Sunday Column: Thousands of miles away…


January is a tough month for us here in North Dakota. It’s smack in the middle of winter. It’s generally the coldest, the days are the shortest and the holidays are behind us…ahead of us? More winter.

To combat the January blues this year we decided to to break free before the New Year and ring it in somewhere warmer, somewhere that didn’t look anything like the rolling, white and brown ice colored hills and bare trees of the winter landscape at home.

So we packed up our swimming suits and our vacation hats, gathered our friends and headed to Mexico.

On a real vacation. One that wasn’t attached to some sort of work I had to do. (Which is typically the types of vacations Husband and I do).

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I told you about it a bit, I showed you the juxtaposition of it all in a slideshow of contrasting photos of bare skin and snowsuits.

But there was more to say about it I think. More to say about a chance to break free for a moment…

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It’s funny how a few days in a world so different, so far away from our own, sort of pulls you out of place, your own place, sweeps you off your feet, widens your eyes and lets down your hair.

But it wasn’t long before I started wondering what it might be like to really live there, on a place that touches the ocean. A place where cactuses stretch their arms to the sky and the wind blows sea salt and sand up on the shore, a place with sea fisherman instead of oil men.

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Who would I be here in this sand, under this sun? What would I love?

What would I do?

Coming Home: Finding yourself thousands of miles from home
Jessie Veeder
1-18-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

This week I’m back in Nashville, working on finishing up the new album. I’ll spend my days listening to instruments–dobros and guitars, fiddles and harmonies, fill up the spaces in my songs, songs about work and worry and love and landscape.

Songs about horses and home.

And I will sing and sing and sing to get every word right.

That’s the work I’ll do this week, hundreds and hundreds of miles from the buttes and the place that raised me…and I am so grateful for it.

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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We’re not in Cabo anymore…

We’re not in Cabo anymore.

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Nope.

photo 2We’re home.

Home to the great white and frickin’ frozen north.

You know what that weather report up there doesn’t say? It doesn’t say that the wind is blowing 50 MPH, making the air feel like it’s actually -30.

Which would mean when I got on the plane in Cabo on Tuesday morning and landed in Bismarck, North Dakota on Tuesday night, my body was asked to deal with a nearly 100 degree temperature difference.

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CABO!

NOT Cabo.

I can’t help but feel the shock of the juxtaposition that was the result of a couple plane rides …

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CABO!

NOT Cabo.

But oh, we had a nice trip. We wore vacation hats.

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We got some sun our our pasty white skin. We played beach volleyball and drank ridiculous drinks,

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we swam in the ocean,

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and rang in the new year in a blur of tequila and club music.

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And while we were doing those things, the wind was whipping in a cold front up north, as it tends to do in January.

But you know what they do in January in Cabo? They ride horses in shorts and bare feet on the beach.

Yup.

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CABO HORSES.

NOT Cabo horses.

Dammit, it’s cold here. No more vacation hats for us.

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Beach Couple

Arctic Tundra Couple

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White Sandy Shoreline  

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Just a white line

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Cabo Husband.

Freezing Husband.

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Cabo couple

Umm,  no…
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Cabo Cactus

Not a Cabo Cactus 

IMG_403380 degrees and sunny sisters

30 below zero and windy sisters

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Vacation feet.  

Not on vacation anymore feet

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Warm weather pet

Jessie and Dogs

A more snuggly version

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A beachy drink

coffee

A blizzard-y drink

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A walk on the beach

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Ah, son of a beettchh…

And that’s it. No, we’re not in Cabo anymore boys and girls…

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But we’re not beach people really.

We’re pale and pasty northerners with a large collection of wool socks. And we’re home.

And no matter what the sky is doing in Mexico, or Jamaica, or Sunny California,  it’s always good to be here.

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Frosting

Last week our world was covered in ice.
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This week, just in time for Christmas, it has turned nice and white (and rather slippery).

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The beautiful thing about this place and its erratic weather is that every day it looks a little bit different out there.

Every day it’s a little bit new.

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So I like to explore it. And when the new pup is involved in my little quest, it’s even more fun.

He’s just a ball of energy jumping around, licking the snow, biting the heads off of weeds and bouncing his way around, discovering his world.

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So take a break from what is hopefully your last working day before Christmas, sit back and watch my home transform from icy brown to white.

Because who doesn’t love a little frosting, especially on the holidays.

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Peace, Love and Merry Christmas,

Jessie

Sunday Column: Our songs.

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It’s a nostalgic time of year. The Christmas tree is up and families are making plans to get together. I’m working on cleaning up the kitchen after a cookie decorating party that almost didn’t happen if it weren’t for Betty Crocker and my mother.

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And I’m thinking about the music as we move into the new year.

Songs that were written as my dad recovered. Songs that were written on the backs of horses in the spring, during a rain storm with the windows open in our house and the morning after a late night playing with the band.
Songs about settling into a lifetime love. Songs about promises and shoveling dirt and making it all work when I was sure it couldn’t possibly happen.
Songs about the world getting smaller.
Songs about home.
After the new year I will take another trip to Nashville, and then maybe another, and then plans will be made to get these songs out into the world. The work has just begun on this project. I have taken my music across the country before, but there was something sort of surreal about packing new and unheard words with me, carrying them up over the clouds and putting them down, recreating them in a place where music seems to ring from the windows of every building, when the music I make was taken from these hills and small town streets.
It’s always been this way. This place has been inspiring me since I wrote poems about the frogs I would catch in the crick below the house.
And as got older I wondered if maybe I should try something a little more catchy. A little simpler. Maybe a song about drinking beer while dangling my feet off the back of a pickup bed.
The subject matter seems to be popular these days.
And it’s not like I’ve never drank a beer while sitting on a tailgate. But isn’t there more to say about that? About the person sitting next to us? About the ground we’re drinking on?
About what it feels like to be 18 and then 21 and then 31 and so scared and so free at the same time?
Isn’t there a place for a song about the hot sticky calm before a rain that brings the men in from the fields?
I think so. I want to listen to those songs. And so I try to write them.
When I got home from my first trip to Nashville the music around me became apparent again, somehow just ringing louder in my ears. Maybe being away for a minute is a little inspiring in itself. Seeing Music City reminded me of what a weird and challenging little life I’ve set up for myself living out here as far away from any coast or city center as I can get,  making my way as a singer and writer in such a practical environment, where a real job makes so much more sense.

Except don’t we need songs out here too? Songs about us? Isn’t that old country church that closed its doors years ago worth commemorating? Isn’t the story of the man in the bar who looked at me and lamented the loss of his high school love worth telling?
Isn’t this place just the right combination of romantic and heart wrenching, hopeful and unforgiving? What about the lines created on the faces of our grandparents earned through a life of work and worry, that in this day in age, we’d know nothing about if we weren’t told?

I’ve always just wanted to tell it.

Coming Home: Singing about home from a recording studio on Music City
by Jessie Veeder
12-21-14
Forum Communications

The Christmas Tree Plan

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This is what -2 with a -100 wind chill looks like.

Don’t let the sunshine fool you.

And so the scene is set…

Ahem…

‘Twas the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and one of the last free weekends Husband and I have in December to spend traipsing around our countryside on the hunt for a tree.

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So it didn’t matter that our blood could freeze right there in our veins, or that our eyeballs could turn to ice cubes, our snot into icicles dangling from on our nostrils. It didn’t matter that our very lives were in danger of being taken by Jack Frost himself, we were gonna get my darn tree.

We were gonna put on 37 layers of clothes, load up in the new/old feed pickup,

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turn off of the gravel and onto the dirt/compacted snow/ice trail, drive really slow and discuss our options while looking out the window.

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We were going to spot a couple potential spruce bushes relatively close to one another on the side of the buttes, park the pickup, avoid a puppy-cicle and leave Gus inside, grab the saw from the back, trudge up the hill to the first option

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and mumble into our scarves with our eyes half open (you know, to avoid the whole icicle thing) about the potential of a tree that is a 10-foot tall version of Charlie Brown’s, but has possibilities really, because, well, it’s here and we might freeze to death if we stay out much longer weighing our options.

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But then we’re going to decide to risk it, spot another tree down the hill, walk over to discover it’s the same size as the one in Rockefeller Center and consider the possibility of building an addition to accommodate, because, well, there’s that whole freezing to death thing we’ll still be dealing with before I will turn my face toward the sun to discover one last option blowing in the wind among thorn bushes a quarter mile away.

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So I’ll decide we’ll never feel our legs again anyway and we might very well lose our noses to frostbite, but we might as well assess the bushy little tree, decide it’s not so bad, decide it will work just fine before Husband will stomp down the thorn bushes and start after the trunk with his battery-operated saw with a battery that lasts approximately 3 seconds at a time, you know, apparently death-defying cold applies to power tools too…

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And we are going to finally get the thing down after one big push, drag it to the the pickup a half a mile away,

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decide we might be dying, throw the tree on the flatbed, open the doors, get back inside the pickup, crank up the heat, blow our noses that will be miraculously still attached to our faces, and head back down the road toward home.

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Then we are going to get one mile from home and Husband is going to stop the pickup in the middle of the road, get out, run to the ditch and drag the tree back on the flatbed.

And when we arrive at home, we are going to put the tree in the basement to thaw out, I’m going to say goodbye to Husband who is crazy enough to put on one more layer and sit out in his hunting blind for the rest of the day, then I will pour myself a cup of coffee, consider adding whiskey, make plans for an evening decorating mission, because it will take me a good three to five hours to feel my fingers again and call it a Merry Merry Christmas.

That’s the plan.

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Fa-la-la-la-lahhh-la-la-la-laaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!

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.

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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
11-30-14
Fargo Forum/Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

deer

Sunday Column: Winter and heavy whipping cream…

IMG_9739Out here, in this season, snow comes and goes quickly. We froze our butts off early last week, only to be welcomed by a thaw at the end of it, followed by 30 mph winds that blew the snow sideways on Sunday.

Coincidently this is also the day we chose to clean out the shop and our basement, sending me winging boxes of unusable crap into the garbage pit only to have it all fly back into my face…like three of four times…before I decided to approach the whole chore from the opposite direction. You know, wind at my back…always the right choice.

A choice made after almost the entire contents in the back of the pickup blew out across the prairie on my way to the dump, sending me flailing after it.

A choice made after the old pickup without a parking brake nearly rolled into said garbage pit while my back was turned, you know, flinging things.

Winter. Some days you’re such a bitch.

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Oh, but we have ways of coping around here.

Because when the season of snow-pelting-you-so-hard-in-the-eyeballs-they-threaten-to- freeze-shut is upon us, we strip off our forty-seven layers and head to the kitchen to whip up something warm, preferably with noodles and heavy whipping cream.

Yes, if we have to have winter, at least we have heavy whipping cream to get us through.

IMG_9779So that’s what this week’s column is about. It’s about the recipes Husband and I concoct in our little kitchen to pass the time on long winter nights.

Coming Home: Bring on the heavy cream, butter and winter weather
by Jessie Veeder
11-23-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

IMG_2906And I realize that the holiday season is just starting, and we have a trip to Cabo in the works to help ring in the new year, so really, I should just take it easy and have a salad for gawd sake, but for some reason the thought of squeezing my pasty white squishy body in a bathing suit in a month or so is not scary enough to keep me from a second helping of Husband’s famous cream noodles.

Yes. You read it up there. Homemade noodles fried and smothered in cream.

There’s that. And then there’s the two giant pots of knoephla soup mom and I cooked up for the crew of hunters/family this weekend. And yes, it was me who convinced her to add another pot.

Because you can’t have enough creamy soup. You can’t have too much! You can always save it and have it for lunch every day until Christmas!

Want to see how it’s done? I show ya here:
Cowboy Cooks Knoephla

And don’t even get me started on the traditional holiday cheese ball I’ll be concocting on Thursday…

Or the fact that all I want for breakfast for the rest of my life is a caramel roll followed by a donut washed down with seven cups of coffee.

Because it’s winter and I’m ssstttaarrrvvinnnggg.

It’s winter and my primal instincts are kicking in.

“Stock up, stock up, stock up…” they whisper. “You don’t know where your next meal is coming from.”

And I believe the voices. Even though I do.

I do know where my next meal is coming from.

It’s coming from my refrigerator and from the imagination of the man with deep German immigrant roots who can make anything with enough butter, flour, cream, potatoes and a side of pork.

Ugh, I’m so hungry. I can’t wait until 6:00.

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A Girl Needs a Dog: Music Video Submissions

One of my favorite parts about making and performing music is meeting the people who have found they can relate to the songs I write. I’ve been performing out and about in support of my last album “Nothing’s Forever” since it’s release in 2012.

Since then I’ve hosted CD release parties, been hired as the opening act for big names, have been the main event myself, joined up with another band of great musicians, sat around campfires and house parties, performed at bars, major events, and festivals surrounded by so much intimidating talent it made my heart beat out of my chest and,

of course, met hundreds of wonderful people along the way who take the time to tell me that they can relate…

To the songs about rural living. To the cowboys in the music. To leaving the light on for the people they love. To the weather so cold it freezes your bones. To the loneliness for a familiar place. To being so happy you have to sing it louder.

To their story told in Boomtown.

And then, my favorite, your response to A Girl Needs a Dog.

What was a fun, catchy song that almost didn’t make it on the album surprisingly turned into an anthem for the women out there listening and singing along, thinking about all the times that dog of hers was the only one who got it.

The only one who understood when there were no words.

Me and the dog in the grassThe one who comes with her to clear her head on a walk through the trees. An every day companion.

PudgeThe most loyal. The most sincere. One of her favorite things about this life, even when he poops on her rug or chews her favorite pair of boots or tears through the kitchen screen door in a thunderstorm.

IMG_8585 With each show, after talking to the crowd and watching you sing along,  I understood more and more that this song needed to be written. It was a story that hadn’t really been told yet. A simple one, but apparently, an experience many of us share.

A girl needs a dog in times like these
Some hope and a plan
Clarity
A girl needs a bike or her own car keys
A girl needs a dog
A girl needs a dog

You showed me photos of your pets, sent me emails with stories about how the two of you found each other. There were labs and shitzus, mutts, poodles, an array of cow dogs, dozens of pugs and even one missing an eye like my lost but not forgotten Chug the Pug.

ChugYou told me about your daughter and how she begged for a puppy. You sent the song on to your nieces and granddaughters. Your sister who brings her Chihuahua everywhere.

What a thing to come together in the name of a song about a dog.

Dog in the stock tank But as much as this song is about our furry companions, it was written as an anthem to a girl finding her independence and being comfortable and strong in it. And sometimes, when you’re unsure about it all, that dog helps hold us up a little.

That’s what I think anyway.

Turns out, that’s what you think too.

Anyway, in a few weeks I’m heading to Nashville to record another album. Since the release of “Nothing’s Forever”, I’ve been writing and re-writing and putting new songs together, songs that will mark a different time here in this place that I love, a place that’s changing every day, but still so much a piece of me.

There will be stories in these songs about loss and hope, love and home and work and the rain pouring down on a hot summer day.

But before I move on to the next project, I want to finish this one. I need to make “A Girl Needs a Dog” come to life.

IMG_8905 So here’s the plan. I need your help. I want to see you with your pooch in action and I want to feature you in a video for the song. You know your dog is the best, so why not show her off?!

So here’s the task my loyal listeners with loyal canine companions. Send a video clip (video is preferred) or photo of you and your dog (or your sister and her dog, or your wife and her dog, or your daughter and her dog…you get the point) working, playing, getting into trouble or just hanging out to jessieveeder@gmail.com and I will feature them in a music video for “A Girl Needs a Dog.” 

To thank you for your help in this effort, the first fifteen women who shares her video/photo will receive a free “A Girl Needs a Dog” t-shirt featuring a sketch of the beautiful one-eyed pug. Simply include your address and size in the email (M, L, XL, 2XL)

The rest of you will receive a free track of the song as a thanks for sharing, and of course, world wide fame for you and your beloved pooch in the video.

Thank you for helping to make this song come to life and for celebrating and taking such good care of all of those awesome dogs out there.

I’m sure they’re so happy to be taking care of you too.

I can’t wait to see you all on the big screen.

Peace and puppy love,

Jessie, Hondo and Gus

Jessie and Dogs