Plans and un-plans: How the best days are made

So, Husband and I took a belated (by 10 1/2 years) honeymoon last week and now we’re back to the real world and I feel like I’m already tired tomorrow.

But it was a great trip. I’d tell you all about it, but besides a night snorkel, a really cool swim with the dolphins and hanging out with this stingray (OMGEEE)…


I mostly I slept and read and ate and soaked up the sun while Husband did adventurous things like scuba diving and cliff jumping and Edie hung out around campfires and in campers with her cousins without really noticing we were gone.


I’ll bore you with more travel adventures later, but my vacation brain just switched off in time for me to realize that tomorrow is Tuesday and I have to travel to the big town all day tomorrow, so I have to get cracking on next week’s column to meet the deadline.

So here’s last week’s column on another one of those great weekends.

Coming Home: A Trip the Sale Barn Proves the Best Days Can’t Be Planned


In all the years my husband and I have spent growing up together, there’s one quality we continue to share and that’s our affinity for last minute, spontaneous plans.

Especially if those plans mean blowing off yard work and fencing projects in favor of spending an 80-degree day at the sale barn watching horses come through the ring while we try to convince ourselves of all the reasons not to bid.


I’ve always loved the sale barn.


I’m not sure why a little girl would grow up loving a place like that, but it’s likely the same reason anyone loves any place, because of the memories that hang in the air.

As a kid I spent time in the fall sitting shotgun in dad’s pickup as we drove a load of calves up through the badlands to Dickinson where I would wait in the pickup, feeling the calves shake the trailer and pickup as they unloaded into the bright autumn sun or the wind of a chilly overcast day. I would watch the men in ear-flap caps push the animals to their pens and then lean against sorting sticks or the railing of the fence and visit a bit about prices and weather and grown up things.

And then we would head inside to the smell of black coffee and dirt and manure and the sound of the auctioneer spitting out numbers and weights and colors and “Hey!,” “Ho!” “Yup!” and I would sit with it all swirling around me, watching white papers go up and down, terrified to scratch my nose in case they might mistake me for a bidder. And then, after hours of collecting sale barn dust in my nostrils, it was time for my favorite part of all — a cheeseburger at the counter in the café downstairs.

I sat with Edie at that counter last weekend trying to will her to eat some chicken nuggets while her dad was upstairs bidding on gentle horses to replace Stormy. It was a different vibe than those fall cattle sales — hot, muggy and of course, full of horses.


Cowboys would whip out rope tricks and tales of how the animal drags calves to the branding fire. Little kids would stand up on a pony’s saddle, flip off their backs and duck under their bellies, demonstrating the animal’s tolerance, reminding me of the few times I rode horses dad trained through the ring as a kid, showing how they handled, backed up and tolerated the swinging of my reigns.


Was I really ever that kid? I wondered to myself as I watched my daughter lean against her dad’s lap the same way I used to, yelling “Hey!” at the auctioneer while I held my breath as my husband took a pretty dun gelding up to our budget.



7 thoughts on “Plans and un-plans: How the best days are made

  1. As you discribed the smells of the sale barn I could smell the memory of the farm I grew up on even though I am 75. We grew up on a very small 140 acres farm with no electricity, hand pumps in the house and barn for water and no indoor bathroom. Our two horses were used only for work. When the pump in the barn broke we had to open up the ice in the river and walk the cattle to drink. All except the bull of course. We had to drive the cream to town every day because we had no cooling system. We lived 7 miles from Sebeka, MN.

  2. I’ve been following your blog since October,2010. I’m from Northern Wisconsin. I never dreamed I would be in your blog!! In your third picture in the ring I am on the far left in a white shirt and white hat and my son to my left in blue shirt!! I sure wish I could of met you and your family!! So close yet still so far!!!

  3. Love your article, I look forward to it every Monday in the Grand Forks Herald. I grew up on a ranch by Grassy Butte. My family moved away when I was entering 6th grade but visit every chance I get. I agree that taking time for each other is so important. My husband and I celebrate our wedding day every month. On that day we go out to dinner, give cards, do something special. It was hard to do sometimes with kids, jobs but we did. We have been doing this for 42 years, 11 months.

  4. You have me teary eyed remembering one of my grandfather’s last days on this earth spent in a sale barn and watching his 90+ year old face light up as he participated in the auction! Bless you and yours!

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