So we have been in the middle of making house plans this summer and have faced the big decisions about where we should put it, what kind of view we want from our front porch, who is going to build it, who will dig the basement, what is our budget for windows, how many bedrooms, how many bathrooms, what will our light fixtures look like, what style of shingles and what kind of toilet for crying out loud.
I have been through a major remodel in my short (five years to the month) marriage, which I left behind me in the dust last December when we sold the damn thing. I know about the process. I know what it takes and am excited about our final decision to have a new home built over the hill and keep this little house renovated and in tact for family on the home place.
I know, I know. Those of you who have been following my little journey here at the ranch will recall that I changed my mind about this a few times.
Approximately sixty-seven I would guess. It was a big decision, you know, the spot we pick to spend the rest of our lives.
But in the end, when the surveyors were here to stake it out, we were back at the beginning, back to the place where this little house originally stood, back to the coulee where my grandfather built it, and back to a home under my childhood stomping grounds, the big hill we call “Pots and Pans.”
They are building the road today…and you know the old saying “here goes nothing…”?
Well, forget that. Here goes everything.
Everything my great grandparents worked to build, everything my grandfather and father and aunt and uncle worked to keep, everything I grew to love in the buttes and the clover and the coulees and the big blue sky is going to surround us, get under our fingernails, brush against our skin, greet us in the morning and kiss us goodnight…for as long as we chose to be here.
Which in my mind is as long as I live.
I can’t help but feel overwhelmingly blessed at the thought of it all. And then a bit guilty, a bit ridiculous.
Because what have I done to deserve to be here? What have I done but be born to a family who taught me things about the land and horses and cattle and how to plant a garden, a family who didn’t worry about getting my jeans dirty falling in the creek, or my boots scuffed from kicking rocks on the scoria road? What have I done but listen, learn and want to be like them?
What did I do but ask to plant my life here only to find my wishes so graciously granted? Because someone should be here, someone should help tend to the fences and fix up the old barn.
The old barn my great grandfather Edgar Andrew Veeder built with his sons on this very place.
Can you see him here? A shadow in the doorframe of his homestead shack around the year 1915.
His home that stood outside of the trees where the horses hide from the flies below our house. It was here he settled when he left his parents’ homestead to start out on his own at age 21. It was here he brought his new bride, Cornelia, after they wed on September 4th, 1917 in the small town of Schafer, ND. It was here he kissed her goodbye when he was called to serve in the Army during World War I. After his discharge in 1919, it was here, on this acreage where I ride and walk and kick up dust every day, that he purchased a threshing machine, more acreage from his brother, and worked cattle and the fields as he and his wife welcomed five children, the youngest, my grandfather, my father’s father.
It was here where my great grandfather watched as his wife, his woman, slipped away from this world at only 36 years old–a heart failed and five young children left behind to be cared for by a man who I hear made the world’s best biscuits.
And it was here, right below this house where I cook dinner each night, that Cornelia’s yellow roses still bloom in the spring.
I never knew him, my great grandfather Eddy. I couldn’t have. Time did not allow him to hold me in his arms, a wrinkly bundle of flesh and bone who would grow into a woman who would think of him often, discover his wife’s roses, and be grateful every day for the gift of this land, for his hard work, for the red barn and my grandfather.
My grandfather who chose to stay here too, through droughts, and too much rain and seven feet of snow. My grandfather who married a good woman who climbed on the back of a horse with the same grace and humility that she used to raise exceptional children.
Children who loved this land, who cherished it more than the money it may or may not reap, who understood that it must stay here, no matter the cost, for their children to enjoy.
So what did I do but love this land too? What have I sacrificed but the conveniences of a grocery store and a shopping mall nearby? Why would I want more than this, besides my cousins and sisters and aunts and uncles as neighbors living here on this land where we all grew up?
And so, as the first move of progress on the house we will have built comes creeping up the pink road, making a path to our new home, I am humbled by those people who share my name and my blood, who carved a few roads of their own out here, who put up their own walls, who grew their own flowers and wheat and corn and babies and cattle out here where I’ve always felt I belonged.
Where I will remain for as long as I am able.
And the colors of the carpets, the make of the siding, the size of the basement loom a little less significantly in my mind today as I am grateful…