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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Sunday Column: Summers that can change your life

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Summer is making a promise to appear once again and I am thinking today about the way life can change in that short season.

When we were younger, summer meant a break, a breath, a transition onto the next phase in our lives, the next grade, the next chapter.

Now that I’m all grown up, it’s changed a bit. Summer means hustle and heat and a chance to get things done around here. It’s not a transition but a season we look forward to so we can warm up and make plans.

But sometimes when you’re in the middle of making plans for your life, your life changes.

That’s what happened to me almost nine years ago today. I opened the classifieds to look for a summer job to get me through the slow months between touring in the spring and fall, and I ran across a job opening for a Special Event planner at a performing arts school in Fargo, ND.

I was a year out of college, planning a wedding and getting ready for the rest of my life. The job was going to be a stopover, a temporary position, a stepping stone to the happily ever after.

Turns out on my way I found what have become some of the most important people in my life. I fell in love with them between flipping burgers, moving picnic tables and changing the lights in the porta potties. They made me laugh while we worked our asses off in the 104 degrees of the hottest summer of my life.

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And when that summer was over, we just held on to each other. Not out of some master plan to never lose touch, but because we liked each other. Because when we meet up we get a break, a laugh, a chance to be our true selves together before rushing back off into the real world, the one we were imagining that summer, the one that we never seem prepared for.

The one that’s a lot easier with these friends on the other end of the line.

We’re scattered all over the mid-west now, married or paired off or single, but we meet up when we can. Just a few weeks ago it was flinging ourselves down a mountain in Colorado.

It seems we always find an excuse to drive or fly in the direction of each other.

And so I was thinking about my friends when I wrote my column this week. I was thinking about them and so I wrote about them,  but maybe didn’t get to say exactly what I wanted to say in the end. Because it turns out it’s hard to conjure up words to describe how lucky I am to have found a set of people who are just so perfectly themselves that they make me believe in all different kinds of love.

And in summers that can change your life…

Coming Home: Stepping stone job fosters lifetime of friendship
by Jessie Veeder
4-12-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Larry on the Prairie

My brother-in-law and his family have a bulldog.

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His name is Larry.

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And despite the fact that he is ginormous and looks like a fat 95 year old man, Larry is just a puppy.

And sometimes, when my brother-in-law and his family go away for the weekend, Larry comes to visit.

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Larry really has no business being on the ranch. He’s physique is much better suited from couch lounging, nap taking and watching life happen from the house-side of a window.

But don’t tell Larry that.

Because Larry don’t care.

Larry does what he wants.

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(I know this, because when I try to get him to do what he doesn’t want to do, he locks up his legs and makes like a 100 pound bolder, literally refusing to move. Larry knows that he’s heavy as hell. Larry’s not as dumb as he looks.)

Yup. This is Larry.

And I call this photographic series of glamours shots, “Larry on the Prairie.”

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You’re welcome world. You’re welcome.

Sunday Column: We’re just kids in cars

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A few weeks ago, in Western North Dakota, three teenage boys were driving home together from a basketball tournament when the pickup they were in hit an icy patch on the highway and slid into the path of a semi.

None of them made it home that night.

When news of a tragedy like this spreads to our small town and rural neighborhoods, our hands go to our mouths and our hearts drop as we think of their families and remember our own losses.

These three young boys, though I didn’t know them, have been on my mind and on the minds of those across this state, which seems to get bigger and smaller all at once as we reach out and connect in our shared stories and experiences.

After this column was published I received email after email from those who were remembering someone they lost, or those grieving, or those comforted by reading words that were on their minds.

Thank you for those notes. The human experience is as tragic as it is beautiful and I am fortunate to have an outlet in which I can reach out and express my personal thoughts with the hope that they resonate with someone.

Your words back to me mean the world to me. It’s the reason I keep attempting to put thoughts down week after week.

Because we need to know that we’re not alone out here in this unpredictable world.

Coming Home: We’re just kids in cars
by Jessie Veeder
3-9-15
http://www.inforum.com

Summer, I miss your face.

And now for a weather report.

It’s -2.

March is coming in like a cold and bitter lamb and it’s making me a cold and bitter woman.

Just freezing.

But even though landscape looks a lot like this these days…

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it’s hard to believe that in a few months it will turn from gray to green right in front of our eyes.

I can just smell the clover now. By June, we’ll be rolling in it.

By May we’ll be thawed out and warmed up.

By April we’ll spot our first wild flower.

But March? March suffers from mood swings. So I decided I’d have my own today.

I decided that while I’m freezing on the outside, at least my daydreams can be warm.

Summer!!!! I miss your face!!!!

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Lake Sakakawea Sunset

North Dakota Badlands

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There. Now you miss summer too.

Isn’t it nice to all be on the same page?

Sunday Column: Moving dirt and making plans.

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So oil prices have dropped.

For most that means cheaper gas and a little breath of relief.

For us out here in a community resting on top of that oil, with men and women whose livelihoods depend on getting it out of the ground and selling it for profit, well, it certainly has us scanning the headlines.

I’m sure you’ve read the headlines yourself. There’s plenty of speculation on how this market might move, but no real answers. Journalists want to know how it makes us all feel out here. Might we have planned too much? Might we have bitten off more than we could ever chew? Are we being laid off and let down and given the run around? Are we panicked? Lost? Worried? Hopeful? Making new plans?

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Everyone’s answer is a bit different, but I might add that regardless of oil prices, I don’t think out here we’ve spent a day without wondering: what the hell is happening here and what are we to do about it all?

High prices/low prices, it seems it’s all the same.

We just keep moving dirt and making plans…

Coming Home: Despite uncertainty, next step is same
2-8-15
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Pumping Unit on Horizon-RTC

Sunday Column: The Heart Won’t Lie, and other embarrassing stories about my love of Reba McEntire

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Well, I made it home again, home again Jiggity Jig from Nashville last week and promptly lost my voice to a sweet little cold that settled into my chest and reared its ugly head midway through belting out a Bruno Mars song with the band on Saturday.

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And now I sound like a raspy gremlin and Husband is finding it all a little too amusing, walking around the house saying “What?” every time I attempt to tell him something.

Yesterday, he threw a pillow off the loft to where I was standing on the floor below just to hear what I sounded like when I screamed without a voice.

And then he laughed his ass off, because I sounded like a choked and dying rabbit.

Needless to say, phone conversations have been fun today…

Anyway, speaking of voices, this week in my column is a confession about my age-old obsession with a certain red-headed country diva known by the name of Reba McEntire.

It had to be declared sometime, and because I was in music city, I felt now was the time.

Funny though, what really got me thinking about Queen Reba was a recent visit I had to Minneapolis on my way to Nashville last weekend. See, I have this group of friends I met and hung on tight to after working at a performing arts school my first summer out of college. We try desperately to get together at least once or twice a year despite being scattered across North Dakota, Minnesota and Colorado.

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When we do get together we almost always wind up, at the end of the night (or beginning of the morning) sitting around searching YouTube and our iPods for our favorite late 80s/early 90s country songs so that we might sing them together at the top of our lungs.

We find it quite amusing and comforting and sentimental all at once. And because we all know most of the words, it makes us feel good about ourselves too…

When the party gets to this point, any guests we might have acquired throughout the evening are undoubtedly running for cover, but last weekend I invited my cousin and best friend forever, Seth, originally from a small town in South Dakota, (now transplanted to the middle of Minneapolis where he has his PhD and does smart PhD things), over to meet my gang. I just knew they would all get along swimmingly.

Half way through the first Judd’s singalong I was certain.

See, cousin Seth, being my childhood best friend, cousin and pen pal, has had to endure my love for Reba since the beginning of time.

And if I remember correctly, I am certain his sister and I conducted similar sing-alongs at the farm house in our youth, probably with a video camera and most certainly with costumes.

Yes, if you pulled into gramma’s farm yard any summer in the early ’90s you’d likely find us standing on a pile of hay bales singing “Here’s your one chance Fancy don’t let me down.”

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The evidence of our bond surfaced early. Here I am, in my leotard and tights, clutching my blankie and leaning on him for support…

Which leads me to the time when I got a new Reba McEntire tape, the one where she shares a duet with Vince Gill called “The Heart Won’t Lie” circa 1992 and I decided that cousin Seth needed to be the Vince to my Reba.

I imagined the two of us singing into my plastic karaoke microphones, hitting the harmonies, debuting our performance to the entire family at our Christmas gathering, maybe trying to assemble some sort of costume theme, blowing them all out of the water with the incredible fact that I sounded just like Reba and him like Vince…

(Thank you Lord for not inventing YouTube until after my adolescence)

So I copied down the words, dubbed him a tape, wrote him a letter and dropped it in the mail.

And, because my cousin inherited his mother’s desire to save every piece of evidence from our embarrassing childhoods, years later he photocopied all the letters I wrote to him and sent them back to me…lest I ever thought I might have been cool.

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Now, I’m embarrassed to report that Cousin Seth and I didn’t actually get around to performing our song during the innocent and forgivable phases of our youth. No. We decided to try our hand at it in the wee hours of the night during Pop’s birthday party on the deck last summer…after two or three vodka tonics too many…

But it was still epic.

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An epic fail…but a sweet little throwback to a childhood bond and a lasting love for music sparked by Reba herself…

Coming Home: Seeing a hero in person is still inspiring
by Jessie Veeder
1-15-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Ugh, I bet Queen Reba never gets laryngitis…

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If you have a minute, vote for me in the North Dakota Music Awards. I’m up for “Best Female Vocalist” and “Best Original Country Band” with these yahoos up there.

VOTE HERE
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/ndmafinal

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This is my Nashville. This is our music.

This is how I spent my week in Nashville.

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Behind the microphones, in a quiet space, singing and thinking of home and what the words mean to me.

This is Bill, keeping it real.

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This is real Bill, producer Bill, keeping it real-er.

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This is the lake and marina we would go find when it was time for a bite to eat and a break.

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This is where I ate fish tacos and chicken salad and iced tea and a couple of orders of guacamole and chips I probably didn’t need, but I eat when I get anxious or nervous or have a ton of work to do or am in a new situation or find myself at a restaurant and with the sudden appetite of an elephant because I’ve been concentrating for too long on something…

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And this? This here is Vince Gill, you know, just tuning up…

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And here he is picking and singing with The Time Jumpers, a group of eleven masters in music, with experience ranging from stints playing with major country music acts, the Grand ‘Ol Opry and Carnegie Hall.

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The Time Jumpers recently lost one of their members, Dawn Sears, Vince Gill’s backup singer, to lung cancer. It was my understanding that this was the first show they did without her. To honor her mother’s memory, Tess Sears, Dawn’s 18-year-old daughter took the stage to sing.

It was a special moment.

And speaking of special moments, this is the Bluebird Cafe, known these days for its place on the show “Nashville,” but known to me, ever since I was a little girl, as a spot where the songwriters go.

So here’s a nerdy picture of me in front of it, fulfilling a childhood wish to be there someday.

And here’s a photo of the iconic little cafe in color…

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Here it is in black and white, you know, for a moody effect…

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And here’s what was happening inside.

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Contrary to what TV would have you believe, it’s a small space, the Bluebird. Seats only 100 people and you should probably plan ahead a bit to get in. Most people have reserved their spots, but Pops and I stood outside for a bit and were let in just as the music had begun.

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The four musicians you see here are all prolific songwriters who shared the stories of their music, some witty banter and really epitomized that music is about telling our stories and connecting with people…and so I promptly developed a fan girl crush on Lacy Green, whose album I listened to all the way back home to the ranch…

Speaking of getting home, in case you were wondering, this is how a guitar gets home from Nashville.

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And now that me and my instrument are back on the frozen tundra of home, I’m happy to report that I finished up my work on the album this week and am expecting a spring release. I can’t thank you all enough for your enthusiasm about this project. I found the right people in Nashville (Bill and Kirsti with Warner Works and Songwriter Girl) to make the songs come to life in the best possible and most supportive way, and I can’t wait for them to hit your ears.

In the meantime, if you’d like to support local musicians, I urge you to take a moment to vote in the 1st Annual North Dakota Music Awards.

I have been nominated in two categories, “Best Female Vocalist” and “Best Original Country Band (with Outlaw Sippin’)” and would appreciate your support, as would the other amazing artists nominated in many categories. (Friends from all over, you don’t have to be from North Dakota to vote, so don’t be shy:)

VOTE HERE
And tell your friends! 

Voting ends January 31st 

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And if you’re in the area, make plans to attend the awards show on Thursday, February 19th at the Belle Mehus Auditorium in Bismarck. 

Thank you again for all of your support. And I promise, I’ll be coming to a town near you to celebrate and sing these songs at the top of my lungs soon.

For keep up with the album release and upcoming shows visit:
www.jessieveedermusic.com
www.facebook.com/jessieveedermusic

Blame the cat, not the cat lady.

Now, you all know I’m an animal lover, so I don’t think I need to really go much further to explain that if I could take all the stray dogs in the world with me on a walk, then I would do it. I would do it because they need a walk, and a scratch behind the ears, and a dog needs a girl.

A girl needs a dog. 

We’ve been over this.

But a cat? I’m going to tell you right here, I’m torn on this…

As you can see, it’s been a lifelong struggle…

Because, frankly, if I’m going to be honest, and well, I’m going to be honest, I love them too. But they drive me crazy.

CRAZY!

Kittens? I can’t get enough. I. Can. Not. Get. Enough.

Fuzzy fur. Spontaneous attacks on nothing but air. The snuggling. The purring. The napping in weird places. The obsession they have with my guitar case and Christmas ribbons and random dust bunnies and streams of sunshine coming through the window.

And the fact that they generally always figure out the litter box situation quickly. I appreciate that.

I also appreciate that a kitten is too tiny and innocent to shed it’s fluffy hair all over my pants while she’s napping there and I’m doing my work. I like that about kittens. I like that they’re genuinely interested in what I’m doing during the day, and they want to be involved with it. It’s adorable and they’re small, so they don’t get in the way…much.

Speaking of small, I also like that kittens are too tiny to get up to the glass of milk I’ve left out on the kitchen counter. Same goes with the plate of bacon or the bowl of chicken noodle soup. Kittens might be able to smell it, but they’re reaction is restricted to their youth and their tiny bellies attached to tiny legs, and I like it.

Yes, I like that kittens generally stay on the ground or on my lap or on my shoulder where they belong.

And I like that they’re claws are tiny too, so whatever imaginary thing they are trying to hunt next to my couch won’t wreak too much havoc on the leather or the rug underneath.

Bottom line here? Kittens are tiny versions of cats, so they are adorable, less destructive, they sleep more, they stay off my kitchen counters and I cut them slack because they are babies.

And they are fluffy.

But the thing about kittens is that one day, and it happens pretty quickly, you wake up and discover that their legs have stretched a bit, and they have noticed it too, and so they use those legs to explore a universe in the house that is supposed to be off limits to felines.

But cats don’t give a shit about rules. That’s the thing. If you have a cat for a pet, you know this.

Ever tried to get a cat to sit on command? BWAH!

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Ever tried to teach them to come to the sound of their name? Yeah RIGHT!

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And to those people who have somehow figured out how to get their cat to use the toilet and flush afterward? All I have to say is that was probably the cats’ idea in the first place. You just happened to catch her in the act when you noticed she was in the bathroom and you were worried about her unrolling the entire spool of toilet paper.

Because cats are sorta little bitches like, with their own agenda…which is: I will love you when I chose to love you. You will pet me when I want you to pet me. I will sit on your lap when I wanna sit on your lap and I will always, no matter what, ruin your world when you are trying to wrap a present or type on your laptop or print something out of the printer. And if you decide to get a Christmas tree, I will own it. I will try to climb to the top and shame on you for thinking otherwise.

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And when you’re not around, I will jump on the counter, because, really, you likely set that perfectly seasoned chicken out for me. And if you get after me, I will humor you by acting offended and scared, but as soon as you go into the other room, I will just jump up there again.

Oh, you wanna leave town? If you leave town I will definitely be up on that counter. And also the kitchen table. And also the chandelier if I can swing it…

God forbid you leave town.

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Yeah, cats only sorta like us, but they suddenly get all hurt when we’re not around at their command, filling their bottomless food dish and being undyingly available when they decide they want a snuggle.

Do I sound harsh? Maybe. But I come from a long line of cat people.  My two sisters happen to be the biggest feline worshippers around and I doubt they could argue with any of my reasons that cats are sorta horrible really.

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And I’m only bringing it up today because I really believed my little orange baby Cheeto was never going to grow up and out of her sweet, smushy, fluff…

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but then I came out of my office to find her on the counter licking the butter straight out the uncovered dish.

Dammit.

I shouted a profanity, jumped around and flailed my arms to try to scare the devil out of her, but I’m afraid her transformation has begun.

And I’m afraid I will love her despite of it, just like I have with the two other felines who scream at me from their perch in the garage rafters every time I open the door, lest I forget their twenty-seven scoops of food and the pat on their head on my way out the door, because, I mean, mousing is hard work.

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But so is pet cat ownership.

There. I said it.

Now you can too.

A girl might need a dog and a dog might need a girl…but a cat?

A cat will make you believe she doesn’t give a shit one way or the other…

A cat will play games with your head. She’ll create in you trust issues. She will make you needy for attention.

She will grab you by the heart strings and then maneuver you like a puppet.

And that’s why they just might be superior after all, which I hate to admit… But if you don’t agree, well then, at least I’ve done my part to make my case for the Crazy Cat Lady in all of us. Because they get they’re claws into us when they’re young and innocent…so it’s not our fault…

It’s theirs.

Amen.

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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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