Daddies on their way to work

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Coming Home: Daddies on their way to work
by Jessie Veeder
3-19-17
http://www.inforum.com

I unloaded my daughter and her backpack, and we left the car with the mechanic and sat down on the chairs in the lobby. It smelled like a combination of tire rubber and grease. The sun had warmed the snow enough to make it stick to the rubber soles of the muck boots everyone wears around here, leaving squeaky, muddy footprints to and from the door that dings when it opens…

We live in oil country. It’s been this way since my husband and I moved back to our home turf nearly six years ago. We used to call it a boom. The Wild Wild West. Men arriving from all corners of the country looking for high-paying jobs, some young and single and up for anything, others with families they left in Oklahoma or Arkansas, going back to visit every other two weeks, living in close quarters with other men in trailers, hotel rooms or apartments and sending money back home.

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Watford City, 2014

Add the heavy traffic flow, long lines at the post office and extravagant news stories about crime, safety and how you couldn’t find a woman in the mix with a magnifying glass, and that was the narrative out here.
It’s funny how fast a story can morph into history in a place like this.Funny what a half hour in a Jiffy Lube with a toddler can show you about your community.
I’m married to a man who works in an industry that sends him out into the elements every day to help fuel the world. Along with raising cattle on our ranch, this is his job.
He wears fire retardant jeans, a button-up shirt, a hooded jacket and a ball cap every day, the ultimate uniform of a majority of the working men in this part of the country.
In Edie’s eyes, in Jiffy Lube that day, every man that came through the door for an oil change that day was a daddy. And she was thrilled about it.
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So she hollered “Hi!!” loudly and repeatedly to each of them.Certain that none of them wanted to spend their wait having a conversation with a toddler, I tried to distract her with crackers and a story.”How old is she?” the man across the room asked.”Oh, she’s one,” I replied, reminded then that they’re likely also husbands.”Hhiii!” Edie waved.
“I remember that stage,” he said as Edie dropped down from her seat and did a little twirl on that dirty floor, and soon we were talking about his teenage daughter and her short-lived trombone career, his tech-savvy sons and the wife that moved his family here from the south to be with him.
Because when they talk about their families, history taught me to ask if they’re here together.”Yeah, they’re here,” he said. They’d been here for four years or so. They have a nice place in a new development south of town.”We like it here,” he said. “It feels like home.”
They called his name.
“Have a great day,” I said.”Byyeee,” said Edie.
As he went out, another young guy in the uniform came in. I got up to keep Edie from running down the hall and into the shop.
“How old is she?” He asked.
“I have a 1-year-old boy.”And the same narrative followed.
Our kids will likely be in the same grade, but probably not the same classroom, because there are so many young kids here now. More than a hundred in the current kindergarten class. I’m 33 years old, and I’m older than average in our once aging town, a statistic I was recently made aware of.
And now that I’m thinking of it, it’s pretty clear you no longer need a microscope to find the women here anymore.

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Photo in my mom’s coffeeshop on Main Street. On Saturday, the PTO organized a “Princess” event in honor of the opening of Beauty and the Beast. Countless mommas and princesses attended. It was overwhelming and still surprises a woman like me who grew up in this town when it was 1,200 people with no movie theater. 

It seems we’re invested now, building the new swim team, organizing an arts council, building a new hospital, working alongside all those men they talk about, setting up businesses and young professional organizations. Building a community that will help raise our families.

Taking our toddlers to make friends in Jiffy Lube in a town that went boom and then settled itself quietly, like the dust kicked up behind pickups driven by daddies on their way to work
Main Street, Watford City

Watford City, 2016. Photo by Chad Ziemendorf 

 

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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Our responsibility. Their Future.

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This week’s column was written in the chaos before the election, before the results. It was written in the dark quiet of my living room after I put the baby down for the night. While my husband was serving the chili he made at his monthly volunteer fireman meeting.
It was written after months of agonizing over the choices we were facing in the race for the leader of our country, on the eve of election day with the weight of what our decisions mean for our children sitting heavy on my heart.
In my last post, on Veteran’s Day, I asked for you to share your stories of kindness, given or received or witnessed. Please continue to share your accounts of good in the world, as we all need to be reminded that we have one another’s backs…
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by Jessie Veeder
11-13-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com
I just put the baby down for the night. I rocked her a little longer after she fell asleep in my arms, kissed her head and sat with her in the quiet darkness of her room before I laid her down in her crib.

Because I don’t know what babies dream about, but I do know it’s not the state of our nation.

She will not lose sleep over the big decisions and important matters we are faced with as members of our free country.

No.

She is too small.

She is too innocent.

And so it’s my job to worry for her. To make these decisions for her.

To speak for her future as I head to the polls.

By the time you read this, we will have elected the next president of the United States.

By the time you read this, that civic duty will be done.

But tonight, as I write this, the big decision is hanging in the air, looming in sound bites and accusations, scary threats and big promises and words assembled just right and I know for certain I will not sleep the way my baby sleeps tonight.

In the years I’ve spent writing this column, I have not mentioned many words about my politics. I promise you friends, I’m not going to start with it tonight as I sit in my easy chair in the middle of my life full of big plans.

In the middle of my country making big decisions.

No, I haven’t spoken much about politics, but I have spoken about kindness. I have mused at length about community and finding comfort there. I have talked about the importance of sharing our stories and how those stories connect us, turning strangers into friends or, at the very least, into people we have come to better understand.

Because we do not and we cannot and we should not all have shared experiences, opinions or beliefs. We shouldn’t expect it, no matter how it ruffles our feathers or makes us nervous or takes us away from our comfort zones.

It might be one of the most difficult tasks for a human (believe me, I know), but the acceptance, recognition and curiosity about all of our differences can be what make a full and well-rounded life. It’s what fuels our suppertime discussions, keeps us educated and, above all, gives us the chance to cultivate our compassion for people in situations we will never understand unless we try.

I’m writing this tonight as a reminder to myself as much as anyone else.

Because that baby sleeping in her crib down the hall? I don’t know who she will grow up to become. That’s the thing about children—their story is as much written as it is unwritten. They are as strong-willed as they are vulnerable.

And as much as I want to protect her from any harm or ill will or hurt feelings, more than anything I want her to grow up to find herself in a country, in a community (because we are a community aren’t we?) that accepts her and respects her for her accomplishments and potential as well as her differences and struggles.

And tonight I just can’t shake this sense of urgency in doing my best for her and all of those sleeping babies who are going to grow up and into our decisions.

And maybe that’s my politics.

Or maybe that’s my religion.

Or maybe that’s just my hope for our future.

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Where everybody knows your name (or the name of someone you might be related to)

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For those of you who grew up or continue to grow up in a small town…

Coming Home: In a state that’s a big small town, there’s always a seat at the table
6-12-16
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communication
http://www.inforum.com

The white noise of conversation and laughter filled the bar like the scent of the burgers frying on the grill in the back. The three of us stepped inside from the sunny early evening, our eyes adjusting to the dim light, scanning the room for an open table to grab a drink and a bite to eat.

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When my quick scan revealed there wasn’t an empty table in the place, I figured we would just turn around, head out the door and find a restaurant without a wait.

But we were there with Merrill, a radio personality, musician and host of the event that evening, and it appeared that he saw the room a bit differently than we did. Like, there may not have been an empty table, but there certainly were empty chairs. And as Dad and I started heading for the door, we noticed Merrill talking and shaking hands with a couple at a table with three empty seats.

“They said we could join them,” he declared as he waved us over and started adjusting chairs. And then he informed the waitress of his plan.

“Well, if it’s OK with them,” she said, a little concerned.

Which I thought was weird. Because Merrill, being the friendly, recognizable personality he is, well, I just figured he knew this couple. It’s North Dakota after all.

We’re like one big small town, a statement that doesn’t make sense at all unless, well, you live in North Dakota.

By my not-scientific-at-all-estimation, if you’ve lived in this state for longer than 10 years, the chance of running into someone you know at a restaurant in any given community from east to west is a good 60 percent.

And if you don’t know anybody in that restaurant, strike up a conversation and the likelihood of the two of you finding a friend or relative in common is like 90 percent.

Which was the case with this couple, who had never seen Merrill before in their lives but were friendly enough to let three strangers infringe on their date. We didn’t have to go too far past our initial introductions to find places and people in common.

Small talk revealed that they were both retired and living in Bowman. (My old boss is from Bowman. Do you know the family? Yes. Yes.)

And the woman, who had seen me perform in Hettinger a few years back, had ties to the Killdeer area. (Oh, we’re just north of there. Yes, we know so and so. Relatives of ours.)

And from there we fell into an easy banter of stories that somehow always seems to have me recounting the tale of the raccoon that snuck into Mom and Dad’s house through the screen door every evening to rearrange the rocks on the decorative bird bath and the more recent revelation about another raccoon that climbs up on my deck every night to poop on my rug.

Then over burgers and fries we learned that they like to go to the car show in Medora every year, which revealed that he’s spent his life tinkering and repairing old cars. Which reminded me of my brother-in-law, who had just recently given up on an old Volkswagen Bus that was just never going to run right. Which reminded him of a story about the time he bought an old VW Beatle that once broke down and left him stranded on such a windy North Dakota day that he just opened both doors to that little car and let the wind push him home.

Which reminded Merrill about the road trip he took with his friends, all crammed in a VW Bug to Mexico and back years ago.

“I had a girlfriend when we started the trip. She wasn’t my girlfriend when we got home,” he said. “Never talked to any of them again actually.”

And our laughter and conversation became part of the buzz of strangers and friends telling stories in the dim light of a bar on Saturday evening in small town North Dakota.

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Everybody’s Baby…

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“How’s everybody’s baby doing?”

That’s what the Mayor of my hometown asked me at a community meeting last night.

Only in a small town would the Mayor (who is also a family friend) be so genuinely interested in the newest member of the community.

He was about the twentieth person to inquire about our little one that night. Business owners, column readers, classmates, old teachers, cops, waitresses, bankers, and so on and so on asked about her, because that’s what it’s like when you live in a small town.

Your baby is everyone’s baby.

I’m sure my friend who had a baby a few weeks after me had the same experience that evening.

Her baby is everyone’s baby too.

And while every mom documents her kids’ to an extent, I couldn’t help but be reminded last night just how reported Edie’s little life story actually is.

Because I’m a writer. A blogger.

And a newspaper columnist.

Which is not something I think about weekly, because I don’t want to induce a sorry case of writer’s block, but the words I write go out to half a dozen newspapers all across the state every week. Take that and add it to the support I get from you loyal readers on this trusty blog, and, well, Edie’s story has a substantial fan base that dates back to a time we didn’t think we’d ever meet her.

Yes, every week I get emails from people rooting for us, cheering us on, sending love and prayers and positive energy and sharing their own stories of what it was like to be parents to a baby as wiggly and wild.

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Those thousands of people read about her birth, her first smile, her large shoe collection and her big farts…

(Oh, she’s just going to hate me when she’s a teenager…)

And while I know this baby is loved by me and my husband and all this family that surrounds us, I can’t tell you how overwhelming it is to realize that she is loved by so many others.

Maybe it was the energy in the room at a party dedicated to celebrating how far this community has come in the last year, despite the boom and in the face of a current and unforeseen oil slowdown. Maybe it was the fact that I was out doing my job again knowing that my baby was snuggled up at the ranch with my husband while I drank wine and chatted with familiar and new faces, but the mayor’s comment hit me in the heart last night, and got me thinking.

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To be everybody’s baby. I wonder when she’ll realize it? Growing up in a small rural community you sort of take it for granted that there are caring eyes pointed at you at all times. You feel secure in knowing that the stands are full of your supporters at a football game, or a spelling bee, or your first choir concert. And if your parents are late in picking you up after a 4-H meeting (not that that’s ever happened to me dad…) in a small town you get to not worry, because it will be ok. There will be someone there to wait with you, because in a way you’re their kid too.

Edie has so much love and support here for many reasons, being the 5th generation community member and a child of a columnist are a few, and I am so happy that this is true for her. That she’s everyone’s baby.

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But last night we reflected on how our town was getting bigger. We just completed and opened a new multi-million dollar high school. And despite the oil slowdown, families are still moving here with their young children. And as the elementary school classes grow and new babies are born to this now young community, I can only hope that the love and support we feel as new parents to one of the youngest members is not exclusive to us.

This isn’t a new concept. It’s the traditional “It takes a village” mentality. But just because it takes a village, doesn’t mean everyone always gets one.

I hope we’re doing a good job out here. I think that’s what everyone in that room was hoping for last night. I know it’s one of the biggest concerns we had as a community watching our town boom from twelve hundred people to somewhere closer to ten thousand in the last five years. We didn’t want to let go of our small town spirit. We wanted to fight for the ability to not lose one another in a crowd.

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The kids in this community today are different than we were growing up. Many weren’t born here to parents who were born here. In fact, it seems it’s more common to be the new kid in town these days than to have roots here.

More languages are spoken, more perspectives are given, there are more miles driven to see the grandparents and more new names to learn. But I hope none of that makes a difference when it comes to missing the bus or forgetting your practice clothes for basketball or having to keep the library open just a few minutes longer because your mom was stuck at a meeting and couldn’t get to you in time.

As a new parent to a new kid in town, I can only hope that, regardless of how big this boomtown gets, each kid gets the chance to take for granted that she or he is every body’s baby.

And I would venture to guess that everyone in that room, the Mayor included, feels the same way.

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Sunday Column: How the music sounds up here

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Photo by Out Here Visuals

I have been in love with folk music my entire life, ever since first hearing my dad sing a Harry Chapin song, or listening to John Prine on his record player, I have been fascinated by the people in these songs, fascinated by how the music paints a picture and how you can fall in love with the characters, and how they can break your heart.

Folk and Americana music is the reason I write. It’s the reason I continue to make music and perform it in whatever way I find the opportunity. It’s the reason I’m still doing what I’m doing. Because I’m in love with the stories.

A few weeks ago I was honored with the Favorite North Dakota Folk Artist Award at the 2nd Annual North Dakota Music awards. I picked out a couple dresses (one for me and one for Edie), packed up my little family and met the band in the big town to celebrate at the awards ceremony with a theater full of North Dakota talent.

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It was a huge honor to be granted this awards by the fans who have followed me as a singer and writer since I was just a little girl singing an Emmylou Harris song dressed in a western shirt buttoned up to the very top.

I’ve been singing for a long time and have had the privilege of being backed by and working with some of the best and most supportive musicians in this little landlocked state. I could have moved to L.A.. I probably should have moved to Nashville. But I wanted to stay landlocked in the place that I love, singing about the place that I love.

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That night surrounded by the music of North Dakota and the people that support it I was reminded why it’s great, and why I’m so glad I chose to make music in this little state.

Thank you to everyone who listens, shares, votes and sits in the audience. Thanks to the bands for learning all those damn Jessie Veeder folk songs so willingly and wonderfully.

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Thanks  URL Radio for working hard to put this together!

Coming Home: Celebrating all the music makers under our big North Dakota sky
by Jessie Veeder
2-22-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

It’s a great time to be a musician in North Dakota.

This thought crossed my mind as I sat in the back of the Belle Mehus Auditorium in Bismarck last weekend, dressed up to celebrate the second annual North Dakota Music Awards.

The awards ceremony is a concept put together last year by the owners of URL Radio, a local online radio station that often dedicates air time to hosting interviews and playing North Dakota music out of their offices in downtown Bismarck.
Their enthusiasm for their work inspired them to put a call out to the fans to nominate and vote for their favorite musical acts, teachers, writers and venues and then celebrate them in a ceremony in the following months.

The concept is in its infancy, but after the first year’s efforts wrapped, it became clear this sort of recognition of the music makers, spread from Ellendale to Williston, was a refreshing and well-received concept, one that fans and musicians alike wanted in on.

“Who do you dance to on a Friday night at your favorite bar after a long week?”

“Who helped your child to fall in love with playing the trumpet in school?”

“What locally written songs move you?”

When these questions are finally posed, the importance of the answers ring a little clearer and suddenly we realize we want to spread the word about those talented kids who play bluegrass gospel music in church every Sunday.

Because while North Dakota isn’t known for its proximity to big stages and big connections, it’s always amazing to me to find myself surrounded by such big talent, big ambition and big passion for the craft.

And inside that beautiful theater last weekend, an equally beautiful crowd gathered to celebrate folk, rock, rap, classical and bluegrass, piano players, teachers and marching bands, each of us likely to be categorized by our shoes or our hair style.

Yes, it turns out North Dakota musicians are an eclectic group, and I’ll tell you it’s been a nice discovery for me to hear the different ways this harsh and beautiful place sounds to other music makers.

And it makes sense that a place like this would cultivate such diverse and inspired sounds. There’s likely no place in this country that needs or appreciates music more than us Northerners looking to endure our long, cold winters or celebrate under the big summer sky.

It’s been the case through the generations and I can’t help but think about the sounds these prairies have heard — the sharp echo of a fiddle against the wooden walls of a barn, the sound of the drums thumping like a heartbeat to the step of moccasins, the big voice of a girl practicing her school solo outside, the neighbor kid’s garage band, your cousin singing James Taylor songs around the campfire, the Nashville band at the county fair.

This big sky has room to hear it all and endless ways to inspire a song. The music makers have always known this to be true. But as I watched a woman who has played bluegrass music for years accept an award on behalf of her band that participates in a festival along the shores of the Missouri River in the summer, I couldn’t help but appreciate all of the new ways this community is creating to hear and celebrate their artists.

In a time where access to popular music is available at the click of a button, it seems, little by little, North Dakotans are putting stages and sound systems in breweries and restaurants and hiring local bands instead of relying on jukeboxes. They’re envisioning local music festivals, hosting open mic nights and sharing YouTube videos of the neighbor kid playing Mozart on his keyboard.

Last week, my community cut the ribbon on a new multimillion-dollar high school. Part of the blueprint includes a state-of-the-art performing arts theater to be used by the students and the community.

That’s a huge vote of confidence for the students and rural arts, and it’s so refreshing to me.

Because you might not be a poet, a rapper or a singer of country songs, but you’re inspiring the music we make. You’re helping us tell your story.

And I thank you for celebrating and encouraging the sound.

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Photo by Out Here Visuals

Sunday Column: The “what if’s” in Boomtown

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My husband and I moved back to the ranch more than five years ago. If you’ve been following along here, you’ve likely seen how much has changed, and how much hasn’t, at the ranch, in our family and in our community.

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We moved back for a few reasons. Number one was because it is where we wanted to settle down and raise a family, but the number two reason made it possible–the economy was booming due to the oil and gas industry and seemingly overnight there were more jobs and more opportunity than our small town could keep a tally on.
The results have been unprecedented growth for our small town that was once only 1,200 people and now boasts a population that is seemingly uncountable due to fluctuations and many people living in temporary housing situations. My guess is we’re likely close to 8,000 people today.

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Our small town that never had a stop light, now has many. We have a sort of suburban sprawl happening with new apartment buildings and housing units going up. We have Main Street bars and a sushi restaurant. We have little strip malls. A big grocery store. A nice daycare, a brand new high school and multi-million dollar community and event center going up, with two indoor ice slabs and a couple pools. We’re working on a new hospital and clinic.
Everything that once was is now updated, expanded and improved upon, including our roads.
When oil prices were at $100 a barrel we worked on playing catch up because the entire country was moving in.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.16.56 PMAnd now we’re planning for the future in a time we knew could come, a slow down due to lower oil prices.  We’re in a sort of eerie place where we can catch up, not realizing how we’ve gotten used to such a fast pace until there’s a shift.
In the new year I think we all wish we could see into the future, knowing that all we can do is believe in and trust in today. And today it seems like despite what looks sort of grim, my community is showing it’s a little beacon of light and hope on this cold prairie.
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by Jessie Veeder
1-17-16
Forum Communications

It’s been more than five years since my husband and I unloaded our hand-me-down furniture into the little brown ranch house in the barnyard where my dad grew up, fulfilling our dream of moving home, because unlike the economy the two of us grew up in during the ’80s and ’90s, there were jobs.

Everyone talks about how the oil boom seemed to happen overnight, but when you’re living among it, that sense of immediacy is only partially true.

It’s hard to explain the feeling of “what-if” that sits alongside “could it be true?” in your mind as you wonder about the alleged oil well that promises to pop up on the hill behind the house.

It seems like it could never happen, until one day you wake up and there it is.

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That’s how it’s been for the past five years around here in western North Dakota. Not believing and then believing — that there would be a stoplight in town, a four-lane highway to Williston, a fast-food restaurant, a brand new high school, dozens of new apartment buildings and so on and so on until you find yourself used to the stoplights, sushi and Southern accents surrounding you.

The “if you build it they will come” mentality wasn’t as much the case here in this once 1,200-person town. No, it was more of the “they have come so let’s do what we can to make it work better.”

And so we made time for the extra traffic, the long lines and construction detours, and have come to expect events and restaurants filled to capacity with people of all ages, races and backgrounds, our new little melting pot on the western edge of the state.

We knew it would slow down eventually, that the four new hotels that were built wouldn’t be filled to the brim every week with working residents, and instead we would have to find a way to fill them with guests.

We knew that we wouldn’t always have to make reservations for supper.

We knew that oil wouldn’t stay at $100 a barrel, and that we might get a chance to take a breath someday and catch up, even though the thought was both terrifying and relieving.

Because we knew what it was like to have our quiet and slow life interrupted, but maybe we didn’t realize how quickly we could get used to a new normal, a fast pace of planning hectic moment to hectic moment.

But that hectic moment has slowed for a bit now and, as oil prices have slid, adjustments have been made.

Is the boom over?

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That’s a question every news source and coffee conversation wants answered.

I’m not sure if anyone knows. Just like nobody seemed to know exactly what was coming five years ago. I read a different dramatic report, opinion and prediction every day.

But here’s what I know to be true for us: Oil prices have changed, but the sense of “what-if” coupled with “could it be true?” has not.

We have never settled into a sense of security in such fast-paced growth. Instead, we have remained committed to keep steady in our own plan to figure out how to stay here at the family’s ranch for the long run.

And I’ll tell you, it’s been much easier with better jobs and more opportunity at our fingertips. But along with that, for whatever challenges we continue to face, what our community has become in the wake of the boom has made this an easier and exciting place to live in many ways.

And for that we have been grateful.

I think that realization might be the case for most people who, after coming here for the work, have decided to make this place their permanent home now. Because of the jobs, yes, but also because, like us, they see a future here.

And it’s because of those people it seems our new population is remaining more steady than predicted. Yes, people are losing jobs and families are moving away, but businesses are also still hiring and new residents still seem to see the value in a community that has moved from building to keep up with the present into building for a future we want for our families.

For more information on Watford City and McKenzie County, and for other perspectives on Boomtown Living visit: 
www.mckenziecounty.net
www.voicesofwatford.com
www.oilgoesboom.com
www.boomtowndiaries.com 
www.beautifulbakken.com 

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Sunday Column: On instincts

Whew.

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We made it through the holiday!

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I hope you’re all feeling the same way we are here–a little bigger in the waistline, a little haggard from all the merriment and happy for time spent with family and friends.

In Edie’s short little life, in a matter of a couple weeks, she has managed to meet nearly all of her more immediate relatives, on both sides of the family, whose locations range from Arizona to Minneapolis and back again.

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Yes, it was all about family, and one long road trip with the infant across the state that, thankfully, my little sister and I survived.

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I was never worried about Edie, just how we might handle a giant barf explosion that pooled up in the carseat halfway there…

And we did. We both cried (my little sister and I), but we made it.

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Speaking of family, Edie’s not the only baby at the ranch anymore!

Nope. Actually, she has eleven, yes, you heard that right, ELEVEN! new baby puppies to add to her crew that are part sweet Juno and part crazy Gus.

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You should have seen the look on Pops’ face when we finally got a count on them, thinking maybe there were only four of five, only to discover, when momma dog moved out of the way, a whole pile of wiggly, squeaky little things.

We took them out of her bed to get a good count and put dry towel down after I pretty confidently declared I counted nine in that pile, but when we got to nine, we weren’t done yet.

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Eleven.

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That’s a pile of cow pups there to have in the coldest part of winter.

And while we planned for pups, we didn’t plan for this sort of timing.

But, well, I know all about how timing goes.

Anyway, I was sure glad we were around to help her count them and make sure they were nice and warm, but Juno didn’t really need us.

We knew she would be a good mom judging by the time a neighbor brought over their new puppy and Juno picked it up by the neck skin and tried to take it back to her bed and claim it as her own.

Those instincts are strong.

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And that’s what this week’s column is about. Motherly instincts and the security of a village.

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We’re getting better at this whole mother/daughter routine here, so I am hoping to be posting more on our trials and tribulations, and of course, keeping tabs on these babies’ growth and adventures.

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Thanks for being such loyal and supportive followers year after year. It has been so fulfilling to share with you and hear your stories too.

Cheers to a healthy, happy 2016.

Coming Home: Trusting my motherly instincts
by Jessie Veeder
1-3-15
Forum Communications

Early this morning I got a text from my dad. A picture of his cow dog Juno came through with the caption, “4 puppies so far!”

And there they were, all squishy, slimy and black and white, poor timing to be born in the coldest part of winter, but tucked in snug in a bed my dad made up for her.

Downstairs, my oldest niece was sleeping on an air mattress in my makeshift office. After all of the Christmas festivities, she made plans to come home with us for a few days to help with the baby.

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As I write this, the little girl I used to rock, burp and snuggle who suddenly grew up to become a 12-year-old with superb baby-sitting skills is upstairs burping and snuggling my baby.

And so I’m plotting how I can keep her around.

Because she likes changing diapers. And the projectile vomit Edie gifted me, the one that coated my shirt and hair last night, didn’t even faze her.

I got up out of the chair to head for a towel, and that 12-year old (who was just a baby yesterday) looked at me and said, “That’s not a cleanup situation there … that’s a shower and find new clothes situation.”

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Husband’s first instinct in this situation was to grab the camera, not the baby…you know, for the photo album…

And she was right. There was no saving me.

Yes, I’m in the trenches of motherhood now, the period where the guests carting meals stop knocking on your door, the burp rags pile up in the hamper and reality sets in.

This is not a drill. This is the part that I was nervous about.

Because unlike the motherly, animal instincts that kicked in for my parents’ dog early this winter morning, the one that will keep her licking on those pups and keeping them snug throughout the winter, I was worried I didn’t have the natural, know-what-to-do caretaking instinct in me.

I love children, but hand me an infant before Edie was born and the “I’m gonna break this thing” panic set in, complete with stiff arms and cold sweats.

But it’s been a month now and besides checking her breathing in her car seat every five minutes on the way home from the hospital, and a few middle of the night soft pokes to the tummy just to make sure, much to my surprise, I haven’t panicked yet.

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Little by little I’m finding out that all of the tips, tricks and preparation articles I’ve read don’t compare to the instincts nature equipped me with.

It’s a welcome relief because the observation of instinct is where growing up as a ranch kid can either calm you or terrify you. I’ve seen plenty of animals being born. I’ve seen motherhood and babyhood in its most raw and natural form. I’ve seen a momma cow take after my dad, knocking him to the ground while he was on his way to check on her baby—a dangerous, protective motherly instinct that nearly sent him to the hospital.

I’ve seen mother cats move their kittens from secret spot to secret spot in an attempt to keep pesky farm kids at bay.

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I’ve seen it go well and I’ve seen it go terribly wrong—a momma cow rejecting her needy, wet calf in the middle of a blizzard; a confused pregnant dog dropping her puppies, helpless and alone all over the barnyard; a baby calf born and unable to feed.

And in these situations, as animal caretakers, we step in to find an orphan calf a new momma cow to take her, pick up the puppies and introduce them to their mother, and find a bottle or a tube to feed the calf.

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Every day my baby stays healthy, eating and pooping and burping away, I say that I am lucky and whisper a quiet prayer of thanks.

Every day that my mind is clear and my body cooperates, I am grateful knowing that motherhood doesn’t always come easy.

But watching my mother change her granddaughter’s diaper, hearing my friend on the other end of the line offering advice and trusting my young niece to rock my baby safely and expertly in the other room, I am assured in knowing that if and when I falter, like Juno has her rancher to make her a warm bed, I have my village.

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Please take a moment to vote for me and my band Outlaw Sippin’, in the North DakotaMusic Awards!
You don’t have to be from ND and you can vote on multiple devices! Thanks so much!

Click here to vote!
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Sunday Column: Getting it done in the Wild West…

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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…

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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…

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Coming Home: Busy road, slow internet, both inconveniences in the Bakken
by Jessie Veeder
6-21-15
http://www.inforum.com

Pink Road

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.

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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.

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Sunday Column: Small town summer…

Summer is in full swing up here in North Dakota. School’s out. Wedding’s have begun. Garden’s are in and a full line up of summer fairs and festivals are marked down on the calendar.

Last weekend during a little tour across the state promoting my album, I got the privilege of being a guest of honor at a small town in the middle of the state. I was hired to do a concert with the band there during their Dairy and Ag days celebration,

and in addition, I was asked to be the Grand Marshall of the parade…

I took my job very seriously…

AND to help judge the Little Miss Farmer/Rancher contest.

This was right up my ally, such and honor and pretty much the most adorable thing ever.

So of course I had some things to say about it. I could have written a book on all of the characters, from the kids singing their hearts out in the choir before the band

The opening act waiting to go on!

to the little toothless princess candidate dressed in a sequins dress with a hoop that flew up and hid her face when she tried to sit down in the chair in front of us judges.

It was the epitome of what it means to be a small town kid in the summer.

It was the epitome of cute and wholesome.

It was what I had to write about for this week’s column:

Coming Home: Longing to be a kid of summer again
by Jessie Veeder
6-14-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

In small towns up and down the Midwest, summer has officially started. I know this not by the date on the calendar, but because in the next few months I’ll run into kids catching and holding calves at the neighbor’s branding down the road, rolling down the road in a tractor helping with harvest, or showing their steer at the county fair for a little extra cash.

I get to witness these kids of summer because my job as a singer takes me to big towns and small towns across the state to witness them dancing in the street after a day spent eating barbecue beef sandwiches, catching candy in the parade and competing in a tractor pull or Little Miss Potato Queen pageant.

And I have to tell you, I kicked off the season right last Friday when I took a trip to Linton to participate in their Dairy and Ag Days festival. I rolled toward the town in the morning, turning off the interstate to admire the fresh crops popping up neatly around manicured farmsteads, big red barns and, my favorite, the black-and-white dairy cows milling behind rail fences.

After months of planning, Linton looked as polished as ever, and so did its littlest residents who were waiting for my arrival that morning, dozens of young girls from kindergarten to second grade, dressed to the nines lined up in the lobby of the local bank, vying for the title of Little Miss Farmer/Rancher.

And be still my heart, because while each contestant was as adorable as the next, this was no beauty pageant. No. This was a competition where each young and utterly adorable contestant is asked about their experience and knowledge of the farm and ranch they live and work on.

I was asked to be one of the judges, to which I enthusiastically agreed, not understanding how completely impossible it would be to choose a winner among little girls who talked reverently about helping their grandmas feed the horses, being responsible for bottle feeding orphaned calves, the make and model of the tractor used on the farm and the one who joked that, if they’re not careful, the heat lamp used in the baby chick pen might result in fried chicken. Then she laughed and laughed.

And I teared up, not just at the absolute cuteness of it all, but because, really, they still make kids like this. Kids who come to town dressed in bolo ties, fluffy floral dresses, their best jeans or, yes, even a sequined gown, ready to proudly declare that they are learning to break their own horse, they can’t wait to learn to drive the tractor, or — my favorite — the tiny, brown-eyed girl who said her preferred chore was helping her dad fix fences.

When I asked her why she liked to fence so much, she frankly replied, as if the answer should be so obvious to us, “Because I love him!”

First place, I say! First place to all of them!

I’m really not cut out for this judging thing.

But after the decisions were made, I headed out to Main Street, where I had the honor of leading the parade of Dairy Prince and Princesses and Little Miss and Mister Farmer and Rancher contestants, American Legion Club members, 4-H club floats, combines, antique tractors and kids pulling smaller kids in wagons.

In a few hours, I stood up on a flatbed trailer in an empty lotand sang my songs to bleachers full of moms, dads, grammas and grampas watching while the kids tested out their best moves on the concrete dance floor in front of me.

I let the band play a song and got down to join them, compelled to be a part of their circle, grab their hands and spin around to the music. Compelled, after a long day in the sun, to laugh and dance with my new friends, in the middle of a small-town street, in the middle of America, where we make our own fun after the work is done.

Compelled to believe with them that anything is possible, just for a moment, compelled to become a kid of summer again.

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And look at that, a whole spread in the Emmons County Record. A day like this is a reminder of why I keep doing what I’m doing.

Thanks Linton, ND!