Spring: From the experts

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Signs of spring come earlier for the experts
by Jessie Veeder
4-9-17
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

The first calf of the year was born on the Veeder Ranch last week. That afternoon I went out on a walk to clear my head and to climb to the top of a hill to see if there were any mommas off alone on a hillside or in the trees, a pretty sure sign of some birth action.

But I didn’t see a thing.

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But I struck out again.

Yes, to me the world was still brown with a few splashes of white snow in the deep coulees and, except for the dang hornets that have magically come to life to bang against the windows of my house, no sign of new life quite yet.

I strolled home with the dogs sniffing out the path in front of me, on their own mission for signs of spring, kicked off my shoes and went inside.

That evening my husband and I loaded Edie up in the pickup to go feed the cows, and just as we were pulling out of driveway, I got a text from dad.

“Got our first calf today,” it said.

First Calf

“Of course we did,” I said out loud to myself, wondering when the heck I will develop the sixth sense and laser beam eyes Dad has for things like this. We met him down the road a ways and Edie helped him unroll a bale by pulling out handfuls of hay and picking a nice strand to chew on herself.

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We drove over to take a look at the new baby who was standing on wobbly legs, fresh, slick and black as a bean. When my husband came back with the tagger (because we never have what we need when we need it), all four of us lingered out there in the warm spring air, leaning against the pickup doors and letting Edie work the windshield wipers, radio knob, steering wheel and headlights of the parked pickup, certain she was accomplishing the most important task on the place that day.

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After a half hour of solving life’s problems, we all went home for supper.

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The next day while I was in town for a meeting, I got another text from Dad.

“Found them first!” it said, with a blurry photo of a bunch of crocuses attached.

Apparently he also knew we were in an unspoken contest.

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I put my hands on my hips and huffed.

“Of course you did,” I texted back, thinking if it couldn’t be me, at least someone found the first promises of spring.

Thinking how different the world can look behind another set of eyes.

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And so with the first calf, the first crocus, the frogs croaking in the dam and the birds flying home and the appearance of Edie’s garden hat, I think it’s safe to say spring is here.

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Oh, thank goodness, spring is here.

Why God made wheels…

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If she had wings, she’d never come down from the sky.

That’s why God made wheels for this girl of mine.

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And once I thought He made her so we could show her things.

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But it goes the other way.

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Because she reminds us of a better, wilder world, every single day.

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Stick Shift…Shit

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Why I blame my dad for my stick shift struggles
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

I have a confession to make.

In the years I spent growing up out here on the ranch as well as those being all grown up here on the ranch, I have never properly learned to drive a stick shift.

Oh, I can make it work. I can get from Point A to Point B if Point A is the house and Point B is the barnyard over the hill, the hay yard, or my parent’s house a mile down the gravel road, but that’s where my gear-finding, clutch-pushing confidence ends.

I know, I know. It’s embarrassing. Some things are just expected of you living out here among cows and barbed-wire fences. But I have a handicap.

And I could say I have no one to blame but myself, because I’m ultimately responsible for taking the initiative to master something I need to know, but forget it.

I blame my dad.

I blame my dad and all the old, impossible, gear sticky, seat-stuck-too-far-back, ancient and impossible pickups he enlisted to teach me to drive back in the day.

I mean, how’s a girl to grab a chance at finding the right gear when the gear indicator knob long ago popped off and rolled around on the floorboards before meeting its ultimate fate in some brush patch Dad was fencing one day in 1995?

Am I in reverse? The only way to find out is to release the clutch and hope I don’t kill it before rolling backwards while simultaneously hoping I’m not in first because there’s not much room for error in the 10 inches between the front of the pickup and the shop.

And that wasn’t the worst of it. There was one pickup he tried to teach me on that you literally had to push down a hill like a Flinstones car to get started. And once it turned over, well, you had to keep it gassed for fear of starting the whole ritual over again.

God forbid it quit at the bottom of a coulee somewhere.

Some of the biggest fights I had with my dad happened behind the wheel of his old pickups where he more than one chose the “just leave her to sort it out” method, and frankly, my pubescent tears of frustration just didn’t allow for that sort of sorting it out.

That’s the flashback I had yesterday when I suggested my husband run me through the workings of the hydraulic bale spear so I can feed cows on my own. I had left chicken baking in the oven, and we brought along the wiggly toddler who wants nothing more than for me to just scooch on out of there and let her take over.

Needless to say, I had a few distractions to blame for me killing it 37 times between my attempts at picking up and rolling the bales out.

But we were in Dad’s pickup, the one with the sticky gears, missing gear knob and seat that doesn’t move forward, so I blame him.

I will always blame him.

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The beasts, in their final resting place. RIP…RIP…

The Coming Home Tour

Jessie Veeder Book Cover copy

Happy Friday everyone!

Today I’m sitting in a cute little coffeeshop on Main Street Bismarck where they serve, among many other delicious things, homemade scones, fresh fruit granola and yogurt cups and lattes with a heart on top.

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I tell you, I don’t get that kind of fancy at home at the ranch working from the kitchen counter while the baby throws grapes from her high chair to floor.

But I’m here because things are starting to heat up regarding this book release. This morning my friend John and I played on the local morning show and I got to talk a bit about Coming Home, which is a collection of some of my favorite stories, recipes, poetry and photography, coming out on April 6th.

So I’ve been a little quiet here lately because I’ve been working out the details on how I can get out and about and visit with you all (in North Dakota at least) on behalf this book, one my favorite things to do.

So I think I have a good start to the lineup for book readings and concerts. Hopefully I’ll see you out there. I guarantee a nice time filled with, conversation, music, laughs and just being together, in a common space, for the sole purpose of sharing stories.  That’s my favorite part about this whole crazy ride.

And if you can’t make it to one of the shows in your area, you can still pre-order the book here or on dakotabooknet.com I’ll even sign it for you because I love you.

Thank you for reading all these years. I hope you find this book is a nice way to relive the memories of the places and people you love out here on the prairie and beyond!

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Friday, April 21

Coming Home Concert-Fargo
Book reading, stories, concert and signing
6:30 PM-Meet and Greet and Signing
7:00 PM-Concert
8:30 PM-Meet and Greet and Signing
The Stage at Island Park
333 4th St. South
Fargo, ND
$7
All Ages
Cash Bar
Buy Tickets Online or at The Stage At Island Park

Saturday, April 22

Coming Home Concert-Grand Forks
1:00 PM
Book reading, stories, concert and signing
The Back Stage Project, Empire Arts Center
215 Demers Ave
Grand Forks, ND
$5
All Ages

Sunday, April 30

Coming Home Concert-Bismarck
2 PM
Book reading, stories, concert and signing
North Dakota Heritage Center
612 East Boulevard Ave
Bismarck, ND
Free Will Offering
All Ages

Friday, May 5

Coming Home Concert-New Rockford
Time TBA
Book reading, stories, concert and signing
Dakota Prairie Regional Center for the Arts
New Rockford, ND
More Information TBA
All Ages

Saturday, May 6

Coming Home Concert-Minot
Book reading, stories, concert and signing
6:30 Meet and Greet and Signing
7:00 Concert
Taube Museum of Art
2 North Main Street
Minot, ND
All Ages

Visit www.jessieveedermusic.com
for additions to the tour and my full performance schedule.

A special thank you to Forum Communications for making this project possible and for allowing me space every week in your newspapers to tell the story of my life in Western North Dakota. And thank you Kathy Leingang for ushering me so sweetly through the process of writing this thing!

Motherhood: Hold on tight while you let go

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“One. Two. Threeee!!!” She yelled before she launched herself from the top of one big round hay bale and over the mud filled gap to the next, landing safely on her knees before scrambling up to her feet to continue her race down the rest of the row of hay.

I stood holding Edie on my hip, both of us laughing as we watched her three cousins run and leap, making an obstacle course out of the hay yard, their blonde hair escaping from ponytails and flying up toward the blue sky in the wind.

I lifted Edie up over my head to sit her next to her cousin and take in the view, my hands held tight around her little waist to hold her steady for a few short moments before my baby girl promptly reached down, grabbed my fingers with a little whine and pushed me away from her, trying to convince me to let her go.

Apparently sixteen months of growing on this earth is long enough to be ready to leap across the tops of five-foot tall hay bales on her own. Now if only she could convince her momma.

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The stomp of six rubber boots kicked up the scent of summer dust trapped inside that feed pile combined with the squeals and chatter transported me to a time when I was as fearless and free, racing my cousin to the third tier of bales in the stack, declaring myself Queen of the World on top of her pyramid 20 feet in the air, with no regard for the scary consequences that could result from a slip.

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I couldn’t help but notice then the little twinges of worry that shot through my body as I watched those girls reach the top of their own pyramid. And then there was the push and pull I felt in my gut, the tug-of-war of wanting them to go higher, to see what the cows look like from up there, but willing them to be careful.

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Oh child, don’t you know what could happen!?

I guess that’s what motherhood is. Holding on tight as you’re letting go…

Edie reached her arms out towards me, and I helped her off the top of that bale and then walked her over to where her grandparents and daddy were watching by the road.

“C’mon,” I said to him as I ran back toward the hay yard, stripping off my jacket as I hoisted myself up to enter the race to see who could be the first to leap across 25.

“One. Two. Threeeee!!….”

Prairie Parent-The Miles to Motherhood

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Since August I’ve been working as the editor and developer of a new parenting publication that focuses on what it means to raise children between the sidewalks and scoria roads of western North Dakota.

It’s been a fun project to be a part of, especially during a time in my life when I’m navigating new motherhood, finding myself curious about what other parents do to survive children who refuse naps and get constipated just by looking at whole milk.

I have enlisted a little team of mom writers out here to share their insights and help tell others’ stories, I’ve had generous area photographers lend their talents and work to create beautiful covers and have monthly contributions from area medical professionals, and starting in April, we’ll feature a monthly grandparent column.

In the last few months we’ve made our print content available online. And thanks to the mad skills of the man who roped me into this project with the Dickinson Press, it’s a great site. 

March’s issue is one of my favorites because we explored what it means to be pregnant, birth children and raise them in rural America, which sometimes means hours of driving to the nearest medical facility for infertility treatments, prenatal appointments and baby well check ups.

We also covered some pretty insane birth stories that sent people scrambling to make it on the road and to the hospital in time to give birth, an article that seems to satisfy my newfound interest in every mothers’ birth story.

Below are links to two pieces I wrote for the March issue. Take a read and then take a look around the site, follow us on Facebook and check in on what we come up with each month.

Because even if you’re not raising children on the prairie, I strive to keep the common ground and sound advice between the pages that can be relatable for all parents of all stages.

Happy Spring!

The Miles to Motherhood
How rural birth stories have and haven’t changed
miles-to-motherhood

Surviving in the Country with an Infant
Products to help you through the first few months

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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 

 

Me and my shadow

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The snow melted into big rivers today, shrinking and sinking the drifts in the draws and creating a glorious slop of mud along our prairie trails and I’m hoping we’ve seen the last of the white stuff for the season.

History has taught me better though.

But we’re honing in on another spring season and I’ll take the warm up where I can get it.

I take to the hilltops like I do every year to check out the thaw.

In my other life the only thing that indicated the passage of another winter was a collection of fresh gray strands in my hair and new lines on my face.

These days it’s chronicled by my shadow…

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It’s my honor to carry this child across this prairie and through the quick tick of the clock, sun up and sun down, spring, summer, fall, winter and then again and again until she can climb these hills herself, without my hand to hold, and find for herself a dry place to lay in the sun the same way my dad taught me to do on the first warm day of spring.

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I hope this place is forever her refuge.

 

A goat and a Lincoln

A Goat and a Lincoln: When Childhood Memories Turn Whimsical
3-12-17
by Jessie Veeder
http://www.inforum.com

Some days, when I feel like life hasn’t thrown me an adventure worthy enough of reflection, I like to dig back in the archives for a memory to recount, the way you do when you find yourself sitting around the table having a beer with old friends.

We all have our favorite go-to stories in times like these, the kind that work in mixed company, just off-kilter enough to reveal something about you to new friends while reminding old ones you were a younger girl and you once drove 30 miles in the car you borrowed from your best friend’s dad, to pick up a goat.

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That’s the story I’m thinking of today.

It’s funny how far your own memories can detach from you, making you a character in the plot line of a life you once led. Everyone seems to remind me of the “hold on tight to these memories” refrain now that I’m a mom, but I should have been warned more when I was kid to hold on to the part of my life where I was 14 and reckless and my best friend was beside me in her dad’s nineteen-seventy-something Lincoln. We were driving on the highway alone for the first time in our lives, feeling grown up and capable, with a late spring rain hitting the windshield, turning the scoria roads bright pink against a neon-green landscape …

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We used to listen to our dads swap stories around the kitchen table when we were children playing make believe in the other room. We would hear them talk about old times — cars with no seat belts, dirt bike ramps and no helmets, horses that bucked too hard — and I wondered if one day my childhood stories might sound as whimsical to my kids.

I didn’t have much real experience driving outside the prairie trails and back roads of the ranch. But my friend and I were getting ready for our first year in high school rodeo, and we thought we needed to get ourselves a goat to practice tying.

Now, I’m not sure what our parents were busy with that day, or why on earth they at least didn’t send us with one of the ranch pickups to take the 30-mile drive in the rain alone to buy a goat from the neighbor’s farm, but that’s the way it happened.

We were an innocent enough pair as far as young teenagers go, and I was born with enough old woman running through my veins that my parents were pretty confident I wouldn’t dare hit any speed higher than 55 … and anyway, the Lincoln couldn’t go much faster.

But, oh how quickly that old lady was driven out of my 14-year-old veins when the open road was before me and my best friend was beside me, and there was hardly another car on the road. My confidence was building with every mile and every mile-per-hour I got closer to the speed limit, until I turned off the highway and onto the church road and decided to really gas it to get a good splash out of that puddle.

That Lincoln jerked hard to the right, fishtailing on the gravel before ramping off the shoulder of the road then sliding down the slope of the ditch and coming to rest at the front of the deep mud trench it buried itself in next to a freshly planted field.

The world outside that old car evaporated as my friend and I stared silently and straight ahead for the moment we needed to evaluate if we were still alive.

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Once we found our breath, we found each other, sucked back a few tears, and then, eventually, found the spare tire in the trunk, just in time for one of the neighborhood grandpas to find us.

What a sight we must have been there — two soggy, pathetic kids standing in the rain and in the agonizing moments between freedom and a lesson.

But maybe not as much of a spectacle we must have been when we finally headed back home, slow and steady down the highway, wild and young and free, just two best friends and our goat standing on the backseat, popping his head up between us.

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Because of the women they were yesterday…

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It’s International Women’s Day.

Yesterday the wind blew snow across the plains at 60 miles per hour at times. I got out of bed at 6 am after a completely sleepless night with my one-year-old. I climbed in the warm shower and got my hair washed and legs shaved. I pulled on my robe and shuffled downstairs to wake my finally sleeping daughter, to kiss her cheeks, to change her diaper, to get her dressed, to send her out the door with her dad so she could spend a day at daycare and I could drive in the wind three hours across the state for work and then drive myself home again hopefully in time to miss the dangerous and snowy dark and to rock my baby to sleep.

I’m a mother living on a 100+ homestead at the end of a long winter.

Some days I feel lonesome and isolated.

Most days I feel fortunate.

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Every day I think of the women in my family who raised kids before me out here on the edge of the badlands before electricity, before telephones, before washing machines and the conveniences of our modern world that make it easier for women like me to pursue my own dreams.

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My grandmother Edith as a young woman helping on her family farm

I wish I could talk about dreams with my great grandmother Gudrun who came to the United States from Norway at sixteen years old and raised twelve children out here in the early 1900s,  in all our brutal seasons.

8. Great Grandma Gudrun and Great Grandpa Severin Linseth and their 12 children Edith Linseth Veeder is center in the plaid

Great Grandma Gudrun with her twelve children, my grandma Edith in the center in the plaid and bow

I wish I could talk dreams with my grandma Edith, one of Gudrun’s middle daughters, who grew up on that homestead with eleven siblings, married the neighbor boy, taught school children on the reservation next to the ranch, raised three kids and took many others into their small home and worked cattle alongside her husband, making sure breakfast was served in the morning and supper was on the table at night.

18. Gramma Edie holding baby Jessie

Grandma Edith holding me

I wish I could talk dreams with my great-grandma Eleanore, who raised two boys on her own as a working woman after the war in a time where single mothers weren’t a common thing.

And I am so grateful I can talk dreams with my mother’s mother, my grandma G. I’m grateful that I’ve taken the time to ask her what it meant to raise four girls in the fifties and sixties as a working career woman. I’m grateful she’s shared with me the struggles and accomplishments she’s found so important to her and to the lives of her daughters so that I can better understand how far we’ve come.

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My grandma Ginny with three of her four daughters, two of her four granddaughters and one of her two great granddaughters. 

And more than anything, I am thankful for my own mother who taught me to persevere, to pay attention, to laugh, to be kind, to recognize the struggles and have compassion for those different than you, to never be the victim and to work hard.

Always work hard.

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I have become the woman I am today because of the women they were yesterday. 

Let’s celebrate that strength in our past and look to the future with muscles flexed today. 

For a little motivation, a little celebratory music, here’s “Work Girl.”