In July…

There’s not much I don’t like about July in North Dakota. It’s like 1,000 degrees out today, and I’m still gonna say it.

Because there’s a breeze. There’s always a breeze.

If I could hold on to this month for another I would. I would take the horseflies if it meant another thirty days of thundershowers in the evening…

Wild sunflowers in the road ditches…

Haybales lined up nice and neat in the fields…

Chasing cattle in the cool draws…

and windows open at night.

I’d take the pissed off squirrel chattering in the tree by my head if it meant I could sleep with the cool breeze tickling the curtains for another few days.

It’s kind of a funny way to wake up.

Kind of like I’m sleeping in a tree house.

Which is a pretty perfect place to be in July.

It’s summer now…

It’s summer now and the days are long, the sun moving slowly across the sky and hanging at the edge of the earth for stretched out moments, giving us a chance to put our hands on our hips and say “what a perfect night.”

It’s summer now and before dark officially falls we ride to the hill tops and then down through the cool draws where the shade and the grass and the creek bed always keep a cool spot for us.

Because it’s summer now and things are warming up. The leaves are out and so are the wildflowers, stretching and blooming and taking in the fleeting weather.

It’s summer now and the cows are home…

and so is Husband, home before the sun sets. Home to get on a horse and find Pops and ride fence lines.

It’s summer now and the dogs’ tongues hang out while they make their way to the spot of shade on the gravel where the truck is parked. They are panting. They are smiling. They just got in from a swim.

Because it’s summer now and the water where the slick-backed horses drink, twitching and swiping their tails at flies, is warm and rippling behind the oars of the water bugs, the paddle of duck’s feet, the leap of a frog and the dunk of a beaver’s escape.

It’s summer now and we keep the windows open so even when we’re inside we’re not really inside.

We can’t be inside.

Because it’s summer now and there’s work to be done. We say this as we stand leaning up against a fence post, thinking maybe if we finish the chores we could squeeze in time for fishing.

Because it’s summer and we heard they’re biting.

Yes, it’s summer and we should mow the grass before the clouds bring the thunderstorm that will wake us in the early morning hours of the next day. And it’s summer so we will lay there with the windows open listening to it roll and crack, feeling how the electricity makes our hearts thump and the air damp on our skin. Maybe we will sleep again, maybe we’ll rise to stand by the window and watch the lightening strike and wonder where this beautiful and mysterious season comes from.

And why, like the storm, it’s always just passing through.


I went to bed last night with the windows open in the loft where we built our master bedroom. It was our first night in our room we’ve been working for months to complete and when I returned home from a night away on a singing job I found that my bed was moved upstairs,  made and waiting for us to snuggle down and reap the benefits of another step almost complete.

I don’t know how Husband got it up there without the help of my giant muscles, but he did. And I was glad.

And exhausted.

When we were making plans for this house two years ago my idea was that when it was all said and done we would feel like we were living in a tree house and with the installation of the railing a few weeks ago I felt like our vision was finally coming together.

It made me feel like all that time spent looking at Better Homes and Gardens magazines and Googling things like “rustic railings” and “vintage lighting” and “log cabins” and “how to get wood glue and green paint out of my favorite Steve Earl t-shirt” was finally paying off.

I snuggled down next to Husband up there in our bedroom and made note of  how we were a little closer to the stars and I liked it that way, up there among the oak tree tops.

This morning I woke up to Husband sneaking out to work. I rolled over to catch a few more blinks, noticing how the sky was beginning to turn pink with the touch of the first moments of sun. I thought I should get up, rise with it, drink my coffee and start on my writing project, but I slipped back to sleep for a moment while the world lit up.

And I woke again to the sound of a pissed off squirrel in the tree tops next to my head reading another critter its rights over something like trespassing on his side of oak or a stolen acorn.

At least that’s what I imagined as I woke from a dream about nothing in particular that I can remember.

I laid on my back and listened to that squirrel chatter, his obnoxious, angry squawk rising above the hundreds of bird species singing their morning song, the breeze rustling the full grown leaves and a truck kicking up dust on the pink road.

And although I couldn’t hear it, I thought about the swish of the horses’ tails in the pasture, the buzz the flies make around their ears and the soft nicker in their throats when I approach with a grain bucket.

I thought about the cattle pulling dew covered green grass from the ground, munching and chewing and bellowing low for their calves.

I thought about the croak of the frogs in the dam, the familiar sound I fall asleep to each night we let the windows open and the air in.

I thought about the plop of the turtle leaving his rock for a swim in that dam. I thought about the howl of the coyote and the sound of the dogs crying back.

I thought about my fingers squeaking across the strings of my guitar, sitting out on the chair under the small oaks, working to make a melody.

I thought about the sound of my husband’s breathing and the words he says out loud at night when the world is sleeping and so is he. I thought about what he might dream about.

And then I thought about the silence in this house as I lie listening to the world I was letting in through open windows. Silence between walls that have absorbed the noise of saw blades spinning, voices discussing dinner, crying over tiling projects and laughing at the memory of the stupid kids we used to be. It will be quiet in here today with the exception of my fingers moving over the computer keys, the coffee pot beep and the ice cubes dropping in the refrigerator. I will run the shower and get ready for a trip to sing outside in a different town this evening.

When I get home it will be late and Husband will be sleeping on the couch, the television reflecting the light of other peoples’ stories off his scruffy face. I will switch it off and walk up the steps to our bedroom to get closer to the stars and fall asleep to the sound of the frogs, thinking about the mornings to come in this house, the sounds of Christmases and birthday parties, failed dinners and dancing in the living room, conversations with friends, fights about bills and schedules and time, sobs about missing someone and laughter about having just what we need in a tree house with the windows open to the sounds of our wild world.

The evolution of a season.

It’s another rainy, windy afternoon at the ranch. It seems like once the sky decided to open up it just can’t stop. It feels like March when the sky wouldn’t stop snowing. It feels like this spring has been finicky and harsh and extreme and it has enjoyed every minute it has kept me waiting.

Waiting for the snow to stop.

Waiting for the sun to shine.

Waiting for the rain to come.

Waiting for it to stop raining.

Waiting on the sun to shine.

I know there will be a time this summer where the dust will blow again and we will pray for a bit of relief from the heat and the dry, but where I come from there is not a balance.

There is only extreme.

Extremely cold.

Extremely windy.


Extremely hot.

Extremely green.

Extremely wet.

Extremely dry.

Extremely perfectly beautiful.

Some days I feel like the weather. These days especially. The windows have been streaked with rain for a few weeks and I have been suffering from a weird sort of lingering head cold that refuses to break up and leave like the damn rain.

I’ve been working hard to ignore it, to say the rain will clear and I will feel better, but today I submitted. I stayed home under a blanket to watch it fall.

I’ll feel better tomorrow.

Head cold or no head cold, it seems I’m always so affected by the seasons and how they change, like the weather and my mood hold hands to greet the day accordingly.

Which makes me wonder how annoyingly bright-sided I’d be if I lived in the sunny, 70 degree climate of southern California.

It sounds nice right now, the sun.

But I think the constant change of seasons help me and what my husband refers to as my “restless spirit.” He says it’s hard for me to sit in one place. It’s hard for me to be comfortable in routine.

He says it’s good for me to have all this space to wander out here.

Maybe he’s right and maybe it’s hard to understand how a girl can be so rooted and so restless.

But it’s no worry to me really. I know where I belong out here, changing with the weather.

Evolving with the season.

The world is full…

This world is full of wild and thirsty things

skin and bones and muscles
feathers on black wingssoft petals on pink flowers
and stem and branch and leafwaiting on the cool rain
waiting for the greenThis world is full of a sneaking kind of goldyou can find it on horizons
can’t be bought or held or sold and only in the morning
or at the perfect time of night
welcoming a new day
setting up the lightThis world is filled with the most peculiar sounds croaks and sighs and wails
and squeaks coming from the ground and up above a whistle
and from the hills a lonesome cry and I wonder if the calling
is hellos or sad goodbyes This world is full of wonder and moments to be brave and moments to remember
why we’re here and why we came and moments to be thirsty and moments to beholdand moments just to listen to all the life outside our door

Crocuses and how it could keep getting better…

It’s officially crocus season, and that’s good news out here on the edge of the badlands where we’ve all been patiently waiting for them to arrive, as if the blooming of the first flower gives us permission to pack away our sweaters and pull out the short sleeves.

Well, that’s what I did anyway. I made a mountain out of the sweaters shoved in my closet. I pulled them out ceremoniously flinging them to the floor, purging my room of winter before I stood back and seriously contemplated throwing them out the window and lighting a match on the whole damn pile.

But that would have been crazy, and, well, let’s be honest, I’ll need them again in a few short months. Anyway, I didn’t have time for that. Little Sister was coming over and she had plans to soak up the sunshine and I had plans to procrastinate painting the bathroom.

So we grabbed our cameras and the herd of dogs…





and went climbing around, scouring the ground for the purple flower.

Turns out we didn’t have to go far.

When you become familiar with a place in all of it’s seasons, you memorize where the crocuses bloom in the spring, where to go to pick chokecherries and raspberries in the summer, and to always, no matter the season, watch out for cactus.

We know these places because prairie people like us have vivid memories of hunting for crocuses with our grandmother, sisters, mothers or fathers, bending over to pull them from the tangle of brown grass while the warm spring wind picked up the loose hair that escaped from our ponytails.

I’ve been living back at the ranch for three springs and I will be here for the rest of the springs I am given. I will never forget what it felt like to climb to that hilltop and pick the first crocus of the year as I stood with my husband we looked down at our home.

And we were happy to be together, happy for summer to arrive and happy to stand on that hill for a moment that we were sure couldn’t get much better from here.

Then my Little Sister moved to our hometown and now the whole family is together and close and on Monday mornings I can expect a call asking me what I’m doing this weekend. Because my Little Sister plans ahead and I’m glad to be consulted on those plans.

So Saturday’s plans made room for crocus hunting in the warm sunshine next to a girl who used to follow me on my after school walks up the creek to my fort. I used to wish she would leave me alone then. I used to holler at her to stop following me and when we came in the house crying and fighting, our mom would promise us that someday, we would be best friends.

Funny how moms are usually, most likely, pretty much, always exactly right.

Funny how some things change, but I still haven’t mastered the art of convincing Little Sister to help me with my chores…like, oh, you know, painting the bathroom.

Funny how she still doesn’t listen to me.

Funny how the crocuses bloom on the same hill every year and someday we might have a chance to watch our own children run to the top and pick us a purple bloom.

Funny how it could possibly keep getting better.

A walk.

In honor of spring and the wind and the sun and the green grass poking up around us, I would like to take you along on my favorite trail, the one that leads to the east pasture from our house, up along the buffalo fence, to the top of a rocky cliff and then down again to the stock dam and back toward home.

Next week this walk will be a little bit greener, a little bit warmer and, hopefully, I’ll find some crocuses.

Next week maybe I’ll leave the damn dogs at home so they don’t scare away the wildlife with their slobbering, panting, running, and puking.

I guess that’s what happens when you run at full speed after a duck, ignoring the screams from your owner to come back.

That’s what you get when you try out your instincts after seven months of lounging.

It’s been a long winter.

I would have puked too.

Anyway, I hope the sun is shining wherever you are and you have the chance to explore your favorite spot this weekend.

Now, off we go…

Sorry weird cat, you gotta stay home…

Take a breath. Take a walk. Take a break. Take some time.

Happy, happy weekend.

And then came the sun.

This morning I woke up to another dreary, snowy, cold, white, un-springy day, a husband who couldn’t make it to work on account of a night spent puking and a pug literally hiding with his head under the covers and his ass facing the world.

I felt like doing the same thing, not puking, but, you know, just letting my ass face the world. Because, I mean, look at it…not a crocus in sight…

I was going to tell you all about it, after I took a few photos of the icicles hanging off the eaves,

the gray, dreary sky, the white flakes fluttering across bare and brown branches,

cold, leftover leaves,

big brown dog’s big brown cold nose,

and  ground just begging to warm up…

I was prepared to feel like the pug who doesn’t wake up to face the dog dish until well after the noon hour, going to absorb the sad, gray, so unspringlike day into my veins and mope a bit over peanut butter toast and coffee that just couldn’t be black enough, ignore the dishes in the sink and just say well shit, it’s snowing. It’s snowing again.

But then the sun came out.

and the gray turned to sparkle,

the bland to beautiful,

the gray to blue,

and the leftovers looked a little less lonely.

Ah, the sun.

The sun!

Look at that, the sun.

What a difference you made.

I hope you found your sun today.

A boot in a snowbank and a puppy in the house.

And now, for a brief story about how my momma came home one evening last week to find one of her fancy boots laying haphazardly in a snowbank in the front yard…as told by my mother, to me, over wine sloshing in a glass while she waved it in exasperation and disbelief.  

Jessie, I have to tell you something. Did I tell you this already? I don’t know. Well, oh my gawd, yesterday I left the house to go to work, and, well, oh you know that puppy just makes me so nervous when I’m backing out of the garage. She jumps around and follows me, it’s like the most stressful part of my day trying to get her to stay out of the way. She’s so cute but, ugh, I don’t want to run her over…

Anyway, so I go to work and come home that night and open the door from the garage to the house, and, Jessie, I know that door was shut when I got home, and I’m sure I closed it when I left for work. You know that puppy tries to follow me in the house and I say, ‘no, get back’ and shoo her out of there, so I know I shut it.

But anyway, I open the door and I get in the entryway and I feel like something’s off, you know. Like someone’s been in here. Then I notice a FedEx package, so I figure that was it. The FedEx guy dropped off a package, no big deal. But I walked a little further into the house and I see little tracks on the kitchen floor leading into the living room, like the puppy had been in the house! And then I get to the living room and some of my shoes and clothes from my bedroom were strung out into the living room. And I look around then and there’s other things too, like dad’s gloves and hats from the garage are in the house. It was weird. So I wondered if somehow I accidentally let the puppy in before I went to work, but I’m sure I didn’t. I’m sure of it. And she was in the garage when I got home, but if she got in how did she get out?

Anyway, so I start picking up the stuff from the living room and notice one of my new Corral boots, you know, the fancy ones, the ones I just bought…yeah, those…one of them is missing! I can’t find it anywhere in the house. It wasn’t in the living room or kitchen or back in the bedrooms.

Well, you know where it was? Outside! Outside in a snow bank.

I looked out the window and there it was. And I don’t get it. How did she get in and how did she get out? Oh, that puppy, she just loves to drag things. Dad told you she got his box of gloves down from the shelf in the garage last week, somehow, I don’t know how she got up there, anyway, she pulled them down and spread every glove out on the garage floor and out into the yard. She’s even found his power tools, has been chewing on them.

Anyway, so my boot was ok. Thank gawd. Thank gawd it wasn’t snowing or anything and she didn’t eat it. But I still don’t know how she got in the house and out of the house while we were gone? I know I shut that door when I left and I’m pretty sure I didn’t lock her in there.

The only thing I can think is like maybe the FedEx man accidentally let her in when he dropped off the package. You know how she can sneak in the door behind you and if you’re not paying attention she’s gets in the house…but how did she get out? Maybe the door isn’t latching the right way…I don’t know…

I don’t know. It’s a mystery. But my boot? Can you believe it!? Ugh, thank gawd it was ok…

Oh, Juno...

Farmers at the Super Bowl.

So you watched the Super Bowl. You saw the game, you saw Beyonce shake it, you saw the lights go out and, among the flashy messages, the advertisements for M&Ms and beer and phones and underwear and cologne, you saw this:

Another ad for another product, yes. But one that had a message attached to it that has sent my world into a humming since it aired.

Now it’s possible you missed it. It’s possible you didn’t hear it tucked in there among the baby Clydesdale and the elderly escaping the nursing home for a night at Taco Bell.  It didn’t make the top ten commercials and didn’t get nearly as much buzz in other parts of the country, but it sure is buzzing here.

I don’t usually comment on pop culture or what ‘s happening on T.V. or in sports here because I’ve made it my mission to talk about different things: the way the sun shines on the back of a horse, how the wind blows snow across the prairie and what it’s like to be a woman connected to a place, but as a girl who grew up feeding cattle alongside her father in the coldest winter nights, someone who watched him doctor horses, bring new-born and frozen calves into the basement of the house and nurse them back to life, as a former FFA president and the 4th generation on my family’s ranch, I have to talk about this.

I have to tell you why people like me have been so inclined to share this advertisement, to watch it over and over again, to shout its praises from the rooftops and, well, post it on every social media networking site they can link up to out here in the boonies.

Because finally, among the hype of sports, the glitzy glam of pop culture, the humor and the ruckus and the fight to be the winner, right there in the most prime real-estate of prime-time television someone out there felt it might be important enough to slow it down and tell our story.

Now, I wasn’t at every Super Bowl party in middle America during the 2.5 minutes Paul Harvey’s message was pumped into millions of homes across the country, but I was at one, and as soon as that familiar voice spoke the first word, the room fell silent.

We held our breath in that moment we were certain we were looking at an image from our backyards: a black baldie cow near a barbed wire fence in a barren, snow-covered prairie.

We were quiet because we saw our church standing tall and worn beside a country road,

we saw our grandfather with callused hands and a face wrinkled and weathered from the long days spent in the elements.

We shushed our voices and choked back a tear for the colt our father couldn’t save, laughed a little because we’ve ridden a horse using a head stall made out of hay wire and smiled at the memory of our father’s stopping the tractor to move a nest of newborn rabbits out of harm’s way.

We saw ourselves standing in those fields, our grandmother’s eyes under that hat, our mother holding our hand, our father holding on hope.

We saw our children in the steady cadence of comforting words and a familiar voice that we’ve heard coming through the static on our old tractor radio for years.

The rest of the story.

Our story.

Some days I feel like we’re moving further and further from our connection to the land and the understanding of the dirt from which that potato was plowed. Farmers, ranchers and agriculturalists are not known to stand at the pulpit and tell their stories to the masses. No. Many spend long days working alone in the combine, on the back of a horse checking cattle or working fencing pliers in the deep brush.We share our stories by living them alongside our elders, hoping to learn something, dreaming that one day we might be fortunate enough to try our hand at tending the land.

I know my grandfather’s story. I see the old equipment that couldn’t be repaired breaking the wind from the hilltops on this place. I find little pieces of wire, old engines, scraps of leather, worn coveralls and other little pieces of a life spent scraping and saving and getting by in the old out buildings, in the 100 year old barn, in the fences that need to be repaired. My father keeps the same collection, adding to it at will in case he might need to patch something up.

I know my father’ s story. I know that on Sunday mornings he will knock on the door of my house like he does every weekend for a cup of coffee and a chat between chores.  I know he will take off his boots, un-do his silk scarf and leave his wool cap on his head. I know he will keep his Carhart jacket on because he won’t stay long, just long enough to wonder out loud what might be wrong with the old tractor this time and discuss some plans about buying cattle, fixing the corrals in the spring and making things work better out here.

I know that tractor’s story. It’s been on this place for decades, bought used when my father left for college in the 70s. I know the only thing wrong with that tractor is that you can’t stop time, and we could not afford to buy a new one.

Each day my father has been the caretaker of the family’s ranch it has been an adventure to get that tractor up and running.

Every day it has been worth it.

Somewhere along the line a company like Dodge took notice of the kinds of people buying those trucks they were selling, not for the paint job or the heated seat, but for the horsepower and the muscle that it takes to haul a trailer full of bulls to the sale barn, a couple of priceless horses and a teenage daughter to her first high school rodeo, or through a snowy trail as your grandfather scoops grain for the cattle in the winter.

Somewhere in their marketing plan Dodge thought it  might be a good idea to mention those farmers and ranchers out there throwing bales and feeding the country, because quite frankly, they have helped keep them in business.

So they declared it the “Year of the Farmer” and are working their marketing plan so that spreading the word means supporting the FFA.

That moment a company like Dodge took to tell our story while they had the world’s attention gave us–the farmers, the ranchers, the corn growers, bottle feeders, chicken-coop cleaners, post-hole-diggers, pig-sloppers, 5 a.m. cow milkers, –a little reminder that ours might not be a glamorous story, but it is one worth living.

Click here to watch an interview with the Montana ranchers featured in the commercial.