Sunday Column: My village…

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A few weeks ago one of our neighbor girls got married at a church in our hometown.

I remember when she was born, when she was wobbly, and chubby and learning to walk in that little farm house up the road. A little toe-headed spit fire of a girl I was certain would never grow up.

My sister and I photographed the wedding, behind the camera doing our best to capture personalities and memories and people just loving each other, laughing and having fun.

Here we are, demonstrating...

Here we are, demonstrating…

When you’re behind the camera you get to be a sort of quiet observer, sometimes chiming in to direct a look one way or the other, but mostly you’re just there to see what happens.

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What happened for me was a rush of gratitude for the people who raised us, my blonde neighbor girls and brunette Veeder girls down the road. Gratitude that after all these years we still come together to celebrate.

Gratitude that it takes a village…and grateful that our village just keeps growing…


Coming Home: Our village grows with us
by Jessie Veeder
9-21-14
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Sunday Column: On passion.


My husband has spent a great deal of our lives together being the guy, the calming force, the quite supporter behind my passions. He has been the man who uses his vacation from work to drive with me to a show in Nebraska.

He’s the first ears on a new song in the dark of our living room.

He’s the subject of my sunset photographs.

He’s the lifter of things that are too heavy for me to carry.

He’s the one that says, well why not, when I have another elaborate idea.

He’s there sorta half-sleeping at 2 am when I get in from a late night spent singing.

He’s the one who questions it when it needs questioning, applauds it when it needs applauding, feeds it when it needs feeding, sells it when it needs selling and shakes his head when I deserve it…

Because sometimes, even in a marriage, it’s all about boundaries…when to be there and when to leave some space…and how to tell which to chose.

This weekend the band and I had an awesome gig opening for North Dakota born singer and The Voice Contestant Kat Perkins at a concert in our capital city. It was something we’ve been looking forward to for months and a really good reason to wear my leather pants.

It turned out to be quite the evening, drawing thousands of people ready to support a couple North Dakota girls singing their hearts out under a beautiful sky. The guys nailed it, Kat was amazing in every way, the crowd warmed up the chilly air and I busted out some dance moves and managed to not fall on my face on the stage.

It was one of those gigs that was hard to describe. It was so much fun. There was so much energy. We were so happy to be up there on that stage doing what we love to do the most to a crowd that came to have fun.

Now I’ve managed to make singing a part of my career, and as jobs go, it’s not always bring your family to work day. But there are some gigs I can’t do myself, so I need to call in the troops to help sell CDs, make sure my fly is zipped, take some pictures and just generally be there for moral support because I might be, you know, a little nervous about the thousands of people…

When your office is a stage the best part is looking out and seeing the faces of the people who love you smiling back and singing along.

And in the case of Saturday, my bandmates giving their all, my Pops next to me playing harmonica, my mom selling T-shirts and CDs, my friends who drove for miles (one even hopped a plane) to be there to cheer me on and my husband out there snapping photos and ensuring I don’t forget to eventually get my gear from the stage to the car at the end of the night.

Anyway, the day after the show my weekly column was published. I sat down earlier that week and wrote it about the man who has stood behind my passions all these years, many times putting his own aside to make sure that I had someone in the audience, something to photograph, or someone at home who remembered to turn the porch light on…

Life is such a balancing act in so many ways. In our work we can lose ourself. In our passions we can become selfish. In our love we can become resentful.

My husband has a theory that marriage is all about doing everything you can to make the other person happy. Love is finding joy in other people’s joy.

It’s an easy concept but not one that’s always easily implemented. We all know this. We all argue and fight and huff about the little things that seem big at the time. Sock folding and dinner making and tracking mud in on the floor. And then there’s the big things, ones that seem unresolvable. We all have those too.

But this past month I have seen my husband take a breath a bit and decide to grab a hold of something he loves and sort of lose himself in it in order to find himself again.

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I could go on about this now, about how when we live with someone we notice the shifts and changes, the ebbs and flows, the worry, but I won’t.

All I will say is that I would give a thousand nights like Saturday night if it were the only way to see that man do the things he loves and spend time being completely and utterly himself…the way he encourages me to be.

But I know it doesn’t work that way. I know my happiness is his too. And I just hope he knows it goes both ways…

Coming Home: Time to rekindle passions after long seasons of work
9-14-14
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday Column: A song about you

I spend my life telling stories. Most days it’s my own, but much of the time I’m looking for inspiration in others, whether it’s from behind the lens of my camera, my guitar or my computer screen, it’s the people out here who have things to say.

Things to teach us about the human condition.

Boomtown video

In this part of the country there are so many stories moving in and out of this place at a rapid pace. Each day in my booming community, something changes, a new house goes up, a new road is built, a restaurant opens its doors. It’s hard to keep up. Everything’s moving so fast.

A few years ago, when we were still living in the little old house, I sat down on the bed with my guitar while Husband cooked soup in the kitchen and I wrote a song called Boomtown, a song that attempts to tell the story of the different souls who have made their way to my hometown in the face of a the oil boom for a second chance, a job, a way to be home. A true folk song, the closest I could get to the ones I was raised on.

I’ve written about this place, this Boomtown, multiple times. The song has been the backdrop in documentaries and stories around the country, and even over seas.

This summer I decided it might be time to show you what it looks like here, in a different way.

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So a few weeks ago we gathered the band and hashed out a plan to make Boomtown into a music video.

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I can’t wait to show you these people, the heartbeat of a community that is hope and worry and chaos and relief, dreams-come-true and dreams shattered all in one place.

This week’s column is about the video and the people of Boomtown.

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Coming Home: Listening to the stories of Boomtown
by Jessie Veeder
9-7-14
Forum Communications
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Stay tuned…

Buy Boomtown and the rest of my album, “Nothing’s Forever” on iTunes or at www.jessieveedermusic.com 

Sunday Column: Good days in a season change

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Ever had one of those perfect days? Where the sun is not too hot, and the clouds come at the right time and all of the things you want to do you do because somehow that voice in your head that is usually there nagging you about vacuuming and paying bills is just silent, quieted down enough for you to just live in the moment?

That seemed to be Sunday at the ranch. After a late Friday night and a busy Saturday of running around town filming a music video (yeah, I can’t wait to show you!)…

I woke up Sunday with plans on my sisters coming out to the ranch and then we would take it from there…hopefully on a horses’ back and then to the plum patch to fill our buckets.

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Husband said something about bow hunting as we squished together with our morning coffee on the big chair with the caramel rolls I decided to make.

 

Then Little Sister showed up and so did the sun and we went down to the barn to catch the horses, listening for Pops’ 4-wheeler coming down the road to join us.

And the three of us, Pops, Little Sister and I rode, through the east pasture and up to the fields to check out the plum crop before heading to the other house to meet up with Big Sister and Little Man to see if he wanted to take a ride too.

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And from there we ate lunch and made plans to pick plums from the patch we found up by the grain bins just loaded with branches of fruit. The plums this year are like nothing we’ve seen.

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So they met us up there, my friend and her two daughters, her dad and her gramma. They came driving up the trail and backed that pickup right up into the brush patch so the little ones could reach and we talked and swatted bugs and filled our buckets to the top in no time.

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Back at the house Husbands’ buddy pulled into the yard and they were shooting at targets, practicing their aim with the bow, warming up for the hunt that evening, dressing up in camouflage.

I came home with buckets of plums. They were off into the trees.

A rain storm blew through, leaving behind a rainbow and then a bright beautiful sunset. I played guitar and sang on that big chair as it passed.

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Then I pulled on my muck boots to walk under that sky because there’s nothing like the air after a summer rain.

This was back in the last day of August, the last day of the summer months and it was a good one.

One of the best.

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This week in my column I talk about seasons, in weather and in this life. I turned 31 last week. My high school friends have kids who are in first or second grade. I am not feeling as restless as I am planted here.

Coming Home: Life measured by seasons–even if we’re not ready for change
by Jessie Veeder
8-31-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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Swaying to the band at the bar on Friday night…

You are a hammer, you are nails
spare change piled up on the nightstand
I am half drunk water glasses on the coffee table top

You are snap shirts over t-shirts
long hair tucked under your felt hat
I am stories scratched on napkins and all the things that I forgot

All the things that I forgot

I am seventeen and leaving
Twenty-one and almost gone
You are eighteen with a ring just waiting for the time

To be together on the backroads
Together at the movies
Together buying groceries in the supermarket line

In the supermarket line

For all the things here that aren’t worth taking chances
For all we lost that wasn’t worth the fight
You are strong arms wrapped around my shoulders
And we are swaying to the band at the bar on Friday night
We are swaying to the band at the bar on Friday night

You are six eggs over easy
coffee black and keep it coming
I am wild plums in a bucket in the heat of August air

You are that green Chevy
that we bought when we had nothing
I am all the windows rolled down tangling up my hair

You’re tangling up my hair

And you are generations of people leaving town
I am horses and hay crops in the field
You were not supposed to be the one to stick around
Then again I never really meant to leave here

Then again I never really meant to leave here

For all the things that aren’t worth taking chances
For all we lost that wasn’t worth the fight
You are strong arms wrapped around my shoulders
And we are swaying to the band at the bar on Friday night
We are swaying to the band at the bar on Friday night

You’re two fingers of whiskey. I am a glass of cheap red wine
and we are standing with our bottles in the supermarket line

Tangled.

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Out here on the ranch there are people and animals and machinery and water and buildings and growing things and plans thought out but maybe not discussed with one another…

When you combine all the moving parts sometimes things can go kinda weird, get tangled up so to speak.

Like last week I came home from something or other to Husband pushing dirt on the Bobcat, just like every other dry summer day. We have been working on landscaping and planning for a fence to keep the cows out of yard, so getting the dirt in the right places has been the longest and first step in the process.

Anyway, so I get home and I drop my bags, shuffle the mail pile on the counter and look out the window at the hill where the horses generally graze, and then down at the plum patch on the edge of what will be our fenced in yard one day.

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Then I notice a piece of wire or string or something stretched across the edge of the yard, from the plum patch, across the open toward the dam, with no end that I could see…

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With Pops and Husband involved in this place, a few scenarios run through my mind about the existence of this piece of wire or string or whatever.

1) Maybe Husband is staking out where the fence will go, which is good, because I think he’s right on in the placement.

2) Could Husband have strung a piece of electric fence or wire or something to temporarily keep the cows off his dirt moving masterpiece?

3) But it sorta looks like a piece of twine, and Pops was out here on the 4-wheeler the other day driving up the hill to check on things. I bet a peice got stuck to the back of his machine and he drug it a ways…that’s probably it…

4) Who the hell knows…these boys never tell me anything…I gotta call Pops, I’m too lazy to try to catch Husband on that Bobcat right now…

I dial…it rings…he answers.

“Hello.”

“Hi, it’s me. Yeah, did you like, string some twine across our yard, or like, maybe drag a piece on your 4-wheeler when you went by the other day…”

“No. No I didn’t. I noticed it too. It was there when I drove past…piece of twine, goes all the way up to the dam as far as I can tell…a cow musta drug it I think…”

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“Well that’s a theory…really? Weird…I wonder how far it goes?”

“Yeah, I don’t know…”

“Well, ok, just checking…I guess I’ll go investigate…wrap it up…”

“Yeah, ok bye.”

I hung up.

Wonder where a cow picked up all that twine? Wonder where it got hooked? On her foot? On her ear? On a tooth or something?

How did she pull it all that way without a snag or a snap?

I headed down to the plum patch, which seemed to be the middle of her destination, twine strung up in the thorns and heading toward the dam in one direction, to oblivion in the other…

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I grabbed it and followed it along the cow path that lead to the dam…
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To the edge of the dam where she grabbed a drink…

IMG_4185and then literally into the dam where she must have hung out to cool off.

IMG_4187And then turned around IMG_4188Then turned around to head to the shade of the trees up by the fence…

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But that was only the beginning. because there I stood with a pretty substantial roll of twine around my arm looking for the end, which seemed to be trailing back toward my house again, up the hill and toward the barnyard, with no end in sight.

I backtracked, to find the source, coiling as I went…

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It was going to be a long trip…

Back past the plum patch, up along the cow trail that turns into the road on the top of the hill. Past the old machinery and the broken down three-wheeler and lawn mower that we need to move for crying out loud. I have to get on that.

Then down toward the shop where the cow seemed to have gone back and forth, back and forth, zigzagging in front of the old tractor and little yellow boat. IMG_4217Then up to the old combine to scratch her back or something…

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Then back up to the top of the hill, across the road, to the scoria pile we’re saving for a literal rainy day, then back down through the brush on the side hill toward the old combine again, tangling up in the thorns of the prairie rose patch somehow…

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Then over toward the barn yard…wait, turn around, not yet…back in front of the shop, hooking on every stray weed and grass along the way, but never coming undone…no…where the hell did she pick this up?

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Why did we leave a big-ass roll of twine just laying around for some creature without opposable thumbs to go dragging for miles and miles across the countryside?

Why can’t we get our shit together around here?

How long is this damn roll? How long is this going to take?

Do you know how long this is going to take!!!

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And how does this even happen?

Where did it even…

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Begin? …

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So off you go, Pug…

Some of you have asked what has become of the pug, noticing his absence from the spotlight on these pages.

The truth is, I have been wondering the same thing for a few months now.

Because a few months ago, the pug went missing.

And I’m afraid that this time it’s for good.

Now, you’ve heard the stories of Chug the Pug’s tendencies to hike to Mom and Pops’ to visit his girlfriend, or to the nearest oil rig to see what the guys have cooking in terms of food and a warm cushy spot in the campers for him to lay and receive an unlimited amount of belly rubs from nice guys who think he’s been orphaned.

The pug, with his one eye and all, was really good at convincing those who didn’t know better that he was pathetic. But he wasn’t. He was self-sufficient. A big dog in a compact body, tortured by the limitations of his physique.

He was a pooch on a mission to sucker you into letting him on the couch, right after you witnessed him dragging a dead squirrel into the yard.

He was a wish granted to me from my husband after a particularly tough year where things appeared to be coming together, but I was falling apart.

And so he found a flyer on the bulletin board of the gas station in a small town as he was passing through. A picture of a dozen tiny black pugs in the arms of woman.

For Sale.

He was sold.

And so he brought him home to a woman under a quilt on the couch, recovering from a surgery that was meant to help her become a mother, the first of many experiments that have dissected and disappointed.

The pug was a way to take the edge off.

And he did.

Get home from a shit day at work? Watch the pug steal the stick from the lab.

Sick on the couch with the flu? The pug’ll keep your feet warm.

Grumpy because the world is annoying? Laugh at the pug barking at the dogs on TV.

Frustrated on how some things just don’t go as planned? Howl it out.

When I was a little girl we had a cow dog who had puppies and I rescued the runt. And then the runt went missing right as winter set in. I was a kid fresh out of Bible Camp and so I prayed every night that the tiny puppy would come back.

I searched for her in every culvert, old building, tall grass and hole on the place.

I cried and worried and wondered where she could be

And then one day the snow kicked in and I had sort of given up hope, dragging my sled to the hill up the road, and that little puppy jumped out from behind a rock, right toward me. A prayer answered.

Now, that puppy was sick from the start, so a week or so on her own didn’t do her any favors and she didn’t make it much longer, no matter how hard my dad tried to warm her and medicate and bring her back to life. But regardless, I sort of held on to the memory of that little border collie running back to me for the first month of our search for the damn pug, because, well, you just never know.

Every night on his way home from work, Husband would stop at a rig asking about the little black dog. We called the neighbors to keep an eye out. We drove around, up and down the roads, checked the ditches, hollered his name.

I would come down the drive expecting that one of these days he would decide his adventure was done and it was time to take his place on the rug on the floor by my chair.

He hasn’t come home yet.

And I don’t think he will now. It’s just been too long.

The pug is no longer mine. I say that, but I don’t suppose he ever really was. A creature is his own creature, we just take care of them the best we can when we decide on the job.

I’m glad I had the job. I wish I had done better.

I miss the little guy, but I can’t help but think of him tucked under the arm of a tender hearted roughneck, a guy who found a stray and took him home to lay at the foot of his daughter’s bed.

Or maybe he’s running with a pack of coyotes, howling at the moon at night, being wild inside that block of an unfortunate body.

Or he could be riding shotgun with a trucker along these backroads hauling water or crude, a bandana around his neck, his head hanging out the window, ears flapping in the breeze.

Or maybe he’s out saving stray and wandering cats. He’s always been good with cats.

Pug and Kitten

There’s no evidence to the contrary on any of these scenarios, so I’ll just leave it at that and say goodbye now pug.

You helped me through. I’m gonna be fine now.

So off you go…

Another year…

Last night Husband and I sat out on the deck, poured some champaign and toasted to 8 years of marriage while the steaks and lobster tail I splurged on sat waiting in the kitchen to be cooked.

I’ve spent a lot of time away from this house-in-progress this summer, so it was nice to make a plan to stick around and enjoy it. My husband, he’s a good conversationalist, and I like to ask questions of him, hypothetical, favorite memory, why things work the way they do questions.

“In 8 years of marriage, what’s your favorite memory?”

“Tiling the bathroom upstairs,” he replied.

“Shut your face,” I said.

And then he said, “I don’t know. I like the collective. I like how it’s all working out the way I hoped. Most things anyway…”

We looked through our wedding album and commented on how brown the landscape was compared to this year, remembering the heat and the fire danger in 2006, and how maybe it wasn’t a great idea to roast the pig in a pit outside my parent’s house for the grooms dinner.

It feels like it was yesterday and 100 years ago all at the same time, when I was almost 23 and making this huge commitment to a man.

Wedding Tree

I had no expectations, except that we would keep going the way we were going, singing and cooking and poking fun at one another to keep things light. I hoped for another few vacations to the mountains. I hoped for a dog and a baby or two.

I hoped for a house in the trees, one that looked a lot like the one I’m sitting in now.

Yes, it’s nice to see things coming together.

Most things anyway.

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I poured another glass of champaign and a hummingbird flew by us, an arm’s length away. I hit Husband’s shoulder to make sure he saw it. He said he did. He saw it perched up on the oak tree by the deck where it landed. Then he saw it come down to the pink petunias, the only deck flower I can sort-of keep alive.

Then the cat saw it, then it was gone.

Over by the dam a doe walked out of the shadow of the brush and into the light of the open. She was the color of a vibrant summer and we watched her flick her tail at flies and talked about hunting elk this fall.

When I was growing up with this man on a small ranch outside a small town in the small world of Western North Dakota, we were not supposed to mention that maybe we’d want to come home someday.

There was nothing for us here except maybe a job at the bank or a couple kids to raise. We needed to grow up in a bigger world…That’s what we were told, except I don’t know why now remembering how I watched our mothers do just fine, teaching us about happiness and love and how to make spaghetti for the family…

Somedays I wonder what I’d be like between the big city sidewalks. I like to think I would be just fine anywhere, if it’s where I chose. I’d like to think, but then I’ll never know.

But aren’t we lucky to have choices…

I fell asleep on my husband’s shoulder last night and woke up to a kiss on the cheek and a see you later tonight. Today it is 80 some degrees and the wind is sorta blowing. The cats and dogs are in the garage and I’m making plans to stain and finish that deck we sat out on last night.

I think I’ll go to town and buy supplies, pick up an ice cream for the way home.

Ice cream season doesn’t last too long, summer just sort of melts away slowly and then all at once, just like these years…

Just like that ice cream cone.

Some days, when I’m asked, I don’t know how to answer why it is that I decided to be a girl who came back home. Some days I feel sort of silly that I’ve been so loyal to a place and to a man, like maybe I’ve missed something. Like maybe people think it’s a sorta shame while they nod their heads and say “well, isn’t that nice…”

We play that game too, Husband and I. What would you be doing if you weren’t here?

Who would you be with?

He says he’d live alone in the mountains and drink lots of whiskey and trap things. He says he wouldn’t be such a good man if I wasn’t around.

He says the right things.

I say I’d probably still be driving the Chevy Lumina and watching TV on that little yellow set my mom got me when I moved to college. I’d probably still be driving around, wondering if it was time to land yet…

I’m glad I got to him before he became a mountain man. I’m glad he’s home when I come in late from playing a barn dance by a lake and a little town down the road.

I’m glad we’ve got each other.

Glad he likes whiskey so I could have the champaign to myself.

Glad that we get another year…

Sunday Column: On best friends and lemonade stands

We all had a best friend growing up. The one we would meet on our bikes every day in the summer, the one we got chicken pox with, the one who would fearlessly have our back in an argument with the stupid boy who kept pulling your ponytail in 3rd grade.

Mine had short blond hair and freckles and blue eyes and was always a foot or two smaller than me. She could do backflips and front flips and side flips on their trampoline, and could ride her bike with no hands or feet when I was still working on the one-handed trick. She had a tall roan horse named Teddy who looked pink and she would climb up on his back like a spider monkey and ride like the wind in the badlands after her dad after the cows.

She could make an expert Juneberry pie long before her 16th birthday and was my passenger in her dad’s old Lincoln when we got a flat tire and spun around on the road and into the ditch on our way to pick up a goat to practice tying.

She cried with me for one second and then pulled it together enough to help figure out how to change the darn thing…just a few minutes before some neighbor men showed up…

Yes I hope everyone had a friend like her. A best friend who knew you before you had lost all your baby teeth and made big plans with you while jumping from hay bale to hay bale. Plans to grow up and move out, get married and bring those boys back here someday so we can live here and be neighbors forever.

We all know most childhood plans don’t quite come to fruition, maybe because they are a little too big or too wild or too bold.

At the time when the roads were quiet out here and the towns were shrinking as fast as the porch lights were going out on homesteads along the pink roads,  asking to be grownups making a living on a ranch in North Dakota was probably about as far fetched a dream as we could conjure, and we only sort of understood that…

But we still believed it. And we were right to. Because just a few weeks ago I stood in the yard of her new house with a bottle of champaign and a request for a tour.

I didn’t ride my bike because I’m a grown up and now, but I came over to welcome her home, her and her three blonde haired, blue eyed kids and that boy she said she’d bring here,  along that once quiet highway.

My best friend, my neighbor again…

Coming Home: Childhood summers full of good ideas, plenty of things to do

http://www.inforum.com/content/coming-home-childhood-summers-full-good-ideas-plenty-things-do

by Jessie Veeder
8-10-14
http://www.inforum.com