Sunday Column: Getting lost in my hometown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen: Northern Lights

I spent Earth Day in my car driving across the state to get to a Lady’s Night Out event where I had the chance to talk and sing to them about the inspiration I get from loving and taking care of this place.

It seemed like a fitting thing to do on a day set aside to think about this spinning planet we call home. And despite the lack of rain, things are greening up. The wind was calm yesterday, making the ducks in the roadside ponds look like they were cutting through glass.

The trees are starting to bud and people are emerging from their houses with their hands shielding their eyes, coming out of hibernation to prune something, clean something and think about planting something.

I feel like I’m coming out of hibernation too. I’ve spent all winter working on putting together my new album and making plans for a summer of music, a summer that’s just around the corner.

Next month you’ll be able to buy the album from me or on iTunes and Amazon or anyplace in between.

In the meantime I have to tell you I can’t wait for you to take a listen. As my faithful readers  you might recognize some of the words and stories in the songs, I might have shared a few in their infancy, before they turned into music. They are songs about a couple years spent listening to other people’s stories and watching this place change around me while I tried to hold on tight to the things I don’t want to slip away. There are songs about loving a man and almost losing the one who raised me. There are songs about getting older, a song about rain, a song about working and a song about a boat…

But, as always, they’re all songs about home, this place a constant backdrop for the stories about the human condition.

I hope you’ll take a listen. And if you want, place a pre-order today and as soon as those boxes arrive, I’ll sign your copy and send it in the mail so you’ll be the first with the copy.

Click here to listen

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Thanks for your support and sharing your stories with me. If you want me to come to your town to sing these songs, let me know and I’ll be there with my guitar and stories of my own.

Peace, music and rain showers,

Jessie

Sunday Column: Spring Cleaning.

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I spent my work break today pulling woodticks off of Gus.

I’ve never seen so many ticks on a dog in my life. I think there were more ticks than dog actually.

I’m horrified.

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And I’ve even taken preventative measures. Nothing can stop the little bloodsucking bastards around here.

So there’s that.

On my next break I’ll tackle brown dog…there’s more square inch of actual dog, so I’m guessing there’ll be more tick…

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‘Tis the season

And it’s also the season for spring cleaning and raking and fencing and painting and all around maintenance and clean up.

We do this a little bit every spring when the weather warms up, but there’s a sense of urgency this year because Little Sister is getting married out here in like two months.

Yeah, that little sister…tell me we haven’t all grown up…

Anyway, a big party to plan means we’re doing things like pulling weeds in front of the barn where there’s usually a bunch of hay.

No one’s ever pulled weeds out from in front of the barn ever in the history of the world, so that was fun.

Seriously. I have an entire pickup full of dried out six foot tall pigweeds waiting to be disposed of when the wind decides to give it a rest.

Oh, and I bought paint for the little tin tack rooms too. I’m going to match them to the barn. It’s going to be adorable.

Just call me Martha Frickin’ Stewart, Queen of the Barnyard.

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Sometimes all we need is a party around here to get our shit together, and picked up and thrown out. Seriously. We even cleaned the shop a little. Well, at least got rid of some of the Tupperwear bins full of childhood things none of us girls could throw away when we moved out of the house. Because one day I might want to display that old 4-H horse show trophy in my adult home.

Sheesh.

Anwyay. So that’s what’s been on my mind. Weeds and grass and woodticks and weather and weddings and putting this place together.

I have to focus on something or I’m going to have a mental breakdown about the fact that my little sister is grown up enough to get married and own a home…

Wahhh…

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Coming Home: Giving the farm the Martha Stewart Treatment
by Jessie Veeder
4-19-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Wanted: April Showers

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

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

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

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

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“Just like riding a bike,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

Like 10,000 tons of grass.

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

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

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

So there was that.

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

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

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

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

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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

At the Farm and Fleet…

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One of the most worthless things on the planet are rubber boots with holes in both.

I own a pair and, well, there’s nothing worse than squishy toes when the mud is so nice and ripe for mucking around in.

Because we’re not out of the woods yet in this whole winter thing.  And that’s ok. We need the moisture, and I need a few more chances to learn my lesson about mud.

Anyway, so I need a new pair of rubber boots, which gives me a good excuse to go to the Farm and Fleet store.

I love the Farm and Fleet store. Any Farm and Fleet store there is, I don’t care. There’s just something about the racks of work gloves, the spring seeds, the paint, the plethora of barn jackets, long underwear, dog kennels, tack and brushes, fly spray, heat lamps, medicine, fencing supplies, tools, generators, extension cords, lawn furniture and toy farm animals that make me feel like anything’s possible.

I could spend hours browsing and dreaming of a perfectly organized tack room, or a summer spent in a light, long sleeved snap shirt and this cute Carhart cap right here.

In Farm and Fleet I become another woman in my head. The kind of woman who would raise chickens in a coop built with all these damn supplies and tools surrounding me!

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I’m the kind of woman who would raise and feed those chickens to collect farm fresh eggs for farm fresh omelets on any old regular weekday morning.

I am the kind of woman who could butcher one of those chickens to fill our freezer and then take it out to whip up a batch of delicious homemade noodle soup or chicken and dumplings if we happen to have unexpected company.

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In the Farm and Fleet store I am the kind of woman who wears an apron and shoes her own horses.

In the Farm and Fleet my horse becomes something better too. Better groomed. No burs. Never even saw one in his life because he exists in our perfectly weather proof stable. His hair shines like the sun because, well, Show Sheen! In the Farm and Fleet I’m the kind of woman who buys it buy the barrel.

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That and fancy tack. The kind with silver on it. Because, well, at the Farm and Fleet, only the best for my horse with the Fabio hair.

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In the Farm and Fleet store I am redecorator. A barn painter. A farmer with a garden that could feed the neighborhood.

And I can everything. Like meat and beets and corn and carrots. Because at Farm and Fleet you can buy a book that will show you how to do it.

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And when I’m done canning, I will train my dog to herd the cattle into a nice group and load them up into the stock trailer on command. Because there’s a book for that at Farm and Fleet too.

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Then I’ll buy myself a nice pair of leather gloves, because a woman needs a good pair that fits for all the fences I’ll be fixing… for all the weeds I’ll be killing…for all the dirt that needs tilling and the piglets I’ll be raising…  and the mud I’ll be slopping around in this spring…

Because a woman like me, well, she…oh yeah…she needs new rubber boots…

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I can’t be trusted with spring…

Summer arrived here for a minute or two this weekend.

And when summer arrives, I can’t be trusted.

I drink more alcohol because it tastes better on the deck.

I eat grilled brats for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I blow off chores and work to get on the back of a horse.

And, I, uh, well…

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I do shit like this…

Because I lose my mind out here when the weather thaws the ground. There are so many fun things to do and not enough time to do them, so I tool around the place looking for projects that inevitably turn into predicaments…

predicaments like these…(Cue Prince Charming…)

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No worries though. Despite my idea that I should drive, followed by my insistence that I was trying to avoid the mud, and the thought that maybe, after a few minutes of rocking back and forth and flinging mud into the atmosphere, my mouth, face, hair and everything in between, we should, you know, go get the pickup and a rope, Husband and I saved the machine from its muddy, messy grave…by man power (and woman thumb on the throttle) alone.

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Here’s hoping that you had a similarly successful, summery weekend of your own.

Coming Home: Muddy March a sign of bright days ahead
by Jessie Veeder
3-15-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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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

A second with Gus the cow dog.

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

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

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And every minute of his life is chaos.

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Because he never sleeps.

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

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

Gus isn’t really into snuggling.

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

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

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

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It’s pretty traumatic.

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

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

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He looks like a gremlin.

And well, he sorta is…

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

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

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

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

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

If you need us we’ll be out in it…

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