Colder.

IMG_9959It’s cold.

10 degrees and it looks like that’s where it’s gonna stay. All day. The rest of the week.

I wanna snuggle up in a big ‘ol pile with this kitten and all my blankets.

IMG_9944It’s funny how fast the seasons shift around here. I’ve lived here long enough to expect it, but just a few days ago it was sunny and mild and the hilltops were gold and we were walking around saying, “What a beautiful fall we’ve been having!” “Aren’t we lucky!”

IMG_1218And then, overnight…

IMG_0155Below zero temperatures. Icy roads, people trying to remember where they put their favorite scarf. Hat. Mittens.

IMG_0160I hauled the giant tub of winter gear upstairs to sort through. Ordered a new pair of snow boots.  

Took the dogs for a walk.

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Turned around after five minutes and went back inside.

Shit. It’s cold.

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I’m not ready for this.

The dam is froze up. Ranchers are breaking ice and feeding hay.

IMG_9961I am making plans for soup for dinner every night for the next six months.

I even went to craft club and attempted to make mittens out of an old sweater.

I hadn’t used a sewing machine since I nearly failed Home Ec. in the 8th grade. This time it didn’t go much better.

I required assistance. A lot of assistance. And the mittens, well, one is done. Sorta. I might need to call Martha Stewart…and pour a drink…

Winter

But these are the things people out here do in the winter. They have hobbies. Or create new ones that will help them pass the time in the dark and cold that settles in here around 5 pm and lingers until the morning. And some might pour a little bourbon in a glass, you know, to thaw out a bit…

If the cold and the white on the plains were as inspiring to as many people as the waves in the ocean hitting the shore, or the tall pines of the mountains reaching toward the sky, we would have thousands of poets and painters here telling the story of a frozen world.

Old shack in winter

But the cold settling in on the plains is a beauty recognized by the characters out here who  can’t help but marvel at extremes. They appreciate what cold does to the body and the soul, makes it slow down, recharge, toughen up and soften up at the same time.

We take pride in the taking care of things, the animals, the driveway, one another.

We laugh at things like frozen eyeballs, snot-sicles and relocated southerners who think 20 degrees is as cold as it gets.

It is cold. But it will get colder.

My Lord, will it get colder.

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It Came In With The Night
Go find your mittens
so your fingers don’t freeze
slip on your big boots
pull your socks to your knees

Dig out your best scarf
wrap it round yourself tight
the snow has arrived here

it came in with the night.

I’ll put the roast in the oven
and heat the milk on the stove
they’ll be right here waiting
when you come in from the cold

Knocking ice from the branches
and stringing Christmas tree lights
yes the snow has arrived dear

it came in with the night.

So squeeze on your knit cap
over wild wooly hair
watch your breath float and drift
in the crisp morning air

Break the ice for the cattle
put the saddles away
yes the snow has arrived here

and I think it might stay.

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Puppy + Kitty

So this was basically my day…
IMG_2708IMG_8565IMG_8575IMG_8571IMG_8596IMG_8597IMG_8591IMG_8587 IMG_8608IMG_8615IMG_8624All I have to say right now is that getting a tiny puppy and a tiny kitten at the same time is a great idea in theory (you know, best friends forever and all that shit) until said puppy runs out to the living room with two cat turds dangling from his mouth.

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Annnndddd…..goodnight…

Sunday Column: The epidemic

Before I get into “the situation” we have out here on the ranch, there’s this.

IMG_7973 IMG_8007 IMG_7938 IMG_7949 IMG_7975Augustus, aka: Gus, the Most Extraordinary Cowdog, came home yesterday and now all I want to do is run around the ranch so he can chase me. And then I want to snuggle him and smell his puppy breath, feed him treats and take him with me everywhere I go.

You can bet there’ll be more on him later, but I can’t get too distracted here. We’ve got big problems at the ranch, and it seems, they’re showing up by the thousands, chewing and squeaking and scampering their way to destroying our lives. They show up in feed buckets, in grain bins, on pant legs and saddle blankets, on the shelf of the tack room, in my future brother-in-law’s nice clean pickup, in the Bobcat, and of course, clinging to the windshield of Pops’ pickup on his way to town…

mice

I tell you all about it here.

Coming Home: An epidemic has hit the Veeder Ranch and it’s coming for you
by Jessie Veeder
10-26-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

But try not to panic. It turns out I have some great readers. And one of them sent me an idea for a solution.

It’s called “Mouse-be-Gone” and I’m ordering seventy-three crates this afternoon.

And then I’m going into town to get this kitten,

Kitten

which I intend on putting through a rigorous mouse-hunting training session.

So I’m on it.

Because if I’m going to have an animal farm, I would like to have control of which animals I’m farming…

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Anyway, I’m sure the puppy and the kitten, they’re going to be great friends.

Peace, love and puppy breath.

Jessie

Season Change. Sunrise.

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“I wonder how many sunrise and sunset photos I’ve taken since we moved back to the ranch?” I asked my husband as I threw on my robe this morning and rushed downstairs for my camera.

The first thing I do when I open my eyes in the morning is to turn around and look out the window at the horizon, hoping for a show, hoping for a nice day or rain or snow or whatever it is I want from the sky, as if the sky ever cared about our personal wishes.

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“Thousands,” Husband replied as he poured a cup of coffee.

“I wonder if any of them look the same,” I asked out loud, knowing the answer. Knowing that sunrises and sunsets are like snowflakes.

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It’s the time of year when everything is starting to lose its color. Most of the leaves on the trees have dried up and turned brown, the other half, the oaks, for some reason this year are hanging on to a dull green, dropping their acorns and refusing to turn.

I can relate…

For the next seven months, a glowing sunrise and a pink sunset will be a welcome pop of color on a barren white landscape and I will find myself pulling on my big boots and rushing out to the tops of hills to stand under it, willing the color, the warmth, to absorb into my skin and warm me up.

Yes, it’s that time of year where we panic a bit, rushing to get the things done that we promised ourselves we would tackle in July, but then there was that concert and then the lake and then the party on the deck with the margaritas…

Now we have fences to build, garages to clean, boats and campers that didn’t really get used as much as intended to pack up and winterize. Soon the calves will be weaned and the horses will put on their long, scruffy coats.

Which reminds me, I have to find my hats and gloves. Dig out my sweaters.

Because the snow could come any day now. The sky could cloud up, the wind could blow just right, and then it will be too late for things like grilling burgers drilling holes into the ground for fence posts. Because the ground will be frozen solid, shut down and dormant with the frogs and the flies and snakes and the squirmy things that only come out with the sun.

Some days I feel that way. Like I should hole up under the earth like a frog, find a spot in a tree somewhere like those frantic squirrels hoarding all those acorns and squawking in the trees outside my window in the morning when I wake up to look at the sky and will the sun to shine….

So off you go, Pug…

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

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

Because a few months ago, the pug went missing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Sale.

He was sold.

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

The pug was a way to take the edge off.

And he did.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I cried and worried and wondered where she could be

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

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

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

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

He hasn’t come home yet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pug and Kitten

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

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

So off you go…

Another year…

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

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

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

“Tiling the bathroom upstairs,” he replied.

“Shut your face,” I said.

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

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

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

Wedding Tree

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

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

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

Most things anyway.

House

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

Then the cat saw it, then it was gone.

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

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

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

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

But aren’t we lucky to have choices…

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

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

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

Just like that ice cream cone.

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

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

Who would you be with?

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

He says the right things.

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

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

I’m glad we’ve got each other.

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

Glad that we get another year…

A day in the life…

And now for a day in the life of a woman who refuses to get a real, regular job and insists on taking on new activities as part of her “business plan” so she has time to take off singing, or photographing something or chasing a cow on a whim. 

Monday night, get home late from a random job shooting photos of a truck in the badlands. Husband gets home from a fireman meeting. 11 pm.  Says cows are out on the road. Call Pops, we’ll deal with it in the morning…

Tuesday morning, wake up girl, you’ve got a column to write, an interview today to meet a quick deadline and a trip to the big town to practice with the band tonight. Squeeze Husband goodbye and tell him to call if he sees the cows. I’ll go get them, you think in your early morning delusions…

But first, coffee. Ignore the dishes. I’ve heard they start doing themselves when left long enough.

Walk to the office. Clear off a spot on the desk for coffee cup. Check a few of those emails, but then get distracted by the photos of big horns I took in the badlands yesterday when I was supposed to be out scouting for places to take photos of oil trucks.

Yes. Look at these beauties…click…click…I should post these on the blog…

Phone rings. Husband says no cows in sight on the road. Decide to wait for the boys to come home to find cows. Decide it’s time to get to that column…

Stare at a blank screen for three to thirty minutes, I can’t be sure…somehow find myself watching a funny cat video on YouTube…

Focus Girl!

Type type type some musing about those damn burdock plants that will not die in our yard and how I think Husband might actually go crazy if he doesn’t get the garage doors on fast enough to prevent more barn swallows building nests and shitting on my car…then wonder how those black flies keep getting in the house…wonder if life would just be easier if we lived beside a sidewalk beside a lawn that was planted and groomable…

 

Wonder why I spent all that time trying to mow down the wild clover with Pops’ one bladed mower in our un-landscaped lawn last week only to come home the next day to Husband’s ambitious earth-moving, landscaping project turning up the freshly-mowed earth. We should really talk more…

Seems like an earth-shattering piece of journalism here…

Say “Shit” because it’s already noon and I have to tame my hair and get out the door in 15 minutes for an interview down the road about 30 miles. Run upstairs, decide hair is untamable, put it in a ponytail, brush teeth, deodorant, grab camera, pen, paper, check dog and cat bowl for proper levels of food on my way out the door…

Turn on radio, open windows, cruise down the gravel road with dust flying…wait. Cows. Those are our cows. Great…pull over so I can get a closer look…curse my flippy floppies as I trudge through poky grass …yup, those are ours. Call Husband. Let him know I’ve found the cows. Talk about when he’ll be home to help me…

Get back in car. Call interviewee to tell her I’m running late. Get to appointment, have a nice chat, stop for gas and a bag of Cheetos because I forgot to eat lunch.

Point car back toward home. Decide Cheetos are a terrible choice for lunch. Drive by where cows used to be and fail to see any cows. Decide to wait for the boys to come home.

Arrive at home. Start writing story. Respond to text saying Little Sister is at the barn scouting out wedding sites. Say I have to wait for a phone call but I’ll meet her down there.

Get phone call to tell me my phone call is cancelled. It’s now 4:00. Cool. I think I have time to catch horses and get cows in before I have to head to the big town to practice at 7. Get on 4-wheeler. Hope it starts. Call Husband to remind me how to put the damn thing in reverse. I can never remember. I should make a note and tape it to the seat.

Head down to the barn and say hi to Little Sister. Convince her to help me catch the horses. I swear I just saw them on the side hill. She can hold the grain bucket while I drive. It will take three minutes.

30 minutes, three Little Sister screams concerning the safety of her life on the back of the 4-wheeler, 3,000 horsefly bites and countless cuss words from yours-truly later, still no horses in site.

Go up one more hill…shit…4-wheeler is acting up again…it’s powering down…didn’t the boys change the fuel filter? Nothing? Sister squeal. Dammit. Shit. Dammit. Shit…

See if we can get the thing home…come on you piece of crap…

Make it through the gate to the big corral and that’s it. 4-Wheeler stall. Little Sister departs. I cuss and get in the pickup with the grain bucket. The horses must be in the trees. Text Husband.

Damn Horses. Damn 4-wheeler.

Husband calls. He’ll be home in 10 minutes. Make a goal to have horses in in 10 minutes. Drive old pickup around the corner. Spot the paint in the trees. Awesome. Yell “Come on Boys!” out the window of the pickup where I  am dangling a grain bucket. Horses come running.

Finally.

Get them in the round pen. Wonder why the easiest ones to catch are the ones we don’t want to ride. Give them a bite of grain (because I’m not a tease) and catch the two bays. Brush. Fly Spray. Saddle up.

5:30 PM.

Shit. I have to leave here in an hour.

Decide to trailer to the cows. Hold horses while Husband gets the pickup hooked up the trailer. Think that he’s moving sort of slow for someone who’s wife is in a hurry. Tap my toe. Hold my tongue.

Finally.

Load up the horses. Follow him in the pickup so I have a quicker way home if things go south.

Drive down the gravel road, spot a cow and a calf. Pull over. Wave to Husband who pulls in.

6:00 PM

Unload the horses, swing on and head for the cow who has magically disappeared. Take a route through a big tree row while Husband swings around. Try to keep horse from eating every damn piece of grass that touches his nose. Swat at the horseflies. Swat at the mosquitos. Wish I would have worn a long sleeve shirt.

Come out on the other end of the tree row. Spot the cows. Yell to Husband. He comes running. Notice how great the two look against the dropping sun. Wish I had my camera.

Follow the cows along the trail, up a butte, watch for holes, along the fence. Watch as they head toward the trees. Kick up the pace to head them off.  Go around the trees while Husband cuts a path behind the bovines. Watch as they all come out in an orderly fashion. Regret yelling at Husband in frustration. Apologize. Tell him he’s handsome. He tells me I should really start eating lunch. Push them through the gate to the dam.

Wonder where they got out. Ride the fence line to find out.

Declare what a nice evening this is. Swat at the horseflies biting my neck. Sweep off the swarm of gnats on my horse’s neck.

7:00 PM. Gotta go. Kick it up to a lope around the big butte to the road. Spot Pops on his 4-wheeler by the road. Stop to say high and bye. Leave the boys to chat. Lope off toward the horse trailer. Load up the bay. Get in the pickup head to the house. Strip off my clothes on the way up the stairs. Change into clean stuff. Look in the mirror, ah what the hell. Run downstairs, grab my guitar and head out to the highway.

Text band tell them I’ll be late. Just a half-hour.

7:30 PM

Turn up radio, roll windows down, drive…stop for gas station pizza, rethink my diet plan, get to town. 8:30.

Tune guitar. Promise to learn new songs. Make plan for next show. Laugh. Sing. See you later guys.

11:30 PM.

Get in car. Radio on. Windows up. Head home, bugs smashing on my windshield. Headlights pointing toward the badlands. Pull into the doorless garage, trudge up steps, pull off clothes, land in bed.

1 AM

Breathe. Think I should get a real job. Think life would be easier. Think I’ll think about it tomorrow. Think that was fun…

 

 

 

Among the clover.

I wish you could smell the sweet clover out here this time of year. I step outside and I’m flooded with a wave of memories of all that I used to be, summer after summer growing up out here. It smells like work and evenings spent sliding down hills on cardboard boxes with my cousins. It smells like ingredients for mud pie and playing house in the lilac bushes by the red barn. It smells like bringing lunch to dad in the field above our house, horseflies and heat biting our skin.

It smells like my first car and the windows rolled down, taking back roads with my best friends as passengers, kicking up dust as we tested the limits of teenage-dom.

It smells like my leaving, bittersweet. My last summer as a kid here before it was time to go and grow up already. Be on my own.

And it smells like coming home, take a right on the pink road, stop at the top of the hill and look at it all before heading down and turning into mom and dad’s for a glass of wine and a steak on the deck that looks out toward the garden and up the crick bed where I used to play everyday.

Pink Road

Last week we had family here from Texas, a couple of those cousins who used to help me make mud pies, a couple of aunts and an uncle I adore and then, of course the grandkids. The ranch was buzzing, laughing, full of life like I remembered it when I was growing up and our grandparents were alive and serving us push-up pops from the small from porch of their small brown house.

Funny how the world changes when suddenly there are kids running through the grass, pulling up dandelions, blowing bubbles and making memories on this place like the ones I hold so close to me.

After the Centennial celebration was over we did nothing but sit on the deck and visit, catch up, eat and then run inside to watch the rain pour. We laughed at the kids as they played and fought over toys and I looked at my cousin, the one closest to my age, the girl I used to wish was my twin sister, a mother now, and I thought, well, weren’t we just the same size as her baby A? Weren’t we just five years old running through the clover, itching our mosquito bites, begging for popsicles and just one more hour to play outside.

Now look at us, all grown up and still here on this place.

I was so thankful to be here with them on this place.

Because I know it didn’t come without a cost for our family, keeping it here for us, so future generations can smell the clover and be young and wild out here…

Country Cousins

I know that we did nothing but be born to good people who know the value of the land, not in dollars, but in something that is hard for me to find words for right now.

Pride?

Work?

Home?

A place to belong?

On Monday when the rest of his family loaded up and hit the road, Uncle W, stayed home one more evening. Little Sister came out and we saddled up our horses and headed out east, riding along and listening to the two brothers remember what it was like to be young out here.

Little Uncle W always found hanging back on a roundup, eating on a Juneberry bush.

Young Pops getting bucked off on the road when his little brother popped over the hill on his tricycle.

Milking cows and riding broncs and chasing girls and growing up together, out here on this place.

How many gloves and hats and scarves have been left dangling in these trees, scooped off heads and hands of little cowboys and cowgirls rushing on the backs of horses running through the trees?

How many wild plum pits have been spit at one another?

How many mud pies have been made in this barnyard, topped off with little pieces of sweet clover.

It’s so quiet here this morning as I get ready to head to a show tonight and then on to Minnesota to celebrate the 4th of July. If I had my way we’d all live out here together, my cousins and us, and those kids would be over the hill forever being raised by kids like us, and we would rehash memories and then create new ones.

Every day, out here on this place the way it used to be.

But that wouldn’t work. There’s space out here, but not that much…not enough…

So I’ll take the clover. I’ll breathe it in and I will remember when it itched our bare little legs in the summer while we searched for kittens in the nooks of the red barn.

Then I’ll remember the weekends, weekends like these, when they came to visit us out here along the gravel roads, and how small the kids were and how they were so little, because they’ll grow up too fast you know. Just like we did, out here among the clover.

Badass 4-H Nerds

Alex & Me. 4-H

I’ve had this photo on my fridge for a few weeks. I found it while going through photo albums in search of something else.

And then this gem falls out of from the pages, unattached and out of it’s place and I thought, well, what a shame that it’s been hidden all these years when it should be on display for me to see each day.

Because, well look at these nerds. Me and my little sister at the county fair, fresh off the ranch where we likely spent the night before washing my old mare, Rindy, in the backyard with Mane and Tail shampoo, a brush and a hose spraying freezing cold water.

I would have put on my shorts and boots and worked to convince Little Sister to hold Rindy’s halter rope while the horse got busy munching on as much lush green grass as she could, without a care about that tiny, fuzzy haired girl in her way.

Little Sister, enthused initially, likely started to get annoyed by the whole deal, the sun a little too hot on her already rosy cheeks, the bees getting dangerously close, so she probably abandoned ship after a couple arguments about it and then I would have been out there finishing the job, picking off the packed on dirt and yellow fly eggs horses get on their legs up in these parts and then standing back, pleased with the work I did and excited to show my horse in the big arena and decorate her up and ride her in the parade because she’s never looked so good, so shiny, her red coat glistening in the sun.

Then I’d take her down to the barnyard and give her a munch of grain, tell her I’d see her in the morning.

It would rain then, soaking the ground nice and good and I would wake up bright and early because likely I didn’t sleep a wink, so nervous about getting that purple ribbon. I would pull on the crisp dark blue Wrangler jeans that I laid out next to my brand new clean white shirt dad picked up for me at Cenex or the western store on Main Street and I would tuck it all in nice and neat and head out to the barn with Pops and Little Sister trailing behind to get my glistening horse and her fancy halter loaded up in the trailer only to find that she had gone ahead and taken advantage of the mud the rain produced, rolling in it nice and good and letting the clay form a thick crust on her back.

I’m thinking this scenerio is the reason for our serious expressions here.

But it looks like we got it worked out, because damn, we look good.

Especially that mare.

Badass we were. Badass 4-H nerds.

I frickin’ love this picture.

Alex & Me. 4-H

Boot Stories: Winner Winner!

Andrea's Boots (via Twitter)

Andrea’s Boots (via Twitter)

Today my boots hung out on the floor of my car while I traipsed around town at my big girl job in some big girl heels.

I raced around the pavement checking things off of my “To-Do” list so I could get home and announce the winner of what has been the most fun we’ve had on this blog since Cowboy’s last Kitchen Adventure.

When I asked you to share stories and photos of your favorite boots, I had no idea I would get such a glimpse into the spirits and hearts of my readers. When I said “It’s the boots that make the woman,” I didn’t know how right I was. Who knew that our boots, in whatever shape or form they may be in, could hold such connections:

To our family history: 

Jess Boots

Jess’s Boots

Jess: These weren’t my first pair of boots nor have they been my last but every cowgirl had her first pair and I’m glad that my second pair survived. I I have a pair of dad’s boots hanging at my coffee shop, James Gang Java. Often people will ask about them. After I tell their story, I often will produce my little pair and show them how young we are when we get started wearing boots. I’d like to go back in time and spend a couple of days in those little boots and look around at my world then. A lot of stories could be told about the times we have had in our cowgirl boots!

To our love: 

Marnie's Boots

Marnie’s Boots

Marnie- When we first dated, my husband and I used to kick around pawn shops and thrift stores of (old) downtown Fargo. He was the only cowboy I’d ever known, and when he dug out a pair of bent-over double, dirty dusty, scuffed up Acme boots from under a rack of polyester suits, I didn’t see their potential even though they fit. Two days later, when he delivered them polished and buffed, I saw potential. They’re my love boots.

To finding who we are: 

Toni's Boots

Toni’s Boots

shapeofthingstoni-I convinced my parents to buy me my first pair of walking boots when I was about 13 years old, and had well-lived in pairs until my mid-20s when I became a much more urban girl and my boots were replaced by office-friendly mary janes, with comfy skate shoes for weekends. Then about 6 years ago I took a long, hard look at my life, packed everything up and moved from urban Brisbane to the little city of Hobart, Tasmania, right at the bottom of Australia.

Hobart has great access to amazing national parks and hiking trails, as well as cold, wet winters that turn those trails into freezing streams that quickly soak through socks and joggers. So I bought myself these boots and I started walking. In re-discovering my childhood love of the outdoors I re-discovered myself. I got out of a marriage that was destroying me, I moved to a tiny cottage, got seriously into gardening and started seriously becoming the person I’d always wanted to be.

In 2012 I set off for a travel adventure in South America, and my boots carried me from the coastal bohemia of Valparaiso to the desert dust of San Pedro de Atacama and up into the spectacular Andean mountains around Cusco, where I fell in love with Peru as well as a certain Peruvian. Eight months later my boots came back to Cusco with me to follow my heart, and spent many happy hours travelling the cobble streets of the Inca capital, and working in the veggie garden of the orphanage where I was teaching the girls basic food-growing skills.

Back home again in Hobart my boots helped me to keep sane on weekend hikes through snow, mud, dust and rain, while I figured out how to live with my heart on the other side of the world, and in September 2013 they were on my feet as I flew back to Peru yet again, to take up a year-long position working in environmental management here in Lima, my stomach full of butterflies and my heart all over the place.

The guy and I couldn’t make it work, in the end, but the boots and I are still going strong. We’ve trekked up to 4 800 mASL in the Cordillera Blanca, we’ve visited ruins from long-vanished cultures.For the princely sum of 20 Nuevo Soles (about $8 US) I got the holes worn through by my heels patched and my patched-up boots were on my feet again when my patched-up heart and I wandered through Cusco again recently and shared a moment of healing with a man I’ll always, always remember.

They’re almost 6 years old now and they’ve covered a lot of ground, but there’s life in my old boots yet. They’ve outlived three pairs of pricey hiking sneakers and I’ve learnt that no-one can bring out the shine in them like a Peruvian street boot boy. At the end of my project here in Lima I’m hoping we can adventure together through Patagonia for one more grand South American adventure before I head back to Tasmania and work out just what comes next in my life. These boots are my freedom, my adventurous spirit, the wonders I’ve seen and the paths I’ve chosen to tread. Dear old friends who’ve never left a blister, their passing will be mourned, though long may they live on as planters in a happy garden somewhere.

Or expressing that we’ve known it all along.

A story that reminded me of my own little sister…

Amanda Remynse-My favorite pair of boots aren’t even mine. I realize that sounds a bit Dorothy-ish in the Wizard of OZ, but that’s not the case. I’ve actually never even put on these boots. They belong to my sister, who is 9 years younger than I am. I should have known that she’d be more cowgirl than I ever could imagine when she started sleeping with a three-legged plastic pony versus the teddy bears that most kids sleep with. She became a cowgirl at a young age when she realized that she could put on her bright red with bling (sounding Wizard of Oz-ish again) boots all by herself. These boots didn’t require anyone to tie her stupid laces or help her ensure that they got on her feet. She put them on herself and would go out the door. I’m sure 50% of the time they were on the wrong feet but it didn’t matter to her. She had places to go and adventures to make into a reality. Twenty years later, she’s still rocking some boot of some shade. I think that this early independence shaped her entire attitude, as long as she had her boots, red blinged or not, she was invincible.

Your boots have walked you through starting over:

Kandie's boots

Kandie’s boots

karenrsanderson-My boot story is a little sad…About 15 years ago, I lived in Delaware. I had two pairs of cowboy boots, one pair brown, one pair distressed black. I wore them for years, every day. Then I moved to Albuquerque – again, every day, boots. Then I moved to Minot in the fall of 2010. That winter was brutal, and I had a stinky hot-weather car, so I didn’t get out much, I wasn’t making friends, and I had no job yet. We were warned to get ready for the flood. My son (Air Force) was on special flood duty. My daughter-in-law (Air National Guard) was on special flood duty. I was full-time babysitting my two grandsons. So when my son finally got off, it was THE DAY the sirens were to go off. I had just time to grab some clothes, all my genealogy research, and my books. I lost both pairs of boots and most everything else. 

Stumbled you right into your future husband: 

smartbsolutions boots

Smart B.’s boots

smartbsolutions- ...here I am am admiring your perfect cowboy boots – never even have seen a cowboy bending over a branding fire  and obviously never even owned a pair of such beauties. But still I wanted to share a little story about my boots that involve my husband. The boots that are my all time favorite are a pair of brown leather beauties, made in Portugal and with a most bizarre zipper clothing in the back – they are high and stylish and from the first day I bought them absolutely perfect fit. I have been wearing them for 6 years now (in winter season only). They are part of the story how I met my husband in the Brussels airport back in 2008. That day I had my brown boots on (have just bought them) and a brown leather coat, it was a perfect sunny morning in January and I was driving my friend to the airport. We ladies, have had a couple of drinks the night before to celebrate our last evening together before she is heading back home and of course we were late and totally stressed so I hardly remember the way from my apartment to the airport, but we made it and she headed off to her gate and me I headed out the sliding door of the airport in the sun looking down admiring my then still brand new leather boots I felt such a relief and so happy at the same time – also to see the sun and my beauties and how great I looked wearing them and then, boom, boom, boom, several heavy suitcases are rolling off the trolley and land right next to my boots. I didn’t even look,  just tried to pick up the closest of those heavy bags thinking “Thank God they didn’t scratch my boots!” and right then I hear a very deep voice of a man telling me: “That’s ok, I can handle this, thank you!” Well I had to look up to see who is so rudely refusing my help and there he was trying to pick up all his luggage and stuck it back up on the trolley smiling at me. Well, we started talking and the rest is history! we’ve been together since and this August will be celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary:) I just felt I needed to share this story about how just a pair of boots become part of such a romantic memory. And btw our cat Trigger also loves those boots in his own way. He has managed to “personalize” them twice to show me that he doesn’t like it when I go out and don’t take him with me:) 

They’ve walked you down the aisle and hung on as you rode across the country on the back of a motorcycle:

Andrea's Boots 2

Andrea B.’s Boots (via Twitter)

Andrea-My all time favorite pair of boots are the boots I wore on my wedding day, last September. They are black with lizard inlay (like the boots your husband got for you) except they are square toes. I think it took me longer to pick out the boots then it did to pick out my wedding dress. Not only did I wear them for the wedding, I wore them on the honeymoon! We took the motorcycle out to the Hills in South Dakota. I love that these boots are so comfortable! Every time I put those boots on it takes me back to that special day! 

Have been sacrificed on your way out of near death experiences:

Kathie-I can’t send you a picture of my favorite boots because they’ve been lost. I was very young, maybe 5 or 6, and my parents had bought me my first pair of boots; they were red with green trimmed tops. After a few days of owning them our neighbors came over and of course we children were sent outside to play. A game of follow-the-leader soon developed and I was blindly following my friend when she ran over the pit the milk cows’ urine drained into (fondly known as the piss pit). It was fine for her but when I ran over it one of the planks in the cover broke and I plunged into it. She quickly thought to sit on my hands and yell for help. My older sister came running, tried to lift me out and failed so ran to the house to get my dad. He and the neighbor guy came running and pulled me out to safety but my boots were, sadly, left in the piss pit for eternity. To top things off, Mom wouldn’t let me into the house to bathe so I ended up in the water tank and THEN we had to clean the water tank so the cows didn’t get ill. I still remember those boots fondly and have never seen a pair like them.
Some have been abused by your best friend:
spottedfeatherfarms boots

Lisa’s Boots

Lisa Tucker- (spottedfeatherfarm.com) So, there I was sleeping soundly (well I guess not that soundly) when I hear munching coming from the kitchen. I go in, flip on the light and what do my eyes see? My Cocker Spaniel “Gunner” having a 3 am snack of my new 2 week old Justin boots!!!! I gasp! I’m in shock! Am I having a nightmare!? Gunner looks up at me (mid chew, mind you) with an expression of “can I help you with something”? All I can say is OMG Noooo! I grab the boots and just want to cry. Now Gunner is only giving me side glances. Damage is done so what could I do but regain some composure and try to find the humor…

I know own a pair of customized Justin Boots that I still love and wear daily, but occasionaly still have flashbacks.http://spottedfeatherfarm.com/2013/03/16/finding-the-humor/
He even signed them. I feel so privileged…

And some of your most precious boots haven’t even been purchased yet.

Little Man’s first pair…

megansredbarn -As you know… I too share a love for boots… I’m pretty sure that’s what makes us such good friends!

I would like to say that my favorite boots are my wedding boots that are so scuffed, my husband bought my me new “should be” favorite snip toed, wing tipped boots. But they aren’t. They aren’t even my fabulous Corral boots, that a sales lady at the only “western” store we could find in the Minneaplis area, thought were “vintage”… I’ll take that as a compliment! I can’t even say my favorites are my most fabulous Muck Boots anyone has seen because I “girlified” them with some awesome fuzzy boot covers that my mother in law gave me for Christmas one year.
I have to say that my favorite pair of boots are a pair that I havn’t purchased yet.
I believe my favortie boots are going to be the 1st pair of boots that my Little Blessing, Ellie, wears. For some reason, out of all the cute clothes and gifts that she’s recieved, we havn’t recieved a pair of boots yet. I’m thinking it’s because that’s something that her and I are going to get to share together. Maybe our Bestie-Jessie will even be able to join us in the fun… and to Jake’s dismay, pass on our love for a good pair of boots… For every occasion!

Mandy's Boots

Mandy’s Australian Boots (via Facebook)

Yes, there’s a lot of soul in those soles….

I wish I could have you all over for that hike, now more than ever. But more than that I wish I could give you all a free pair of boots!

But alas, the winner of the drawing has to be announced. And if there was anyone else in this house with me I would make them do a drumroll, but there isn’t. And I don’t have drums.

So everyone tap the toes of your favorite boots while I announce the winner of the Rocky Boot Stories Giveaway!

Taptaptaptaptaptap…..

Suzie from Quirky Culture 

Suzie’s name was drawn out of my husband’s smelly old hat (because it’s the hat the makes the man). She shared a beautiful story about how buying her first pair of cowboy boots in Nashville, Tennessee was her first step into a new life.

Suzie, email jessieveeder@gmail.com and I”ll get you on the road to buying your Rocky Boots!

Read Suzie’s story and all of the boot stories shared in the comments of the post “Boot Stories (Prize Alert)” and then head on over to my Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram  and do the same.

Thank you Rocky Boots for the giveaway and for making boots that are made for all sorts of wonderful men and women.

Rocky Logo_Primary

And thank you again for sharing a little piece of yourself with me, the special piece tucked into those fabulous boots.

Peace, Love and the Perfect Pair,

My singing boots!

Jessie