The generations…

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.

The original Veeder Homestead where my great grandpa Eddy Veeder was raised

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.

Eddy Veeder Homestead Shack-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.

Edgar and Cornelia Harrison-1917

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.

Cornelia's Roses

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.

Grandpa Pete and Grandma Edith Veeder

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?

My cousins and I with my Grandma Edie outside the house I live in

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…

Me with my Grandpa Pete in his house, this house, in 1985

26 thoughts on “The generations…

  1. I completely feel the same way and agree. FABULOUS photos to share your story also. We built our home on the prairie 3 1/2 years ago and it was journey even though that is my husband and his dad’s business. I also feel the same about the North Dakota land and am so grateful for my ancestors, the sacrifices they gave so our families can be here today. It started with a sod house that my great-great grandma lived in with 7 kids after her husband died. She farmed and made it. I can do anything out here if she made it!

    • Well said Katie, well said! Can you imagine 7 kids in a sod house? When I catch myself complaining about the size of my closet and not enough room in the cabinets, I think of my grandma and raising three children along with many foster children in this house…and then I quit my bitching about no space for my excessive boot collection…

  2. Honey that is fantastic,, As a Nzer living in the US- an immigrant (dirty word ’round these parts) I yearn for your visual history. My well worn paths are in another country. And you being able to walk past that rose. Hope you can take a cutting of that rose to your new place. I always snip my rose cuttings and root them into the soil beside their rose mother, for some reason they are more likely to strike that way.. dig them up about a year later.. or in my case one day when you are weeding that corner and oh.. yeah.. i forgot about that! c

    • OH, I just love that idea! Thank you for sharing. Taking a snip and rooting them so that they may spread and grow a bit further is wonderful. Maybe I will see if I can get a snipping to start in my new yard when the time comes. That would be lovely. And I hope you are able to walk those well worn paths in your home place very soon!

  3. OK, are you sure that you are not a reincarnated Veeder brought back to today from 1917??? I think you are, judging from how much you love the land and how you treasure what your fore fathers and mothers left for you. And I love how you feel their presence and make me feel it and feel how much they loved this land that they left here for you. Thanks for this feeling of how important family is! Today, of all days, I needed it !!
    Thanks Jessie!
    Love you!

  4. Jessie,
    I always enjoy and learn from your blogs. Then there is the sensation of recognition from my family’s long buried farming roots in New Jersey and New York state…I leave your post with a special feeling that is more than nostalgia, joy and warm-toasty feelings…thank you.

  5. Well, this might be one of the best posts ever…and how timely. I’m trying to move home after being gone for 15 years and unfortunately, the part of the family that stayed is having a hard time sharing. Any little repair or improvement is met with resentment and it is a little disheartening. When I read your post, I got a bit teary wishing I could be having as much fun and feeling so much pride for my homestead as you are experiencing right now. You are mightly blessed, girl. I will enjoy hearing about your progress. I know it will be encouraging to me.

    • Lissa, I am truly blessed to have a family whose arms are always open and whose hearts are in the right place. I am overwhelmed by it and by this opportunity. I wish you the same, but unfortunately sometimes the home land causes turmoil in many families, maybe because people who exist there form such strong bonds with the place. Best of luck to you on your journey home, do what you feel is best in your heart Lissa and I hope it all turns out.

    • It is something winsome. Little wisps of memories come flooding back to me every day, whether it’s cooking on the stove, hiking or riding in the hills or even reaching in the deep freeze for supper, I am reminded of something, of someone else who made their home out here…

  6. Your Grandpa Pete & Grandma Edie were married 60 years ago on the day of this post. How proud they would be of what a thoughtful,caring steward of the land you are and that you get what the legacy is all about. It doesn’t suprise me that it’s in your veins but I’m so greatful that you married a wonderful guy who also shares your love of the place. And now since you’ve made me a quivering mound of jello (as my bro calls me) I wish you a teary best wishes in your new venture. Love, Kerry

  7. I have to give a shout out to the women-like my Mom-of the 1950’s/60’s. My Mom was married at age 20-3 kids in 3 years-5 overall. My 1950’s Dad worked long hours on the road with the railroad and Mom didn’t have disposiable diapers,boxed meals, cable TV,or cell phones. But she made it work and I feel we grew up in the best possible times…..Rich

  8. What can I say – this may be your best!! Love the picture of you and Grandpa Pete.He and Grandma Edie were the best and I miss them.

  9. My parents live in my Great-Grandparents house. A couple of years ago I transplanted some of my Great Grandma Hilda’s yellow rosebush to my house. Those Yellow Roses are my favorite. I also have the cupboard door that my Great grandma kept her “candy” treats in. It has moved with me 4 times and I still haven’t done anything with it, but I can’t part with it. She kept circus peanuts or those pink pepto candies in that cupboard!!!

    • I love this Roxanne, that you have your great grandma’s cupboard door! That’s fantastic. I bet you think of her every time you see circus peanuts. I think of my gram on my mom’s side when I see them and then think of the candy drawer she still has in her lake home…I bet she has circus peanuts there right now 🙂

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