me to big towns and small towns across the state to witness them dancing in the street after a day spent eating barbecue beef sandwiches, catching candy in the parade and competing in a tractor pull or Little Miss Potato Queen pageant.

And I have to tell you, I kicked off the season right last Friday when I took a trip to Linton to participate in their Dairy and Ag Days festival. I rolled toward the town in the morning, turning off the interstate to admire the fresh crops popping up neatly around manicured farmsteads, big red barns and, my favorite, the black-and-white dairy cows milling behind rail fences.

After months of planning, Linton looked as polished as ever, and so did its littlest residents who were waiting for my arrival that morning, dozens of young girls from kindergarten to second grade, dressed to the nines lined up in the lobby of the local bank, vying for the title of Little Miss Farmer/Rancher.

And be still my heart, because while each contestant was as adorable as the next, this was no beauty pageant. No. This was a competition where each young and utterly adorable contestant is asked about their experience and knowledge of the farm and ranch they live and work on.

I was asked to be one of the judges, to which I enthusiastically agreed, not understanding how completely impossible it would be to choose a winner among little girls who talked reverently about helping their grandmas feed the horses, being responsible for bottle feeding orphaned calves, the make and model of the tractor used on the farm and the one who joked that, if they’re not careful, the heat lamp used in the baby chick pen might result in fried chicken. Then she laughed and laughed.

And I teared up, not just at the absolute cuteness of it all, but because, really, they still make kids like this. Kids who come to town dressed in bolo ties, fluffy floral dresses, their best jeans or, yes, even a sequined gown, ready to proudly declare that they are learning to break their own horse, they can’t wait to learn to drive the tractor, or — my favorite — the tiny, brown-eyed girl who said her preferred chore was helping her dad fix fences.

When I asked her why she liked to fence so much, she frankly replied, as if the answer should be so obvious to us, “Because I love him!”

First place, I say! First place to all of them!

I’m really not cut out for this judging thing.

But after the decisions were made, I headed out to Main Street, where I had the honor of leading the parade of Dairy Prince and Princesses and Little Miss and Mister Farmer and Rancher contestants, American Legion Club members, 4-H club floats, combines, antique tractors and kids pulling smaller kids in wagons.

In a few hours, I stood up on a flatbed trailer in an empty lotand sang my songs to bleachers full of moms, dads, grammas and grampas watching while the kids tested out their best moves on the concrete dance floor in front of me.

I let the band play a song and got down to join them, compelled to be a part of their circle, grab their hands and spin around to the music. Compelled, after a long day in the sun, to laugh and dance with my new friends, in the middle of a small-town street, in the middle of America, where we make our own fun after the work is done.

Compelled to believe with them that anything is possible, just for a moment, compelled to become a kid of summer again.

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And look at that, a whole spread in the Emmons County Record. A day like this is a reminder of why I keep doing what I’m doing.

Thanks Linton, ND!

A horrifying story

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Ok, so it’s beautiful outside right now, green and warm and it’s fixing to thunderstorm the way we’ve been waiting for, and I should show you a bunch of pretty pictures of it and lament about my favorite season and all that…but it just isn’t in the cards today.

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Because today I have to tell you a horrifying tale that involves my mother and a glass of wine.

Better get under your blanket, because you’re going to want to pull it over your head in a minute here.

So my family spent all day Memorial Day weekend working outside. Pops, Husband and my Father in Law were building fences, I was pressure washing everything I could pressure wash because I love shit like that, and my momma was planting flowers at her house.

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Well, I don’t think I have to mention it again, but when you’re out and about in the grass on a warm spring day you’re bound to get a tick or thirty-seven.

So that’s why when we came in for lunch, we did the regular neck slap, hair scratch, take-a-look-at-my-back-do-you-see-anything check and then went on with our sandwiches and back to our business.

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Well, later on that evening, after the whole house was hosed down, enough fence was repaired and mom’s flowers were in pots where they belonged, Husband and I showered up and snuggled down in our house and mom and Pops changed out of their work gear and settled in their comfy chairs to watch a movie.

Pops probably had a little whiskey and Mom poured herself a glass of red wine. She leaned back at her favorite spot on the couch, grabbed the remote and her glass of wine and took a good, long, well deserved sip, pausing for a moment after the swallow to remove what she thought was a little piece of cork stuck to her tongue.

But people. It wasn’t a cork.

No it was not.

It was a tick.

My mom had a tick in her wine and it went into her mouth.

O.M.G.

I mean, just recently Husband saw one crawling across my face and kindly mentioned it before it hit my mouth, which was disgusting enough…but not as disgusting as what happened to my mom.

She takes the cake for the most horrifying tick story on the ranch so far.

Imagine that. The woman on the ranch who goes outside the least wins the title.

Good one mom.

Good one.

Sunday column: Two-stepping in the kitchen…

This week’s column is on dancing in the kitchen with my big sister and learning the two step in country school gym class.

It’s about being in a band and watching from the stage the different ways old cowboys two step and waltz and how the tradition of that sort of dancing, in this neck of the woods anyway, seems to sort of hang in there.

It’s about how I’ve been dancing with my husband since shuffling across the gym floor in phy-ed class in 7th grade and how we still argue about who is really leading (because my big sister always insisted that I be the boy).

I wrote the column after a Saturday spent playing a college rodeo dance and watching the couples spin, lift and swing each other around, packing the dance floor on the more traditional country songs that we played, and dispersing to the sidelines until we played another they could dance to.

Photo by Annika Plummer Photography

Watching all those young people in cowboy hats and cowboy boots out on the dance floor was so refreshing to me. I couldn’t help but think how they might have learned their skills dancing in the kitchen with their moms or dads or sisters.

I couldn’t help but think of this Ian Tyson son my dad used to sing as I wrote….

Ian Tyson: Own Hearts Delight

Coming Home: From country schools to country bars, dancing endures
by Jessie Veeder
5-17-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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My new album, “Northern Lights” is now available!
Catch me on my North Dakota tour this summer!

Watch an interview where I talk about the process and my time in Nashville.

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