Sunday Column: What it means to be a cowgirl

The wind is blowing so hard out here it woke us out of a dead sleep early this morning and detached some of the new shingles on the roof of the garage, undoing in one second some of the hard work Husband laid down last weekend when the weather was a little less tornado-ey and a bit more melty.

You never know what you’re going to get out here. If I’ve learned anything this winter I’ve learned that. 

So we’re spending the day inside making shelves, making plans, making progress and making egg in a hole.

Ever had it? It’s gourmet.

Later today after I get tired of handing my dear husband things like nail guns, screwdrivers,   sandpaper and the thing he just asked me to find that I will never find because I have no idea what it is, I will go hide in my room and play some cowboy music and try to get  prepared for our trip to Elko on Tuesday. 

This trip to another region of cowboy country has gotten me thinking about my roots and where I may have picked up on the idea that I want to stick around here and ride horses for the rest of my life.

In fact, lately I’ve been in touch with a woman from New York who is working on “The Cowgirl Project,” a documentary and movement that explores what it means to be a cowgirl. She’s going to meet me in Elko next week and we’re going to talk about it a bit more, but to prepare she called me up and asked me for my initial thoughts on the topic.

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At the time I was riding in the back of my Big Sister’s car as she drove our dad around town, a sort of outing we’d been scheduling that week to get him out into the world as he recovers. Lately I’ve found all of the women in my life have had to ‘Cowboy Up,’ so to speak, to tap into the best and strongest parts of ourselves to move through the scariest moment of our lives and come out better–more compassionate, more understanding and more capable–on the other end.

But I have to be honest, I’ve never thought to define the word “cowgirl.” And so when I was asked to do just that, I sort of started rambling. I mean, I have plenty of thoughts on what it means to be a cowboy, but really, when I get right down to it, some of the best cowboys I know are women.

And they don’t all wear hats and chaps and ride a strawberry roan. 

No. In fact one of the best cowgirls I’ve known, the one who showed me at a young age the kind of woman I could turn out to be if I stuck here with the cattle and the buttes and a roast in the oven, was my grandmother.

And when I think of her I think of an old free feed cap and hands that can soothe a baby and fix a fence.

When I think of her I think strong, not just in muscle but in spirit.

When I think of her I think of homemade rag dolls,  popsicles on the porch, rainwater catching in the barrel below the house and digging up potatoes in the garden out back.

When I think of her I think overalls in the winter and her voice yelling “Come Boss! Come Boss!” as my grandpa threw out grain for the cattle.

When I think of her I think of family and holidays surrounded by cousins and aunts and uncles in a tiny kitchen on the prairie, homemade buns and the jello salad she always forgot in the refrigerator. 

When I think of her I think of that old sorrel horse, the one I rode when she was gone. The one that taught me how to fall off and get back up again.

Coming Home: How I define a cowgirl
by Jessie Veeder
Fargo Forum

There are plenty more like her out there, some of who’ve never sat thier ass in a saddle, but if asked to get ‘on up there  would give it her best shot, with confidence, grace and good humor.

And when you got home there would be a roast in the oven and maybe a jello salad somewhere in the back of the fridge.

And I don’t know what it all means except that as long as their are women out there who know how to “cowboy up,”–in between sidewalks or on the wide open trail–I think we’re all going to be ok.

If you need me I’ll be in my room singing about it.

12 thoughts on “Sunday Column: What it means to be a cowgirl

  1. Love this perspective Jessie! Deep in my heart from my Arizona roots I’ve always wanted to be a cowgirl, and now fifty years later I suppose in some ways weathering life’s storm I have been one.
    Thanks and Best to you in Elko!

  2. The world would be a better place if we all had grandmas like this… Now I’m off to make cornbread and a jello salad to go with dinner because your post gave me a hankerin’ for some of that great comfort food.

  3. hi hon, love your columns….im away over here in bc canada. Your stuff really brings back memories of my childhood in the prairies, and sometimes a tear to my eye. hope you have a great time a your conference. Love from Brandy and my big ole Belgian Arabella

  4. Jessie..Stuck in a blizzard in Harvey,ND. Reminds me of the time your dad and I left for the ranch to go deer were with..long drive..10 hours..Edith and Pete met us at the door..this when I learned how to try to cowboy-up. I learned I was at the Veeder ranch..and only much later realized the honor of being invited.Your grandpa and grandmas’ smiles lit up the room as we arrived. Hunting was rough,Wade was there.I hurt my back.I made some venison stir-fry. In the last hour..I shot a whitetail were with..we headed back to Grand Forks and broke down in Lakota. But, we made it home safely! More jello-salad in the fridge! Memories of the Veeder ranch and genuine cowboys/cowgirls.JS

  5. Have a great time in Elko Jessie!! They arent going to know what hit them when they hear you sing! When I learned about egg in the hole we called it pig in the poke….your term is a much more honest depiction.Yum!
    I think a cowgirl is every cowboy you ever knew, just as capable but smells a helluva lot better!!! Have a great time on your adventure in Elko cowgirl!!!

  6. Love your blogs, Jessie ! You have written from the heart. Your tribute to both your dad and your grandmother are inspiring. Thanks !!!

  7. Enjoy Elko, Jessie! Break a leg. I got married during the Gathering 19 years ago when husband Shadd Piehl was one of the featured poets. I hope the place treats you (almost) that well!

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