Sunday Column: Haunted

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Another Halloween has come and gone and, although I this year didn’t find me traipsing around to parties dressed as my favorite farm animal, it did get me thinking, for some reason, about the origin of this all.

The art of the spook.

Mysterious things left behind.

And the definition of haunting.

Because out here we’re surrounded by a history that has left behind artifacts for us to contemplate, old abandoned farm houses, out buildings or shacks that many midwesterners have standing on their properties, out in fields or cow pastures, little snippets of stories of who used to live there hanging in the air as dinner table discussion or campfire ghost stories, leaving us to wonder who was here before.

So this week I dug back in my memory to reflect on an old homestead that used to sit up behind the house where I grew up…and all of the things we leave behind….

Screen shot 2015-11-02 at 12.49.51 PMComing Home: Items left behind in abandoned houses create
ghost stories for us country kids
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

It’s a gloomy day, the rain is falling, the sky is gray and the trees are stripped from black branches. It’s Halloween season and all of the sudden I’m reminded of the old house that used to sit up in a grove of trees behind the yard where I grew up.

It’s not so uncommon around here for a family to purchase land from neighbors or inherit an old family homestead, so there aren’t many farmsteads around these parts that didn’t come with an old structure lingering on the property, providing ranch kids with plenty of bedtime ghost story material.

And so it went with the old house that stood tucked back on the other side of the barbed wire fence, against a slope of a hill, surrounded by oak trees and the remnants of Mrs. B’s famous garden. Her hearty lilac bushes, her grove of apple trees, her wild asparagus and rhubarb still thrived in the clearing she made in those trees all those mysterious years ago before the family up and left, leaving that garden untended, the root cellar full and a house seemingly frozen in time.

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“What happened to them?” I would contemplate with my cousins, one of our favorite subjects as our eyes grew heavy, tucked in bunk beds and sleeping bags scattered on the floor, together growing up, together trying to figure out what the passing of time really means and how a story could be left so undone.

Gramma took some old dresses, vintage black smocks with pearl buttons and lace collars, from the small bedroom closet of the old house. We would pull them over our heads to perform pretend wedding ceremonies or attend fancy parties like we saw on our mothers’ soap operas, the fabric smelling like mothballs, dust and old forgotten things.

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But no matter what character you were that day, you couldn’t help but think about who the real woman in those dresses once was.

And who would leave them behind?

So, as it goes with kids, our curiosity outweighed our fear and we went on a mission to collect samples of this family’s life that still existed between those walls.

And while I remember kitchen utensils hanging neatly on hooks, canned beets and potatoes lined up on shelves, the table and chairs sitting in the sunlight against the window, waiting for a neighbor to stop over for coffee, I also remember bedrooms scattered with old newspapers and magazines, the dates revealing the last years of occupancy, the fashion of the season, stories of drought and cattle prices sprawled out among diary entries and old letters, a glimpse into a world that existed long before us kids sifting through the rubble in tennis shoes with neon laces.

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And then I remember the dentures. Or maybe I just remember the story my oldest cousin told about the dentures. It doesn’t matter now who was actually there to witness it, it evolved to belong to everyone. An expedition to the old house, a creak of a cupboard door, a jar full of teeth that nobody noticed before.

“The place is haunted.” That was the consensus, especially when, at the next visit, the unwelcome house guests were greeted at the door by a flurry of bats (or, more likely, a bat or two). Yes, the spirits of that mysterious couple came back to the place. How else could you explain the thriving asparagus plants? The teeth?!

And so that was our story of the old house, a mysteriously fantastic pillar of our childhood adventures and a structure that had to eventually be burned down due to its disintegrating floor joists and general unsafe environment.

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I stood in my snowsuit and beanie and watched the flames engulf the graying wood and shoot up over the tops of the black oak trees and wondered how it all eventually came down to this … a life turned into old forgotten things, turned into ashes, turned into stories.

Maybe that’s the scariest tale of them all.

But each fall the apples in the old woman’s orchard ripen, each spring her lilacs bloom and each year their names come to our lips because of what they left behind, making me wonder if we were right about the haunting thing after all.

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Sunday Column: The good ‘ol fashioned coffee break…


In this time of texting, messaging, emailing, Instagramming, Tweeting, Facebooking, Pinteresting, Parascoping and all of the other digital ways I haven’t learned about yet that allow us to communicate with the entire world with a click of a button, sometimes it just really nice to have a friend that will drive 30 miles out of her way (with soup) for a good ‘ol fashioned visit.
Because of all of the things we might invent to bring us closer, nothing compares to the original–sitting close and hearing each other laugh out loud.

Coming Home: Impromptu visits still important in modern, hectic life

by Jessie Veeder

Forum Communication

Last week, a friend drove from town with her young son and a pot of soup to our house in the middle of nowhere on a mission to have a lunch date.

It was a regular Monday afternoon, and I was working from home. When I work from home, I don’t get things like “lunch dates.”

Because I can’t just pop out to my favorite sandwich place to meet a friend.


Out here, my lunch date is watching the cows walk by the yard on their way to the dam to water as I sit down in front of my computer with a summer sausage sandwich I threw together in haste.

So needless to say, it was nice to have company, a cheerful face with a red-headed toddler in tow to liven up this empty midday house a bit.

It was a simple gesture, one that had us chatting about mommyhood and our growing town, the nice fall weather and the story about how my husband and I got the pickup stuck smack in the middle of a muddy road the night before and had to be pulled out. Because it’s been raining, and this is still a wild and inconveniently unpredictable place sometimes, despite and because of oil industry action.

And this wild place doesn’t typically lend itself to town friends making the long trip out just for a quick visit and a bowl of soup. Usually it’s the other way around, and then when we get to town, we make sure to stop at the bank, get some groceries, grab a piece for the broken water tank at Tractor Supply and generally try to fit in what we can before heading back home.

But my friend’s visit got me thinking about lunch dates and coffee breaks and how we’re spending our suppertime and our downtime. If you look at it all together, those little in-between moments, the pauses in the work and the regular routine, add up to some of the really good (and dare I say best) parts of our lives.

What are we doing with those little moments? Who are we spending them with?

Now, I remember a lot of things about growing up out here — the freedom to roam about and play in the hills, riding horses and chasing cows, big birthday parties and family gatherings — but what holds unexpectedly warm memories for me are the coffee visits.

As a kid, of course, I wasn’t there for the coffee. I would tag along with my parents up the hill to the neighbors’ for a chance to play with my friends on their tire swing before coming in for a glass of Kool-Aid and catching pieces of conversation and laughter coming from the adults sitting around the counter.

From them we learned about humor and gossip and what it sounds like to offer up help, concern and well-intended advice. We learned how to weave a story and get to the punch line, we learned what trust looked like, and we learned that you should keep cookies or bars around, especially on the weekends, in case someone stops by.

And in all of those lessons learned over Kool-Aid and coffee, I can’t help but wonder now, in this fast-paced world I’ve found myself in, did I hold on tight enough to the lesson of simple time spent together? Messy house or clean. Work done or work looming. Who cares if you’re caught in your ugly cleaning sweatpants on a Saturday morning?

I feel like in the hectic schedule we’ve made for ourselves, riddled with deadlines and ranch work and housework, I might have slowly lost the art and importance of the impromptu visit.

With a baby on the way, somehow my friend’s visit, with her toddler and his backpack full of toy cars in tow, reminded me of the importance of doors open, coffee on and simply swinging by, no matter how far down that highway a neighbor is.

Because this busy life we’ve created isn’t just about tasks and goals, but about feeding our souls with a homemade cookie and a little conversation to remind us we’re in it together.

So keep the coffee on, friends, we’re coming over.

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Sunday Column: How ranch people become lake people

Lake Sakakawea Sunset

It’s been hot out there lately. I just pulled my first harvest from the ground in my garden and it got me thinking about the long, hot weekends spent on the ranch when I was a kid.

Back before we had a boat just a couple lawn chairs and a cooler full of pop and juice boxes to lug to the shores of Lake Sakakawea, on days like this my sisters and I would come up with a plan to get a chance to swim in that big lake that was so close to the house (well like 20 mile or so) we could smell them catching fish out there.

At least that ‘s what we’d tell dad in our subtle suggestion that maybe baling hay could wait for the day.

Maybe it was time to hit the lake.

A few weeks ago I met a young girl who said she reads my column in the paper every Sunday. I thanked her for being such a loyal follower and asked her what she would like to read more about.

“Oh, I like the stories about your childhood,” she said.

And so, inspired by her and a recent trip to the lake where we loaded up the coolers, sunflower seeds, summer sausage sandwiches, nephew, sisters, gramma and grampa and headed to the big water on the new pontoon only to hit the water just in time for rain, I decided to write about the simpler days, enjoying the short lived summer on the “beaches” of that big body of water…

Coming Home: When the day’s just right, ranch people become lake people
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications 

It’s hard for ranch people to be lake people.

Between trying to keep the cows in the fences, the hay baled and the lawn mowed, there’s not much time left to spend an afternoon with a fishing pole in one hand, a beer in the other and your feet up on the dash of a fancy boat.

But when you live so close to the biggest lake in the state that you swear you can see it from that hill out east if the sky is clear and you tilt your head just right, it’s pretty hard not to work a few lake days into the schedule.

When I was growing up, a chance at a lake day meant the conditions had to line up just right to make my dreams of jumping off a flat rock on the shore into the cold, deep, murky water of Lake Sakakawea.

First, it had to be Saturday or Sunday, and both my parents needed to be home with plans on doing something that was utterly miserable to accomplish in the blazing 90-degree heat.

Which means that, secondly, it had to be either the month of July or August, and said blazing 90-degree heat had to magically fall on a Saturday or Sunday.

Now, we all know how rare it is that those two circumstances converge, but when they did, we girls needed to be on it. We needed to wake up with the scent of the lake in our nostrils, ready to feel things out and set the plan in motion.

Maybe Dad would come in from working on a broken-down baler, all sweaty and fed up in the already hot midmorning sun. Maybe Mom was in her shorts pulling weeds from the walkway, stopping every so often to put her hands on her hips and shield her eyes.

Maybe the bugs were a little bad out there because the wind wasn’t blowing and it wasn’t quite noon, and so I took the opportunity to walk out and pull a few weeds myself, sure to mention what a great day it would be for a little swim in the lake.

And then maybe we caught Dad in the house splashing water on his face at the kitchen sink so I said something about how I heard that the fish were biting up at McKenzie Bay while my little sister was out digging worms in the garden, and pretty soon the seed was planted. Mom started whipping up summer sausage sandwiches, Dad started hunting for the old tackle box on the garage shelf where he left it the previous July, and my sisters and I packed up our favorite beach towels, pulled on our swimsuits, loaded the lawn chairs in the back of the old pickup, grabbed a bag of sunflower seeds and milled around in the driveway waiting impatiently in the hot sun, but not saying a word as our parents made the slow migration toward the vehicle.

Now, back in the youth of our family, there was no budget for things like boats or Jet Skis, so we didn’t have to fuss with that. No. Our biggest concern was avoiding the potholes on the worn highway, leaving the windows open so we could spit seeds and cool down, and, when that big lake appeared before us in the windshield like an oasis nestled in the hot cliffs of the Badlands, it was our mission to find an acceptable “beach” on those rocky, weedy and muddy shores.

Lake Sakakawea

And for us, “beach” meant that the legs of Mom’s lawn chair didn’t sink in to her butt when she sat down, the poky Canadian thistle didn’t reach all the way to shore and that there was at least an acceptable amount of sand and/or flat rocks where we could throw out our beach towels, make our picnic, stick a fishing pole in the ground, eat our sandwiches and watch the fancy boats and Jet Skis drive by before finding a place to wash the heat, work and worry of the summer off in the waves of a lake that belonged to us for the few sweet, relaxing, fly-bitten hours that we, too, transformed into lake people.

Lake Sakakawea  

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.


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…


Under Pots and Pans

We have a hill that overlooks our house. It’s sort of a landmark on the Veeder Ranch. I’ve written about it before. Pots and Pans. IMG_2008 Every cousin, brother, sister, aunt, uncle or friend of a friend connected to this place has likely taken the hike to the top of this hill to check out the view and see what sorts of treasures are at the top. IMG_2012 See, it’s called Pots and Pans because at some point, somewhere in the 100 year history of this place, someone decided to drag old pots and pans, sifters, ladles, bowls and plates up to the top to sit on the rocks and wait for the occasional adventurous kid to take a hike and play house up there. IMG_2006 My memories of Pots and Pans growing up are a big plan on a hot summer afternoon to take a hike with the cousins. The plan included fanny packs, juice boxes, fruit snacks, scratchy legs, and the inevitable run in with a cactus or a potty break in the grass before maybe, eventually, making it to the top. IMG_2018 Because it was actually a long ways when I look at it now. From the farmhouse by the barn to the top of the hill there is at least almost a mile of treacherous terrain. And when you have short legs it’s quite the feat. IMG_2000 But it was also quite the memory that we all share now. Who would have thought at the time when I was picking cactus from my cousin’s legs that I would have built a house right under that place? Who would have thought that I would get to watch the sun come up in the morning and the moon come up at night every day over Pots and Pans. IMG_2038 At least once a week on my walks I take a trip up there to exercise my legs and see how things are blooming at the Veeder Ranch. IMG_2024 IMG_2022 IMG_2020 IMG_2001 There’s still a pot or two up there and every time I make it to the top I think of my cousins and orange Hi-C juice boxes and what an adventure this place was to us. Unexplored and wild. IMG_2014 I still think that way sometimes when I find myself on an old trail or discover a deer horn dropped in the trees or an elk standing on the top of a hill somewhere. IMG_2034 IMG_2002 IMG_1998 And I think, when my kids are born I’ll have to trek up there with some old pans of my own to continue the tradition and the mystery so that they might take their cousins and their fanny packs up to the top someday to acquire a cactus and a memory or two… I mean, I’ve set it up perfectly for them…the walk is much shorter from here :) IMG_2013

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Sunday Column: Summers that can change your life


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.

trollwood friends

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
Forum Communications

Sunday Column: The hunt

Deer on horizonWhen I was growing up, Pops would take us hunting out in these hills surrounding the house and the barnyard. He grew up out here, scouting and sneaking and watching the animals and how they move through the valley. He’s never lost his fascination and appreciation for the way they can survive and thrive out here, even in the middle of the harshest winters.

Deer tracks

He studies them, their patterns, how the big buck spends his days bedded down in the bull berries, where the group of does and fawns water in the morning. He taught us how to tell the difference between a whitetail and a mule deer.

He made sure to note the direction of the wind and why it mattered.

He geared us up with blaze orange and we went sneaking over the hill, crawling on our bellies.

He packed jerky in his pockets. Coffee in a thermos in the pickup.

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When the time was right, he taught us to shoot. When we were old enough we took hunter’s safety through our shop courses in school and we went out and took our own animal. He mounted the horns for us. He was proud.

Pops remembers every deer taken on this place. Where we were. Who was with him. How cold it was.

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He keeps a book of photos from the hunts, dating back to when he was a young man, hunting with his uncles, with his dad, with his young kids and now with grown daughters and the man I married.

Deer Hunting

When my uncle was here a few weeks back, I went out with Husband on a bow hunt in the east pasture before the snow fell. We all paired off, two hunters in each corner of the place. I followed along and couldn’t help but think of all the stories swapped around the kitchen table the evening before. The memories attached to all of these trails, all of these hilltops, all of the breath held in the wind out here is not so much about the animal taken, although it’s never taken for granted, but more about the time spent together in the quiet of  a place so special to us.

Here’s one of my favorite memories…

Coming Home: Cold winter memories warm the heart
by Jessie Veeder
Fargo Forum/Forum Communications


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
by Jessie Veeder

Leotards, fuzzy ponytails and long-winded stories…

Ok, there was a time in my life when I wore nothing but leotards.

There, I said it.

I needed to make this confession today.

Purple leotards with pink tights. Pink leotards with purple tights. Short sleeves, polyester, spandex blends stretched tight over my belly, squishing the baby fat desperate to escape the confines of the fabric out  the seams and topping the whole thing off with leg warmers, velcro shoes and a fuzzy ponytail.

I was a sight to behold, a wild-child, a weird kid who had no explanation really for her choice in every day attire except, I can imagine, simply that today, I wanted to wear my leotard.

And tomorrow, I want to wear it again.


Maybe it was because my mom was a dancer and an aerobics instructor and I had seen the woman, long and lean and graceful, rocking her own Jane Fonda attire while she lead a class to the tune of the Flash Dance soundtrack.

Or maybe it was because my big sister was a ballerina. A tiny, delicate ballerina who wore beautiful sparkly tutus and toe shoes and twirled and jumped and leapt elegantly across the stage under the lights.

Or maybe I just liked the free movement spandex provided while I drug my blankie through the grass on my way to the sandbox in my grandmother’s back yard.

I’m not sure, because I was too young at the time of my leotard obsession to hold on to the reasoning so that I might go back in adulthood and analyze it. But I’ll tell you this, even though I was only three or four years old, it was pretty clear I was inheriting none of that grace and elegance thing. But it didn’t matter to me. In my mind I was something. In my mind I was leaping and twirling right alongside my big sister on that big stage. In my mind I was Jane Fonda.

Of course I was also digging in the dirt, popping heads off of dandelions, peddling my trike towards gramma’s, making mud soup, bossing around the neighborhood boys, singing Sunday school songs at the top of my lungs, making up the words as I went along and hunting and tracking ladybugs in the short grass.

All in my trusty leotard.

Can you imagine the looks on my grandparents’ faces when my parents brought their girls over for Easter dinner, their oldest in perfect pastels and frills and the youngest traipsing around the egg hunt looking like Jazzercise personified? That was a cute family picture.

Country CousinsCan you imagine what my parents thought when their three or four year old woke up one day and declared it was time to put on her leotard, obliging, I’m sure, because I put up a fight, or maybe, because they were always free thinking supervisors and probably didn’t see the harm in a day in a spandex. But that day turned into another day and on to the next, and, well, you know the rest…

Anyway, eventually I moved on. Probably to my Wonder Woman costume, but that’s another story. I bring this phase of my life up today only because I was reminded of it by my Texas cousin last week via a Facebook post about her daughter.

It looked like this.

“A insists on wearing her leotard every day now. You went thru this too, right?:)”

A 2

To which I replied something like: “Yes, and I hope this similarity doesn’t worry you…”

Now, my cousin M and I were born a month apart and spent our childhood dressing alike (after my leotard phase) and trying to convince the world we were twins. It made sense to me, I wanted to be just like her, and still do.  She’s beautiful and sweet and funny and always pulled together.

She was a perfect long french braid. I was a fuzzy ponytail with plastic barrettes keeping the flyways at bay.

She was a Christmas dress. I was an oversized holiday themed puffy paint sweatshirt with stirrup pants.

She was flute playing pretty notes. I was a guitar playing some weird song I just made up…

She is a math teacher. I’m a long winded-story…

And we get along perfectly.

Then along came baby A…

Baby A, who’s not really a baby anymore because she insists on riding her pony Pearl all by herself, and yes, Uncle G, she can let the cats out of the barn whenever she wants.

Baby A who sprays herself in the face with a garden hose and thinks it’s a riot so she does it again and again.

Baby A who has her own guitar and uses it to accompany herself as she sings long songs at the top of her lungs about girls riding horses through the trees.

Baby A who’s hair escapes that golden brown ponytail and fuzzes just right.

Baby A who is just stubborn enough to convince her mother every day that she should wear a leotard.


I looked at the photo, me here between the buttes of our North Dakota home and my Cousin M under the warm sun of Texas, and I wondered if the miles don’t matter as much as we think they do.

That there are pieces of us in our family that surface and resurface throughout our lives, showing up in our children and their children’s children in a familiar laugh, a crooked smile, a skin tone or a shape of a nose.


Looking at Baby A standing so confidently in her plastic high heels and pink leotard miles and miles away but so close to my heart, I can’t help but think that maybe an affinity for leotards just runs purple and pink somewhere in our blood, alongside the place where we keep fuzzy ponytails and long-winded stories…

And to that I say, oh, Baby A, I’m so happy there’s someone else out there who understands…

Sunday Column: On the little yellow boat…

April did us a favor and, after bringing us a little spring storm, it warmed up nicely this weekend. 50 degrees uncovered all sorts of treasures for us, mostly mud and things stuck in mud…like dog poop, leftover construction materials and the Christmas tree that made it out the door, but not quite to the garbage pit.

We set out then in that spring air to do some tidying. When the weather warms up I get crazy. I want to do everything that I haven’t been able to do (because of the seven months of snow and subzero temperatures) all in one day.

I want to till up the garden spot. I want to plant grass seeds. I want to finish the garage. I want to ride all eight horses. I want to buy baby chicks from Tractor Supply. I want to roll up my pants and wade in the creek. I want to fix the barn. I want to start our landscaping project. I want to work on my tan. I want to go swimming. I want to make margaritas and grill burgers and have a deck party.

I want to buy a boat…

I think brown dog has the same idea…

Yes, a few days of warm weather will get the plans rolling. And the smell of the thaw, the sound of the water, the blue sky and sun and things uncovered by melting snow had me poking around the place, in search of projects, things I could accomplish.

And in my search I stumbled upon one of the ranch’s most unique relics. Sitting next to the shop covered loosely by a blue tarp and snow turned to ice water is Husband’s yellow boat, the one he brought with us to the ranch when we were first married. The one he built with his dad during the long winter nights when we were all just trying to make it out of high school alive.

The one he took me out in, to go fishing down in Bear Den, a little unknown nook of Lake Sakakawea a few miles from the ranch. The tiny hand-made boat where we sat back to back and trolled the shore, with nothing but sun-seeds, a couple beers and worms in our cooler.

And when the sun started sinking down below those buttes that surrounded the lake, it was that boat that got us stuck. Stuck in mud up to the floorboards of Husband’s little Dodge.

And there we sat. The little pickup connected to the little boat, stuck in the bottom of a badlands canyon, a new husband scratching his head and a wife in flip-flops clawing her way up the steep, cactus ridden banks that held them on a prayer that maybe her cell phone might find enough signal to call Pops to come and rescue them.

Pops, who had no idea where they went in the first place.

Pops, who wasn’t home, but got the message an hour or so later..

“Dad…*scratch scratch*…stuck….*static static*….Bear Den…*crackle crackle*…”

When I think spring I think of that fishing trip with my husband. When I think of that fishing trip, I think of that boat. When I think of that boat I think about mud and dads and how they have so many ways of saving us…

So I wrote this.

Coming Home: Little yellow boat never meant for fishing
(I’m having trouble with my hyperlinks,
please click URL below to read the column)
by Jessie Veeder

Happy thaw out. May this season bring mud and good memories….