A photographer came to visit the ranch and I’ll tell you right now, it wasn’t pretty people. We spent the day before working an art event in town that I had been planning for months and didn’t get home until after eleven. It was the last event in a week with a full schedule. I was tired. I had to gather the troops. I sorta forgot to take a shower and fix my hair. I didn’t make even a remotely healthy lunch for my niece and I (because when you’re tired you much prefer Doritos to salad). I didn’t put pants on the baby. I didn’t get the horses in ahead of time to prepare them and de-bur them so that they were photo ready. And I didn’t mention in the newspaper column below the part where the baby stuck her finger up my horses’s snotty nose, which was bleeding a bit because of a fresh little cut.
That was horrifying. And there was a man from Minneapolis with a big camera to witness my disgust.
So this is my confession published in newspapers across the state, in case you might get the wrong idea when you see the photos and article in the magazine that we have our shit together out here.
Because we don’t.
But I think you all knew that already…
Coming Home: Glossy pages don’t reflect our not-so-glamourous life
by Jessie Veeder
This morning a big yellow screwdriver sits next to a half-eaten pan of cinnamon rolls (the kind out of the freezer section, not out of my KitchenAid mixer) and that sits next to a couple baby books about farm life that feature a perfect red barn against green rolling hills dotted with smiling black and white cows.
Like, why don’t the horses in the books have cockleburs in their manes? Aren’t horses born with them?
And momma, why don’t you wear an apron like the mommas in the books? And where is that fresh-baked pie that’s supposed to be sitting on the windowsill to cool?
Yes, follow us around for a day and you would see that clearly the authors of these children’s farm books didn’t base them off of our life.
And while Edie’s not old enough to start asking questions (sigh of relief) I did have a reporter call me a few weeks ago with some questions of her own. Like, what’s life like on the family ranch for two people who got to move back to it? What does a typical day look like?
I couldn’t think of an interesting or straightforward way to answer that. When she called my husband just got home from work and he was rocking the baby, trying to keep her happy so I could have an uninterrupted conversation. When that was over, he was going to go to his next job of taking care of this place. And when he returned we would have leftover lasagna for the third night in a row because I got distracted by a writing deadline when I should have been doing laundry because I’m out of clean underwear, for crying out loud.
And so they sent out a photographer to see for himself. A photographer who likely had a hope of capturing what I’m sure he envisioned as some picturesque scenes of a family of three working side by side and meeting up for a picnic meal with the grandparents who live down the road.
But this was an agricultural magazine so I hope they knew better. And while I was raised in an environment where both my parents worked, ran a ranching operation and managed to keep three kids alive, I’m learning what that really means as an adult. And I’m not sure we’re exactly killing it.
I mean, when a photographer shows up, completely announced and expected, a balanced and together woman would have had pants on the baby. Or combed her hair.
Or at least cleared the evidence of her recent Dorito and Oreo lunch from the counter.
And when the request for a photo of my husband and I riding side by side through a herd of calm cattle sent me down to the barnyard attempting to lure uninterested horses in with a bucket of grain before resorting to leading one with the shirt I was planning on wearing tied around his neck so that I could spend the next half hour before my husband arrived home currying the tangle of burs out of their manes and tails so I wouldn’t embarrass the long line of Veeders who once called this place home, I began to question if we were really worthy of the press.
But at least he got authentic. Authentic sweat. And authentic cussing as my husband and I attempted the impossible task of moving a herd of cattle toward a man with a camera standing in an open pasture.
Needless to say, none of it was picture perfect.
Because around here burs stick to horses while they fill up on green grass that makes them fat and sassy on the hilltop behind the barn that needs painting. And inside, where the books might write in the apple pie, we have a screwdriver instead. Or a calf tagger. Or a hammer.
And it might not be glamorous, and it might not be easy, but that’s why they make frozen cinnamon rolls.