Oh my, we had such an amazing weekend here at the ranch. I can’t believe I’m even (barely) awake today as we all come down from the high of friends and family and celebrating it all.
And I intend on telling you all about it, about the beautiful day, the beautiful couple, the food, the adorable ring bearer and flower girl…
and of course, the dancing, but first I’m going to share the column I wrote last week in the hectic whiz and whirl of planning and cleaning and trying to get work done with no internet and no phone in the middle of the wild west.
If I sound a little stressed and frustrated I blame it on the nice cocktail of time crunch, deadlines, road construction, horseflies, heat and hormones…
But don’t worry, we’ve all calmed down a bit now…
Coming Home: Busy road, slow internet, both inconveniences in the Bakken
by Jessie Veeder
I pulled my car over on the top of the hill at the approach next to the gate where there’s usually a white pickup with a company logo idling and a man inside checking his phone or writing in a notebook. Usually, I see them there and shake my head in annoyance, wishing they would find another place to park, as if the county road going through the ranch belongs to us only.
Because it seemed like it used to anyway.
But now these once quiet roads have turned into a sort of autobahn, not just for transporting oil, water or random equipment strapped to flatbed trailers, but also the men and women who have places to go.
And while they’re going, they have work to get done.
Because the men behind the wheel on these roads don’t take many breaks, unless it’s to pull over for a phone call or to enter numbers on a laptop plugged into the console of their pickups, a regular mobile office right there on that approach on top of the hill next to the gate.
This is the reality of the weekday workday, not in town but out at the ranch these days. And while the wheels on the portable offices kick up dust on the road above my house, I sit in my back bedroom-turned-office and write about it, report on it, and make phone calls to tell its story.
And then, just as I hit send on one of those timely and important emails, the Internet cuts out.
I don’t panic. This happens a lot. Because no matter how fast we say it has changed out here, things like reliable high-speed Internet 30 miles from town are still a mystical dream of the future.
I’ll just communicate the old-fashioned way and pick up the phone.
But there’s no phone.
And so it’s a Thursday afternoon, I have a deadline, and two of my three links to the civilized world have been taken away.
My third link? Driving an hour in 30 miles of road construction to an office I can access in town, because we’re in the middle of progress, dang it, and progress means a little suffering along the way … and a little ingenuity and resourcefulness.
I thought of those guys in their pickups on that approach on top of the hill next to the gate and I grabbed my laptop, cellphone and notebook, pulled in to where I got a good cellphone signal, tapped into my hotspot and spent a good hour or two getting work done in my own mobile office.
Fast-forward to the weekend when my husband and I attempted to haul a little tractor from the ranch to Williston, N.D., and found ourselves along the highway with a flat tire on the old trailer and an even older spare that didn’t fit. Six phone calls later we landed a contact with a new tire business open past 2 p.m. on Saturdays, drove back to that trailer along the highway, and got it done.
And in between it all I’m arguing with the post office about a pair of my husband’s very important and needs-to-be-here-like-yesterday khaki wedding pants that got lost in the mail. Because it’s a long and winding road to the Wild West. Especially when you’re a pair of khakis coming from New York.
Sometimes the Wild West just isn’t on my side.
Yes, some things would be undoubtedly easier if we just put this house on wheels and moved it to the suburbs of Minneapolis, where people don’t get flat tires, always have reliable Internet and don’t have to sit in their cars next to cow pastures to get a cellphone signal.
But, oh, the sweet clover smells good these days, even alongside a busy highway changing a flat.
Even without Internet.
Because this is not Minneapolis, even though these roads are no longer ours alone.
But if we stay on course, they will undoubtedly be smoother, the Internet will be faster, and the mobile lives kicking up dust above the house will get a little easier every day.
In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be on a hill somewhere trying to get some work done.