If I weren’t these things…


I sit on the love seat in the back room of my parent’s house. It’s 9:30 on a Wednesday evening. I’ve finished my slice of pizza. My mother brought it home from town. I’ve had my glass of wine and we’ve had our visit about the weather and the traffic and the pizza and the fact that my little sister is back home tonight on her pursuit for a job here.

My little sister might be moving back home.

I close my eyes at the thought as her shoulder touches my shoulder. This love seat is small, so my other shoulder is not free either. It’s smashed up against my husband’s leg as he leans back, sprawled out on the arm of this overstuffed piece of furniture.

The three of us, we are a sandwich, and I am the lettuce, the cheese, the pickle, mayo and turkey. They are the bread and we are everything you need for a good bite.

We close our eyes and listen to Pops blow the air from his lungs through the harmonica he wears around his neck. We hear a lonesome sound, one that is familiar and sad and haunting and beautiful and home. We lean in closer…to one another. To him.

We taste his words…

I live back in the woods you see 
My woman and the kids and the dogs and me...

We don’t say it, but it seems those words might have been written for this man sitting in front of us, his hair more silver than it was yesterday, his fingers callused, his voice ringing with those pieces of gravel that dug their way in from years of playing songs like this in bar rooms.

I’ve got a shotgun a rifle 
and a four wheel drive…

It’s quiet tonight. The dogs are asleep and the trucks have taken a different route or maybe they finally called it quits for the day.

I know the stars are out.

And a country boy can survive 
Country folks can survive…

In the kitchen the warm scent of brownies my mother is frosting fresh from the oven drifts back to us smooshed together, the sandwich, on the love seat. I can’t see her from my position as the lettuce, the cheese, the pickle and mayo and turkey, but I know my mother is sipping wine and running her long fingers along the pages of a new magazine.

We grow good ole tomatoes and homemade wine…


Everything I ever knew for certain is filling my lungs and my ears, touching my shoulders and swaying along to all of the things I am on the inside.

And a country boy can survive


I am his lungs and heart and pieces of his gravely voice.

I am her fingers and worries and holidays.

I am his goodnights and kisses. His battles and wishes.

I am her blood, her memories…her shoulder.

Country folks can survive…

We breathe in the air of this house, the air Pops uses to push through the next verse, and I think that if I were not these things,  I might not exist at all…

*Lyrics from “A Country Boy Can Survive” by Hank Williams Jr. 

5 thoughts on “If I weren’t these things…

  1. What a beautiful tribute to your heritage and your family! Your parents must have done something right to have two daughters choose to live nearby! You’re fortunate to belong, and to want to belong. ~ Sheila

  2. I love reading your blog and newspaper articles, Jessie. I love your focus on what really matters in life and your appreciation for everyday, ordinary blessings. And although I only lived in ND for 6 of my 33 years, I’ll hold the people and memories of those days in my heart forever. Reading your blog kind of feels like visiting with the people I miss from my old hometown of Watford City. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

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