About Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

I am working on living and writing my story. I grew up singing and writing music and spent my young adult life touring colleges and coffeehouses across the country. I have had a life long love affair with Western North Dakota and the 3,000 acre cattle ranch on the edge of the badlands where I grew up Now, after a couple albums, a couple of moves, a couple of dogs, a couple of jobs, one large home renovation and a long, heartbreaking road to motherhood, I am back at the ranch to sing, write and raise cattle and my baby daughter alongside my family as we take this ranch into the next 100 years. Oh, and just in case you want to know a bit more about the woman behind the words...I'm a statewide columnist, a recording artist and touring musician, a new momma and nature enthusiast. I have big hair. I trip a lot. I say stupid things. I snort when I laugh. I'm a home renovator and a damn good cabinet refinisher. I married the right man. I hate car shopping. I would adopt all of the dogs in the world if I had a big enough yard. I am addicted to coffee and candy and peanut butter. I am working on writing my story. I am home.

L.O.V.E – a Valentines Day Craft

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Today’s the big day for those of you who are all on board with an official holiday that celebrates LOVE!

I have to say, I’ve always liked the holiday, probably because my mom always made us her Valentines, greeting us in the morning with little gifts, candies and cards waiting at the breakfast table, making an ordinary day in February feel fun and special.

My mom is great at holidays.

Also, I was a kid who liked projects, so I took the Valentines Day box assignment very seriously, spending hours with construction paper, glue guns and whatever else I could find around the house and yard to inspire my creativity. Once I made a birdhouse Valentines box out of a milk carton and sticks from the coulee so elaborate that you couldn’t fit a valentine in the slot.

So I (happily) made a different one, bringing the birdhouse to school anyway, you know, as an art piece.

Anyway, now that I have a baby girl I have an excuse to get back into my Valentines Day projects, at least a little bit. And now that we have the good ‘ol invention called Pinterest, I don’t have to be creative…because other mommas can be creative for me.

So in case you have a little one and are looking for something fun to send or drop off to grammas, grampas, aunts and uncles for the holiday (something I meant to do yesterday, but forgot because I might have found the time to do a craft, but I don’t have the mind to follow through with its purpose) here’s a cute, fun, simple and one of the only Pinterest ideas I’ve actually executed.

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I found it on a post done by blogger HelloBee, which also includes a few more fun Valentines Day crafts for the babies. Her example looks better, but maybe her baby isn’t as wiggly.

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Click here to take a look at her post, “February Activities for Infants/Toddlers”.

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But I have to say, Edie loved it. And she’s old enough now to get the concept of things after a few repetitions, so she happily spread her little hands out while I painted them with paint and pressed them onto the paper.

But here’s a tip, make sure you have a wet rag on hand to wipe the damage immediately. I had to turn my back for a second to get one and, well…

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Our Valentines Day craft took a quick, but dark turn.

Anyway, I liked this project because I had everything on hand. Paint, brush, construction paper and baby.

And to make things easier on all of us, I put the baby in her high chair and turned on PBS while we painted her hands. And when her hands were done I threw her some Cheerios and we tackled (and tickled her feet).

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And although I had to explain to my husband that it was supposed to spell out LOVE, I like it. I think I’ll frame it up and keep it as the only Valentines Day decoration I own.

And I’m putting a note on my agenda today to take the rest of them to the mailbox.

Happy Valentines Day moms and dads and babies and grammas and grampas and aunts and uncles and sisters and brothers and friends and everyone in between.

Celebrate love in all its forms today!

And then make sure you pop open a bottle of champaign, because, well, it’s important to take advantage of any excuse to drink champaign.

I hope my husband got my hint/blatant request to bring me home some Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies.

Peace, Love and smooches,

Jessie and Edie

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Love in an ordinary life

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Because Valentines Day is approaching and because more than anything in this life of ours the little things add up to the biggest acts of love.

Tiny reminders of love in an ordinary life
by Jessie Veeder
2-12-17
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Last week I had a couple meetings I scheduled in the late afternoon. I do this on days I don’t have Edie in daycare, strategically overlapping the beginning of my workday with the end of my husband’s.

Because we live 30 miles and a good 45 minutes from town, the planning can be a little tricky and usually involves a quick stop and drop at Gramma’s store so Edie can destroy the place before her daddy picks her up.

Anyway, after one of my meetings ran a little late in town, I decided to stop at the grocery store. Without a toddler in the cart practicing her fast-pitch skills with a bag of oranges, I could linger a little longer and think a little bit about the week’s meal plan, or, because I haven’t made a week’s meal plan ever in my life, at least I could take a second to price compare. Which I did. And I also picked up fried chicken from the deli, so supper was covered for another day.

By the time I finally made it through the door of the house, Edie was already sleeping in her room, the lights were low in the house and remnants of the evening were scattered from living room to kitchen, giving me a detailed map of what father and daughter had been up to together.

I chatted with my husband while I made my way to the bedroom to change out of my town clothes, throwing him the usual questions like, “How was she tonight? Was her nose still stuffy? “Did she go down OK? “What did she eat?”

Then I spotted a little pink bottle of fingernail polish on the coffee table sitting next to her sippy cup and cardboard book. Because I haven’t painted my fingernails since the seventh month our child was in utero, my next question was, of course, “What’s with the nail polish?”

“Oh,” he replied, “I painted Edie’s fingernails tonight.”

He was so nonchalant about it.

“Really? You painted her nails?” I asked, my voice suddenly moving up an octave as I pictured the scene, my heart beginning the melting process inside my chest.

“Yeah, I thought she might like it,” he shrugged. “And she did.”

And that’s really the end of the story because nothing extraordinary happened next in that house that evening. The two of us ate fried chicken at the counter, talked about our day, probably turned on the TV and argued about something in the news before trudging upstairs to bed.

These are the ins and outs of our regular days, nothing so glamorous or extraordinary about our lives or our family or our love story.

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But for some reason I keep going back to that little scene, one that instantly brightened up a busy but regular week, the one that starred my stoic and scruffy husband holding that tiny polish brush in his big callused hands while balancing his baby daughter on his knee, gently coaxing her to hold still while he placed teeny dots of pink polish on her miniature fingers.

Ugh, there’s so much to say about that little moment besides the fact that it had the power to lift my spirits in such a unique way.

And it’s not that I think this is uncommon behavior for dads and daughters necessarily; it’s just that I know my husband and I know that I begged him to paint my toenails when I was pregnant with his daughter and the man refused, noting that he didn’t have a steady enough hand.

But the child can’t talk yet. She doesn’t know what fingernail polish is, so nail painting was his idea of something fun the two of them could do together.

OK.

But you know what I realized then? In all of the countless hours I’ve spent with that baby girl in the house alone, I’ve never once painted her fingernails. I don’t have the patience for it. I would much sooner choose banging two pot lids together or letting her rip up the roll of toilet paper in the bathroom.

But her dad chose the fingernail polish and, in the middle of an ordinary week in an ordinary marriage in an ordinary life, I was reminded why I chose him.

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Moo.

We’re thawing out a bit out here after a string of frozen days. Looks like the foreseeable future will be quite a few degrees above zero and that lifts our spirits a bit.

I’m ready for spring (and lets, be honest, that Jamaican vacation) and this baby’s ready to get outside and try out her new running skills without the cumbersome giant marshmallow snowsuit I made her wear last week when we went out feeding cows.

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But the kid doesn’t seem to mind. As long as we’re out doing stuff and seeing stuff and chatting about it, she’s happy.

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Feeding cows is a chore she likes to help with. And since the snow has melted a little and we can feed with the pickup instead of the tractor, we can go along again.

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I’ve always loved the way the cows look coming in for feed, in a black (and now some brown) line in the white snow. It’s like moving, breathing art (and hungry) to me.

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Art that says “Moo!”

If we listen as much as we speak

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Because isn’t this what we try to teach our children?

In these heated times, listen as much as you speak
by Jessie Veeder
2-5-17
Forum Communications

Last weekend we slowed down our typical agenda and spent some much-needed time with our good friends. Because we both live in rural North Dakota, we thought it would be fun to meet in the big town to do some shopping, eat out and take our babies swimming in the hotel pool.

My friend and her husband have a son who turns one soon and in the years prior to the arrival of our long-awaited children, we would spend hours on the phone together discussing doctors appointments, crying over losses and wondering why it was so hard for us and so easy for others.

These days, much to our delight, we talk about car seat choices and sleep schedules and how working from home and taking care of a toddler is the hardest and most wonderful gig we’ve had so far.

When we finally get a chance to get together, we hardly take a breath. Our husbands shake their heads and change the diapers and connect on what it’s like to be working daddies married to emotionally charged women.

So much of what we’re going through at this moment is the same — same demographic, same type of rural existence, same stage in motherhood, same small-business goals — but (and I think I can speak for my friend here) there are still experiences and pieces of our lives that don’t fully translate.

There are personal situations and feelings that we may never truly absorb or comprehend about one another, no matter how much we have in common or how much we adore each other.

And that’s ok.

“Be careful not to assume your experiences are the experiences of others.”

This statement appeared to me somewhere tucked inside the political back and forth that has become our lives in America these days. For some reason it really spoke to me as a line that somehow sums up what I’ve been feeling in a neat little package tucked in my pocket just waiting and ready to be disputed at any given time.

I’m not sure if I’m going to explain it properly here, but since becoming a mother it feels like every nerve I possess is exposed, every emotion so volatile. I see children in a different way now. I see them attached to mothers like me who felt them kick inside their bodies and welcomed them in the early mornings or long dark nights to worry and pain and then wails of relief.

I see those children, no matter the race, religion or distance across the ocean, and I see Edie.

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I see their mothers, by birth or by adoption, by choice or by chance, and I see myself.

And then I wonder if they walk on this earth the way I do, so aware of how each decision made holds their babies so fully in their wake.

But that’s where the shared experience begins and ends. Because I might just be naive enough to think that loving a child the way a good mother loves her child is, in so many ways, universal.

What if I couldn’t give Edie a decent meal? What if the home I planned to raise her in was invaded or destroyed? What if she woke up with a fever or fell and broke her arm and I had to calculate and sacrifice our tight budget to afford a trip to the emergency room?

What if the only chance I thought we might have at surviving this life was to load up my one-year-old on a raft and float across the sea with nothing certain but uncertainty at the shore?

What would I do?

There are mothers in this world making choices like these while I sit in a hotel room drinking wine and playing cards with my best friend, our babies sleeping safe and sound beside us.

It’s not lost on me in these trying times, in a world seemingly teetering on the edge, that our opinions can be thrown around, but dear friends, they won’t go as far as the compassion we might find in stories we hear.

If we listen as much as we speak, we just might be reminded that we are nothing but the lucky ones.

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Parenting on the Prairie

Good Wednesday to you all!

Just thought I’d take a little break from the frantic pace I try to achieve in my attempt to get a week’s worth of work done in the two days that Edie’s at daycare to share a couple parenting related pieces of news.

#1 Our Crazy Cat Had Kittens

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Yeah. Pixie, my husband’s pixiebob cat, turned the new carpet under the bed in the basement bedroom into a maternity ward yesterday while I was out and I came home to find her nursing four squeaky, stripey, adorable kittens.

I discovered her situation early last week when she was staring at us through the glass door on the deck. I went out to give her a scratch and, well, there was no denying the cat was knocked up.

So we let her in to watch her and make sure everything went smoothly.

And the cat was thrilled.

Turned out the little person living here didn’t share her sentiment. Because while Edie loves the kitty when she’s outside, passing her by for a point and pat on her way from the car, she isn’t so keen on another creature sitting on her mom or dad’s lap or brushing by her chair. I mean, clearly the cat should know better, it has her name embroidered on it for gawd sake.

Nope. If that cat gets anywhere near that chair Edie makes a beeline from across the room to show her who’s boss.

And on Sunday, when the cat dared climb up to share my lap with Edie, I watched my sweet innocent baby stare straight ahead to divert my attention so that I wouldn’t notice her little hand reaching over to try and pinch that cat’s paw.

So now we know my kid has a jealous bone and it’s not just reserved for humans.

And now we have four more cats to help teach her a lesson about sharing.

I’ll keep you posted. And also, let me know if you want to add a stripy kitten to your family. (Warning: they are a tiny part bobcat)

#2 I’ve Been Editing a Parenting Publication

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but since September I’ve been working as the editor of a Western North Dakota based parenting publication. It’s been a fun little project that has been unfolding pretty nicely and has been available as a free publication for readers to pick up in Western North Dakota. But we’ve recently made it available online and have a nice new website to go with it, so now you can read it too if you’d like!

www.prairieparent.com

Every issue I write a little “From the Editor” piece about what I’m learning on this new parenting journey and then my great set of writers tackle a variety of issue from staying healthy to where to get cute clothes and everything else that’s on the minds of parents out here on the prairie.

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This month’s issue is about love and there’s a really cute section called “Kids Talk” where I go out and ask kids really important questions, like what are they thankful for and how they think Santa gets to all the houses all in one night.

This month they tell me what love means to them and it’s adorable. You can read their answers here:

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If you’re interested, you can follow Prairie Parent on Facebook to get the latest updates.

But I’ll keep (most of) the kitten and Edie stories right here where they belong.

Well, it’s curling night tonight, so I better start stretching now!

Peace, love  and the glory of motherhood,

Jessie

The moral of the old friendship story

Some old friendship keep you young. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up witnessing that phenomenon, one  adventure and mishap after another.

Here’s this week’s column.

The moral of the old friendship story
1-29-17
by Jessie Veeder
http://www.InForum.com

We were all sitting around in the living room visiting about weather, politics and how Edie managed to get her second bloody nose in two days in church that morning when Dad came sneaking sort of quietly through the door, slipping off his snow boots and wool cap before shuffling down the hall and sliding into the chair.

The last time we saw him he was at the top of the neighbors’ sledding hill, brushing the snow off of his Carharts after a lightning speed solo trip on the orange toboggan.

His best friend just came back from the shop with his chainsaw to cut down a dead tree that he thought was in the way of the epic run they were building.

All the kids had already gone in the house due to frozen cheeks and my little sister and I, exhausted from a half hour of trying to save Edie from the ideas she had about running, unassisted and unafraid, down the sledding hill, decided we would all be safer and happier in my living room.

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And so that’s where we left him — grampa Gene with his best friend, neighbor and grampa himself, Kelly — alone with two other dads, a slick sledding hill, a stack of sleds and no supervision.

“I bet if Gene and I took that orange sled down this hill together we could get going ’bout 150,” I heard Kelly say as he walked up the hill behind me.

And so I called Dad. I knew he wouldn’t want to miss out on a chance to go 150.

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I should have known better, but neighbor Kelly is notorious for building epic escapades in the middle of an ordinary Sunday afternoon.

And in the winter, the go-to adventure is always their sledding hill, which is as meticulously cared for as an Olympic rated luge track.

“So, did you and Kelly go 150?” I asked Dad, thinking his unusual silence was a little suspicious.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “It was plenty fast.”

He sort of half-laughed the way a kid does when he’s holding on to something funny but knows giving in will undoubtedly mean having to explain himself.

Which is exactly what happened as he entered the living room scene, with my mom, little sister and husband all staring at him, knowing there was more to the story.

“What,” I said.

He scratched his head where his hat had been, making his silver, scruffy hair stand up straight and gave it up.

“Oh, it … it was bad,” he puffed. “Kelly got hurt. I don’t know …”

“What? How? Where?”

“Well, his arm I think. Think he tore a tendon. I don’t know … We tried snowboarding.”

“Dad!”

“Yeah, well it’s not a challenge for those young guys; they just fly right down there. It’s more fun for us. To see how far we can go. Anyway. I hurt my shoulder … ”

“Your shoulder?!”

“Yeah, but he wiped out pretty bad at the bottom, don’t know how much hand shaking he’ll be doing these days … ”

“Might be the end of his curling career … ”

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And the conversation spun on from there about past near misses, heroic injuries and the epic 2-mile toboggan run from the hay field to the barnyard. One story blended into the next the way they do when you get an old guy rolling in memories with a friend who’s lived up the hill from him his entire life and can always be counted on to help with things like roundup, keys locked in cars, or kittens stuck behind refrigerators.

My favorite is the time he spent the evening at our house in the dark sitting on the floor in the living room while Dad sat in his easy chair, both holding BB guns pointed at the open cabinet under the sink waiting for the unwelcome pack rat they were hunting to make his next and final appearance, a really great scene in the wonderfully ordinary story of their long friendship.

“Well, if there’s a chance to go sledding I’m taking it,” Dad said when someone swung back around to ask how his shoulder was feeling.

And I think that might be the moral of the story, and maybe of friendship in general, no matter how old and reckless you get.

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Slow Cookin’

Did I ever tell you about the time I started my crock pot on fire?

No? Well, it wasn’t really as dramatic as that, but once upon a Sunday afternoon there was a big ‘ol spark followed by quick fizzling flame and that was the day the beef roast died in this house.

The slow cooker is one of those things you can live without, but it’s pretty handy to have for the wintertime staples like beef roast and chili, basically the only things I ever used it for in this house (and also things you can make with the good ‘ol oven and stove combo that comes with the house) So anyway, blowing up the crockpot didn’t seem like a really big deal until I realized I was mourning it.

For some reason it seemed like as soon as I dug its grave all of these awesome crock pot meals kept popping up on my news feed and in conversations with my friends about how they keep the bills paid, children dressed, driveways shoveled, hair washed, abs tight,  men happy and food on the table. Turns out it’s all because of the crock pot.

So it took me a few months of denial, but I finally replaced the old thing with a fancier version: one with a cover latch and a thermometer and more temperature control, perfect for the traveling casserole thing us Lutherans like to do.

And just like that the crock pot is back in our lives, shiny and new and with a big job to do, which is make my life easier.

Anyway, we all know this isn’t a cooking blog or a domestic how-to website in any way shape or form, unless you’re looking for examples on what not to do so you can stay out of the ditch/mudhole/bad nest of wood ticks, but lately after some well intentioned and totally flopped attempts at trying to spice it up in the kitchen and get supper on the table before 11 pm, I came across some really good and really easy crock pot recipes that even someone like me can handle.

These were not Pinterest fails. And if anyone’s going to fail at something on Pinterest, it’s me.

So thank you to the women out there who encourage us to keep on trucking in the kitchen by making it look so easy and pretty on your websites. You inspired me to slow cook some BBQ pork and put it in a taco shell for last Friday’s meal, thankful for a few moments to sit down and catch up with my husband before the evening turned into the third middle-of-the-night baby puking incident in a row.

Try it out here. Not the puking thing, the taco thing…(sorry, that right there is one of the many reasons I don’t have a cooking blog).

Barbecue Pork Tacos with Honey Mustard Slaw Recipe

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And tonight the online kitchen divas got me to put a whole chicken in the magic pot only to come back six hours later to find it juicy and damn delicious. I threw some Uncle Ben’s wild rice on the stove and damn if I didn’t turn into Betty Crocker herself.

So here’s the recipe for that. Thank you Julie from thelittlekitchen.net for reminding this  woman living in the middle of beef country that the  crock pot is for chicken too (and making sure I couldn’t screw it up.)

Whole Chicken in a Slow Cooker Recipe

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So that’s that friends, maybe the only helpful thing you’ll ever find on this blog and it’s not because I’m particularly helpful, it’s just that I basically know how to Google stuff and use a crock pot.

Love you all and have a great weekend. We’re going to hang out with some of my favorite people and I can’t wait!

Peace, love and slow cooking,’

Jessie

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That’s me and my grampa, teaching me ’bout the most important things in life…

Hot Dish and Ice Slabs and how to stay warm in the winter

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Coming Home: Hot dish and ice slabs key to staying warm in the winter
by Jessie Veeder
1-22-16
http://www.inforum.com

Northerners. We like to boast that we’re hardy and resilient and can stand up against the biting, sub-zero, blizzardy cold without much consequence besides a bad case of hat head.

We can handle our feet and our pickup tires on icy paths, and we know how to hunker down and make it through on hot dish and hot soup.

We like to say this place isn’t for the faint of heart.

I say these things too, but sometimes while using up a good 40 minutes and all of my back muscles shoveling 200 of the 15,000 pounds of snow off our deck, I start making a list of all of the reasons people live closer to the equator.

You’d think I’d be used to it by now having lived up here for the majority of my life, but the truth is these North Dakota winters have always been hard on me.

The inevitable bitter cold and lack of sunshine starts to convince me that I’m doing all the wrong things in the wrong place and that life is harder and sadder and more desperate than it really is, sending me into a bit of a depression I’m always aware of but have never been successful at curing without help from the weather.

It’s a lonely feeling, but I know I’m not alone in it.

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No matter what we like to say to make ourselves sound tough and resilient I think we all struggle a bit with the deep freeze and endless white of this season. This is what I tell the new residents in my community with southern accents, trudging through the grocery store line in brand new muck boots and knit beanies pulled down over their ears wondering out loud how much colder and how much longer.

I’m not sure it’s hopeful or particularly helpful, but I try to stay as honest as the place that raised me. “It’s cold. It sucks. But we’re all in it together,” I say.

Maybe that’s the key to surviving it, but I think it’s something our ancestors might have been better at, perhaps because they didn’t have a choice between human contact and three billion television shows piped into our living rooms where you can watch other people live their lives in warmer places, like Antarctica or the moon.

But nothing warms your body and lifts your spirits better than living, breathing bodies eating, talking and laughing in a house together.

And lately I’ve been noticing more boots in the entryway and more dishes in the sink, a result of the invites, phone calls and drop-bys that have piled up as family and friends work to beat these winter blues by simply finding ways to be in closer proximity.

Because no matter the plot line, it turns out actually living your life is more interesting than watching pretend people live theirs.

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I suppose that’s what I was thinking when I agreed to be in a weekly curling league, a brand new endeavor organized in my hometown to give the community another cold weather weapon.

Curling is a winter sport that’s been explained as golf on ice, so I have no business being there really, considering it’s a combination of descriptors (ice/golf/sports in general) that have been known to torture me in the past.

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My team consists of my husband, little sister and brother-in-law, and between the four of us, we have about a solid 10 days of actual curling experience, eight of which reside with my husband. But it doesn’t matter, because knowing what we’re doing isn’t the point (although my husband suggested I consider working less on visiting and more on technique).

The point, I think, is the very reason a weird sport that sends you slipping and sliding across the ice yelling “sweep” at your teammates was invented in the first place — because they didn’t have Netflix in the icy tundras of medieval Scotland.

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But, just like us, they had plenty of ice and we might as well use it to get some laughs out of this long, cold season.

Because this place may or may not be for the faint of heart, but maybe by spring I can add curling to the list of reasons people chose North Dakota over Texas.

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A chance to warm up

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Well, I’ve bitched enough about the bone chilling weather lately, it’s time I’m finally able to praise this much appreciated January thaw.

I wasn’t sure if we were going to get one this time around, but I guess I can count on it again. And boy, did we need it, for the cattle and for the kids and for low North Dakota spirits everywhere.

I drove to town the other day and it was 41 degrees. It might as well have been 70. I went by the little donut shop and the two girls were outside shoveling in their t-shirts and sunglasses like they were in California. I guess I couldn’t blame them. I felt that way too.  I didn’t bother with my coat, in fact the sun shining in the window of my car made it too warm in there, so I opened up the window and listened to my tires splashing up slush on the pavement.

It’s because of January that I’ve never minded the mud.

We took advantage of the beautiful weekend and spent Saturday continuing work on my video for my song “Northern Lights.” Turns out dad doesn’t mind a third take of him walking up a steep snow bank in his snow shoes when its 35 above zero.

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And I don’t mind standing there watching him either, thankful for things like snowshoes after watching the filmmaker sink up to his waist trying to situate the camera in a snowbank.

But after today the snow has cleared off the tops of the buttes and the 10 foot drifts have shrunk down to 8 feet drifts. And the snow on the table on my deck melted enough to remind me of the three casseroles and  two pies I set out there to chill on Thanksgiving.(So that’s where that glass bowl went!)

Ahhh, I love it. Really. I wouldn’t mind January in North Dakota if she always behaved this way. And by that I mean staying above the 0 mark on the thermometer and chilling on the whole wind thing.

But knowing that’s not in her nature, so we take what we can get. On Sunday my little sister and I took turns taking Edie on sledding runs down the icy road in our yard.

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(Don’t worry, we weren’t going as fast as the screams would have you think…)

As you can imagine, she loved it.

She loves the cold actually. It’s weird. You take her outside, the cold air hits her face and she comes alive, squealing and laughing, waving her arms and legs, squishing up her face in delight.

I plop her in a snowbank and she flings snow up in the air like she’s splashing in a swimming pool, not giving a care in the world about where the cold stuff lands on her face.

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I swear, this kid was made for this place, it’s like she just sprang out of the slick clay one day and announced her arrival. She’s reminding me about the magic this place holds and I love her for it.

It’s all just an adventure.

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Tomorrow’s Friday and we have the weekend ahead of us that we intend on filling with house construction projects and outdoor chores. Edie’s getting to the age where it’s fun to take her along. I bought her a pair of little boots and today, just as I was bundling her up to take her outside to test them out, Pops poked his head through the door and we piled in the pickup to go feed the cows.

“This is what you’ve always dreamed about,” he said as we watched Edie squeal at the cattle lining up behind the bale we rolled out for him.

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Leave it to Pops to take the ordinary trials of a Thursday and turn it into a reminder of the simple things we live for.

Thanks Pops.

And thanks January sun for giving us a chance to warm up.

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On the backs of old horses

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Somewhere in time’s own space
There must be some sweet pastured place
Where creeks sing on and tall trees grow
Some paradise where horses go,
For by the love that guides my pen
I know great horses live again.
~Stanley Harrison

Life lessons learned on the backs of old horses
by Jessie Veeder
1-15-17
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com 

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Every farm or ranch needs an old horse, an animal with a long story of seeing it all so that he can be trusted with the smallest rider or the most inexperienced visitor who wants to see the place on horseback, a request that can be sort of nerve-wracking if you don’t have a trustworthy grandpa or gramma in the pen.

Because an old horse can make up in experience what your rider lacks. He won’t shy from that weird-shaped rock on the hill because he’s seen it a thousand times.

He won’t be spooked by a pheasant flying out of the brush because he’s too focused on stealing snips of sweet clover while he walks.

He won’t buck because he’s learned it doesn’t pay, and he won’t run off because he knows better and, frankly, he’s too tired for running.

Never been on the back of a horse?

An old horse will make you feel comfortable, anticipating the trail, avoiding the holes, calmly swishing the flies with his tail and generally ignoring the fact that your nerves are making you squeeze your legs too tight around him, your reins are too loose and dragging and you’re leaning a little too far to the left. There’s really nothing stopping him from walking back to the barn if he wanted.

But he won’t.

Because old horses know the right times to get away with bad behavior (tip: always lean forward when he takes you through the trees.)

I learned to ride on the back of an old red mare named Rindy. She was perfect for me in all the ways she was imperfect; her lack of withers and round belly made me pay attention to the cinch, her rough gait made me focus on my seat and her cowiness taught me to be cowy too.

And just when I thought things were going along smoothly, that old mare would throw in a little surprise, teaching me that paying attention is the first rule of horsemanship.

Anyway, Rindy has been gone for years, replaced by an old rodeo horse named Annie before Dad traded one of his colts for an old mule and a speckled trail horse named Stormy a few years before I moved back to the ranch.

Stormy became the grampa out here, deserving of every extra nibble of grain he ever received.

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He was the first horse I put all my nieces and nephews on when their legs were barely long enough to straddle the saddle.

Stormy was responsible for the truest faces of pure joy I’ve seen on any kids and that’s just one of the reasons I will forever be grateful for him.

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But that’s the thing about old horses: just when they’ve become so completely priceless and precious and irreplaceable, we start to notice the creak in their joints and the hair on their muzzle turning gray, a reminder that time doesn’t go easy on even the best things.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Stormy gave his last ride to my oldest niece this summer. We took off after supper just the two of us riding the home pasture, taking it slow, Stormy trailing a couple horse lengths behind me, the way he always has.

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It’s fitting really, because Stormy was the first horse my niece ever rode. I remember what she said before I hoisted her up on his back, her little straw hat with the pink piping sitting proudly on her head. “My tummy feels funny, like there’s flutters in there,” she declared.

Stormy taught her what nervous felt like, holding the power to turn a little girl into the cowgirl she dreamed she could be.

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And he was ready and waiting in the pasture when she was old enough and brave enough to go trotting over the hill alone, a story we revisit together often and one my niece will no doubt carry with her for her lifetime.

Because that’s what old horses give us and in return we carry their spirit in memories, stories, lessons learned and on the back of every horse we’ll ever ride again.

Rest easy, old friend. You were loved.

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