The way my grandpa sees the world

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Theodore Waddell, Gallatin Angus 2001

The way my grandpa sees the world Forum Communications

There’s a print of a painting hanging in a frame beside my bed that reminds me of my Grandpa Bill.

It’s a framed card actually, a watercolor of a rugged landscape, dark blue buttes forming a horizon against a gray and white sky. And below the buttes, in the foreground, the brush stroked green and beige, and then the artist, seemingly with the blunt end of his brush, came back to add a scattering of black dots.

The cattle.

I took the print off the wall tonight to take a closer look as I was crawling into bed and the back of the frame came off to reveal the reverse side of that card and my grandpa’s handwriting.

“This scene looks much like the blue mountains from the hills above your place. Happy Birthday.”

And he was right. If you sit on the top of a hill on our ranch, you will likely see the live version of this scene — a moody sky casting sporadic golden light in the pastures where our cattle graze. And off in distance, as far as you can see, those buttes that cradle our neighbors 10 miles to the north shine blue on us and frame every scene of our lives out here.

ARCHIVE: Read more of Jessie Veeder’s Coming Home columns

My dad tells a story of when he was a little kid in elementary school. He was coloring a picture of Roy Rogers riding through the mountains on his horse, Trigger.

“Why are you coloring the mountains blue, Gene?” his teacher scolded. “Mountains aren’t blue.”

I always thought that was one of my dad’s sadder stories…

But I don’t think Grandpa Bill had this sort of teacher in his life. And if he did, he didn’t pay her any mind.

And I like this little card with black dot cows because I like to imagine it’s the way my Grandpa Bill sees the world, like a painting waiting to be made and admired. And I’m so glad to know that about him.

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When I was 11 or so, my dad’s mother, Gramma Edie, died on the ranch, leaving the little brown house in the farmyard down the road empty and lonesome. So in the fall and winter, my mom’s parents, during their early years of retirement, would move out here to breathe life into the place.

Grandpa traded his Minnesota dock shoes for boots and immersed himself in ranch life. He fixed fences, he rode along to move cattle, he updated that old farmhouse, hung his chaps and hat like a work of art on the entryway and took beautiful photographs, even trying his hand at painting the simple, old, everyday scenes of this place I might not have thought to find extraordinary if it wasn’t for him.

Eventually, my grandparents made the decision to settle into summers in Minnesota and winters in the Arizona sun. In fact, Grandpa Bill is likely reading this to Gramma as they have a cup of coffee and a doughnut hole on their deck.

And he’s probably noticing how the morning light creates a soft glow around his wife’s silver hair and thinking that it would make a lovely photograph or painting.

And every time I take the turn off the highway to head north, toward home, toward those blue buttes, I slow down a bit as I come up over the hill overlooking the gold pastures dotted with cattle and, because of Grandpa, I think the same thing.

Road Home

Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and daughters on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. She blogs at https://veederranch.com. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com.

Sunday Column: How do you measure the value of art?

I’ve had the privilege during the last few weekends of February to be involved in a variety of celebrations focused on music.

Last weekend, for example, I was one of dozens of local musicians who stood on the stage and sang our own versions of Bob Dylan tunes as part of the first ever Dylan Fest, an effort to applaud a man of prolific talent with a broad scope of influence.

The weekend before I stood on the same stage to sing and celebrate women and the wide variety of music that lives in us.

And then I moved down the street and shared the stage with those women as we celebrated songwriting.

The day before I had been in our capitol city celebrating North Dakota musicians. And after the awards ceremony, I gathered with my band on a small stage for an after party where we found ourselves surrounded by musicians of every genre singing along, collaborating and sharing that stage together in the name of camaraderie and respect for our work and an overall passion for words and notes and dancing along for the love of it all.

I have to say, for a woman who has been performing most all of my life, I continue to be surprised by the way music can gather people together of all different ages and backgrounds and stories and experiences and hold us there, connecting us in the moment.

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It happened last weekend on a big stage and it happened for me on a smaller stage later that day where I found that I had collected a drummer and a lead guitar player from Bismarck and paired them with a bass player from Fargo and a steel guitar player from Minneapolis and we mixed it all up with a rancher from Western North Dakota and his daughter, the writer and singer who had the big idea for the whole shenanigan in the first place.

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In that restaurant in Fargo in the middle of city streets in the middle of winter there were a hundred different stories and a hundred different reasons why we all found ourselves there—a birthday party, a gathering of friends, a drink after work, a chance to hear something new—but there we were, not just in the same room, but nodding our heads and clapping our hands and sharing our stories and toasting and drinking and living in the moment together.

And man did we have fun, the six of us misfits fitting nicely together up at the front of that room singing songs I wrote that some of them had never even played before that night.

And then old familiar tunes that we could all sing along with.

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These experiences just keep getting better and more meaningful to me as an artist. And I’m not sure why except to say I have begun to realize how special they are, not only as an artist, but as the person who has sat in a crowd and found myself so moved by what someone else had to say.

Because not only did it make me feel like I wasn’t alone, but because it meant that they weren’t either.

And so I’ve been thinking lately about the value of that moment and how important it is for a community to cultivate it.

Because some of the best moments of my life have been built by music.

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Some of the hardest have been processed through the same medium.

And if there wasn’t a song to reflect it all, well, then I have always been compelled to make one for myself.

So how do we measure the worth of such a thing?

Coming Home: The value of art, music not easy to measure
by Jessie Veeder
3-1-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Photo by Chad Nodland

For more information on my music and
the upcoming release of my new album “Northern Lights” visit:
www.jessieveedermusic.com
www.facebook.com/jessieveedermusic

My column appears weekly in newspapers across the state of North Dakota. If you’re interested in running my work, please contact me at jessieveeder@gmail.com 

Back when I (thought I) was an artist

Last time my Aunt K came to visit she brought this with her.

My aunt K is the kind of aunt who saves and archives things like old photographs, art projects and inspiring drawings from her children and artistically delusional niece, puts them in file folders and dates the back.

That’s how I know this was from 1992-1993. Because Aunt K wrote it in pencil on the back right corner to remind me how brilliant I was when I was 8 years old.

Brilliant.

Like this shirt.

Now, I feel like I should comment here, let you know that the ukelele hanging out by that hat is actually supposed to be a guitar, but the size of that hat and lack of horse feet probably indicates I had a little to learn about proportions and gravity.

But this drawing reminds me of a time in my life when I really believed that I could be anything, and a gifted artist was one of these things.

An olympic figure skater, a talk show host, a rodeo queen/Miss America, a veterinarian horse whisperer, novelist and famous singer like Reba McEntire were some of the other things.

Turns out I may have hit my artistic peak at 8 years old.

Turns out I was never really “gifted” in this area, no matter my hopes and dreams…
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Same goes with the figure skating thing.

But I hung that picture on my fridge anyway, because it reminds me of my Aunt K and that little girl who believed she would cherish this magnificent piece of art forever and ever.

And it turns out I was right about some things.

Peace, Love and Precious Childhood Delusions,

Jessie