A cup of coffee and a change of weather.

Ok, ok. I had my little hissy fit yesterday, you know, about summer leaving. I have always be proud of the fact that I accept change, welcome it with open arms, persuade it to occur really more often than I should…but I admit, I always have a hard time letting go of the sunshine season.

But let’s move on. Because (after the snow melted) it is truly spectacular out here. Maybe I have a super hero nose (it is rather large), but I think each season has its own distinct scent…I swear I can smell the fall coming in the musty, damp waft of leaves falling to the earth and turning to dirt. When I step outside today, even after a raging, uncharacteristic thunderstorm this early morning, I breathe in the crisp air and it is like this world that surrounds me has cleaned up and started over once again.  I suck in and feel the cool wind on my face and I am taken back to the first day of school, football games in town in my new jacket, chasing cattle to the reservation line and spitting plum pits at my little sister as she kicks her pony along.

What is it about us North Dakotans and our obsession with the weather? I ask this all the time. I walked into the local Cenex in town yesterday, the one that used to be a little diner called the “Chuckwagon” when I was growing up, and there sat my Great Uncle sipping coffee with his boys, talking about the crops and the cattle and kids these days and, of course, the weather.

Cue another flashback and ode to old times: because there he was, my Great Uncle, a few years older, with less mud on his boots from having moved into town years ago. He was sitting in the same building with the same group of men with whom, at well past 70, he has had coffee with nearly all his adult life.  And as he talks crops and takes a dip of Copenhagen and laughs, just as he always has, while offering me a pinch, around him the world is changing.

His once regular table where he would order the pie of the day is now a “Hot Stuff Pizza.” And instead of sitting down next to him for my own slice  (or chocolate ice cream with chocolate sprinkles,) like I would have done 20 years ago when I came to town with my gramma, I said a quick hello, gave them a smile and ordered my coffee on the run.


And outside the window in this once sleepy town the high-school kids are driving up and down main street, just like they always have, but this time with fast, flashy cars and cell phones, weaving in and out of the constant wave of truck traffic that has swept in with the second coming of oil to this area. An industry my uncle has watched boom and bust and boom again outside this very same window.

Across the street, he has seen his favorite hardware store change hands, close down, open up again and get a face-lift. He has enjoyed his last movie for a nickel and then waited years and years until he could see one again on Main Street…for $6.99.

He’s watched as the storeowners have wrapped gifts for his wife in dozens of different boutiques, in the same three buildings, and has purchased new-to-him pickups to take him to and from his farmstead thirty miles away. He has watched his children play sports and move out and have children of their own, who he has watched sing in the school concert, ride horses, get their first big buck, and their first job and move on and out and back to this once sleepy town.

And he takes that pickup to coffee every morning.

Old Truck

Yes, this is dramatic stuff, this cycle of life. Watching my uncle smile the same smile behind modern glasses in his remodeled and repurposed coffee joint, I think I am beginning to understand what it is about the weather…

…Imagine your lives here, in the middle of the mid-west, where one day it is sunny and the crops are thriving and the next day a hail storm wipes your heart and work out in a blink as you stand helplessly looking out your back screen door, powerless to change the outcome. Imagine standing in water up to your waist, carrying calves through a flash flood to dry ground, giving all of your energy and passion to save your animals. Or, after a severe spring storm, taking a newborn calf into your basement and warming it by the fire to save the fragile life. Imagine the most beautifully, unexpected spring day where you skip work to go fishing. Imagine losing someone you love on the road in the grip of an ice storm. Imagine waiting for the rain to stop to get your crop out before the snow flies…and the rain just turns to flurries…

And all the while, with each coming fall, your children are one year older, one year away from starting a new life…and with each drop of a leaf, gust of wind, and change of season, one more laugh line appears, one more year of work and sacrifice and special movie dates in town is gone.

So weather–this is how we talk about life here. This is how we talk about the hard stuff, the new stuff, the stuff that makes us crazy and lonesome and completely and utterly blissful. The stuff that puts the gray in our hair and the wedding dress on our daughters and the grandchildren in our arms. The stuff that makes us lose and gain and lose again…

Because nothing stays the same, nothing is for sure here, nothing is certain….nothing…

Except a good cup of coffee and a change of weather…

Summer Leaves

Winter Branches

Listen to Heroes Proved, a song I wrote about change in the rural lifestyle.

18 thoughts on “A cup of coffee and a change of weather.

  1. Thanks for including such wonderful photos with your entries! It makes me miss NoDak that much more. : ) I am in Pennsylvania these days – not a short car drive to get home to Minot, to say the least. Anyway, just wanted to say thanks! Keep up the good work!!!

  2. I lived on a farm ’til I was 7 which had it rewards but I missed my city friends. When I was in HS, I worked at one of my worst jobs ever. A waitress at the local cafe. Not the waitress part but the owner was a jerk but one thing I do remember, the men would come in and drink coffee in the morn gossip, talk about the weather, wives, kidz and the woman would do the same in the afternoon. I love the not so hot part about fall but not looking forward to what comes afterwards. Best part about fall, the kiddos are in school but a year older. Living on the eastern prairie of nodak(whether in town like me or in the country), you learn to appreciate the little things in life. Especially as u said, a good cup of coffee. Hugs my friend. Nicole

  3. Ahh..Good Ol’ Watford City. I came back this summer after three years because I needed the peace and quiet of North Dakota and my Grandmas ranch. I was sad to discover that I couldn’t have constant peace like I used to due to all of the big oil trucks making noise all around me. It was okay though because at least I got to go home for awhile.

    There have been lots of changes in that little town.. and I miss the chuckwagon too.

    I live in a large city and am all over the internet when it is time to shop but I could not find the perfect pair of sunglasses, and guess where I fould them? Barretts for $8.99! I have recieved so many compliments on my glasses.. I just laugh because they are such a hit and I think if I hadn’t bought them some 85 year old woman would be driving around Watford in them right now.

    Thanks for your blog- it makes me happy. 🙂

    • Tasha, this made my day. Last night my mom came home with two great pairs of boots from Meyer’s Dept. Store in town. (We both have a shared sickness for shoes). She had just been to Denver during the weekend and the Cities before and didn’t find one pair of boots she wanted to buy (what!?) but found two perfect pairs right in her town. I laughed and told her your story. A great pair of sunglasses are just as important as a great pair of boots. Take care and thanks for stopping in.

  4. Tasha, I love your comment about what would have happened had you not purchased those amazing sunglasses. 🙂

    Jessie, I love and relate to this like crazy. Thank you, once again.

  5. I suspect that theater where your Great Uncle went to movies for a nickel is the one my uncle owned. My friends and I used to go to a little cafe with booths, which was very near the theater, on a Saturday afternoon for a hamburger and malt, then go to the movie – and it seems to me we did this for $.25 – or was it $.50?

    Change – the one constant.

    • Carol, I took a guess at the amount of money it would cost for a movie back then. Really cool about your uncle owning the theater. I went to my first movie in Watford City last night…it was great and so fun to go to a movie and know almost everyone in the theater watching it with you 🙂

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