Sunday Column: On a memory named Pooper

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It’s raining, the grass is getting greener and the calves are being born. I love this time of year where things are fresh and new and there’s nothing ahead of us but the promise of warmer weather (after a couple spring snow storms that leave us holding our breath of course).

The bottle calf in the barn has made me a little nostalgic and I’m having a flashback of a bottle calf my little sister and I took care of back when I was the boss and she didn’t care…

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Coming Home: Everything is better with some cows around
by Jessie Veeder

Calving season is in full force here at the ranch, and this year it’s extra special for my husband and I because part of the new herd we’re building is our own.

And by better, by no stretch of the word does he mean easier. If I learned anything in my life it’s that better doesn’t always mean easier. (I’ve found this to be true in ranching and in motherhood.)

Anyway, it could be the green grass sprouting up on the hilltops or a little hope of warm rain in the forecast that sends us outside with the enthusiasm of a kindergartner with a new backpack on her first day of school, but I know it’s those cows grazing on the hilltop and the babies trying out their new legs beside them.

Last week, one of our best new cows gave birth to twins. I was in Bismarck with Mom and Edie at a singing job when I got a text with a photo from Dad telling me the news. My little sister, my mom and my husband all got the same message and I smiled at the realization that we’re living in an age where my dad sends group texts to his family about cows.

This morning one of those twin babies is waiting for me in the barn because, as it goes sometimes with animals, the cow didn’t recognize the second twin as hers.

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So I’m her momma now, a job I happily volunteered for because feeding babies is something I know how to do, and it’s not just due to my new role as a mom.

I have pretty vivid memories of all of the bottle calves we had when I was a kid growing up out here. One in particular left a big mark on my sister and I, mainly for the role that little calf played in our epic, sisterly fights.

I was 12 and so I pretty much knew everything, and my little sister was 7 and not as eager as she should have been at being bossed by me.

The calf, lovingly named Pooper, became our responsibility and part of our daily chores, which we eagerly took on in the beginning. Because, in the beginning, calves are adorable and have yet to grow into a 150-pound puppy on legs who has figured out two little girls are his only food source, and coincidentally has also figured out how to escape his pen in order to chase them down the road after the empty bottle, tongue out, bellering, head down in feeding position in case he caught up to one.

And he always caught up to one; it just was never this one. Because I employed the age-old advice: Want to survive a bear attack? Just be faster than the guy you brought with you.

Turns out my little sister never forgave me for it. Last weekend I took her down to the barn to have a look at the new baby, and she started getting the cold sweats. Instead of seeing an innocent newborn creature, Alex was having flashbacks of snowpants full of slobber, swift head butts to her rear and unanswered cries for help directed at a big sister sprinting to the house half a mile away, leaving her to suffer a terrifying death by the tongue of a baby calf.

Apparently, the times we spent together feeding Pooper were the first times she heard me cuss like a sailor, knocking me off my very low pedestal. I know because she brings it up at family dinners, holidays and probably the toast she made at my wedding.

Needless to say, my little sister will find different ways to help with the cattle business. Like babysitting Edie.

And I don’t blame her. It’s not easy playing momma to a baby with a giant head and four wobbly legs, especially when you’re feeding her with one hand and trying to put the pacifier back into your human baby’s mouth with the other.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. Because everything is better with some cows around.

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A few minor bruises and a bursting heart

First things first:


Happy Monday. You’re welcome


Thank you all for showing your compassion for my hereditary malfunction of succumbing with force to the laws of gravity day after day. I have to say your stories of cow trampling, stair plummeting, dock dunking, face planting in church and falling off of your tall shoes had me laughing out loud.

Which brings me to the second thing:



Your willingness to share your embarrassing mishaps with me made me love you more than ever. I’ve always felt that life and all the bruises and bumps that come with it are a bit easier if we can just laugh at the whole damn spectacle.

Especially when that spectacle happens to be looking at you in the mirror. Like Cindy said after spilling her embarrassing “sleeping leg face plant” story, maybe public embarrassment is a way of getting rid of bad Karma. If that’s so we should all be evened up in that department….

In his next life he's guaranteed a wolf body at the very least...

So, it was a tough decision, but given the sheer volume of Annika’s misfortunes, mishaps, smashed limbs and near misses with the holiday fruit salad I am quite certain she is destined to be reincarnated as the Queen of England for all of the suffering she has encountered here in this life. Yup. That and the fact that she had the good humor to let her college roommates tally her falls, flubs and skinned knees make her the winner!

Congrats Annika. Your stories made me feel like the lead ballerina in Swan Lake, a ballerina who came out of the other end of a ranch weekend relatively unscathed…except for the bruise above my eye as a result of a three-year-old’s attempt at fetch with the lab.

Oh, and that scraped heel from a horse spooked by husband’s branch-breaking project.

See him back there, so helpful and unaware of the dangers of loud noises...

But you know what? I barely even felt any of it. Because I was high on the sweet spring air, the horse hair, the bluebells and all of the family and kids and babies that came out to visit us this weekend.

My heart was full and at risk of being the third body part to split or bruise, almost tearing at the seams there was so much joy in there.

Because look at this…

And this…

Don’t turn away yet…

Yeah, you crying? Not yet? Well this should send you over the top…

I’ll wait while you get a tissue…

You ok? Ok.

Yes, this weekend the barnyard was filled with squeals and screams and laughter and tiny little footprints. It was bliss. And it helped confirm my belief in the importance of keeping and sharing a place like this with others, especially the others that stand under three feet tall.

Because there’s something about kids and animals that make people like me believe in impossible things…like maybe those two species, kids and beasts, can actually talk to each other…

The innocence, the trust, the unconditional love and wonder they hold for one another makes me feel like maybe, before we could remember, before we grew up and got all that noise in our heads, all our worries and plans for the future, before we forgot what it was like, before we thought we had so much to say, maybe we could really listen.

Maybe that’s why kids take so well to the farm, why they squeal with delight at the baby calves and reach so willingly to touch the nose of a horse. Maybe that’s why they suggest buying baby chicks and piglets and beg for a puppy. Because they belong here. Together.

Now all’s quiet again at the ranch and those babies have gone home to their beds. But I like to think they dream about horses. I like to think in their dreams they are out there with the dogs, running and rolling in the green grass, laughing and talking to each other.

I like to think those kids left a little piece of their heart here knowing that they can come back and get it anytime they want.


Now if you’ll excuse me I have to get down to the barnyard.  Now that the dust has settled on the weekend, I swear I can hear those horses calling my name.

The Queen of the Barnyard

I have added a new task to my morning routine at the ranch. Yes, while the world was watching a beautiful woman turn into a princess this morning, I was wiping my eye crusties, pulling on my vest and muck boots and heading out to the barn to play momma to two drooly, stinky, snotty, lovable, furry babies.

Oh, it’s a slightly less glamorous gig than what that princess on TV will face in her life…a few less diamonds, a lot more snot, but simply another day in the life of the Queen of the Barnyard.

Queen of the Barnyard. That’s me.

Yes, I received my crown and the important and necessary job of keeping these babies alive and growing up big and strong when our neighbor up the hill, who has been calving during one of the most treacherous, snowy, cold and wet springs in years, found these babies abandoned in the mayhem of the spring blizzards.

Our neighbor is one of those ranchers who has been running the place his father ran for his entire adult life. He is an expert when it comes to the cattle industry and takes the job very seriously. Consequently, he has spent the last few snowy months painstakingly feeding and checking his cattle in the sub-zero weather, blizzards, ice storms, rain and the occasional, merciful sunshine in order to keep the mommas happy and healthy so they will deliver happy and healthy babies in the spring.

Because that’s what good cattle ranchers do best, especially and most importantly during calving season. They watch. They pay close attention to their herd, taking in which cows are close to giving birth, who might be having trouble, what cows may need a little help in order to be a good momma and what babies need medicine or extra TLC

And these babies needed a little extra TLC indeed. One a twin whose mamma wouldn’t let him suck and the other abandoned all together, our neighbor took them into the barn, warmed them up and begin the milk replacing, bottle feeding regiment. But with all the other tasks our ranching neighbor is charged with during days of calving and feeding and the fact that our cattle don’t come to the Veeder Ranch until the grass is green, husband, pops and I decided to purchase the calves and start a little project of our own.

And I was dubbed Queen…

Not because I’m the most capable, intelligent, and fairest of them all…

but because I’m home.

And I have time to devote to a morning and evening calf feeding ritual.

So all rise for the Queen of the Barnyard looking ravishing in a yellow and gray flannel, saggy, drool soaked jeans and a Carhart cap–much more practical head-gear for royalty with these types of responsibilities.

Responsibilities like putting her morning coffee on hold to mix up giant bottles of warm milk replacer and head to the big barn where the babies are crying.

Important tasks like sliding open the barn door only to be rammed and head butted and stepped on and licked during the calves’ search for the bottles she holds tightly in each hand.

Yes, the Queen of the Barnyard puts one bottle in each hand (with the exception of when she has a camera) to feed these babies. Because she is an expert at time management and doesn’t want to leave anyone waiting (or deal with the repercussions that would occur while feeding one calf and fending off the other with her free royal arm and corresponding leg…the results sure to be painful and sloppy)

But the Queen of the Barnyard isn’t all business. Oh no she isn’t. She realizes that she is these babies’ only link to the outside world and she must teach them to be calves. So when her subjects are finished drinking she distracts them from their instinct to ram her repeatedly with their noses until she flees to the house by tossing the bottles aside to begin the ritual of demonstrating to the babies what it looks like to run and buck.

She begins by running as fast as she can to distance the needy animals’ noses from her royal butt. She then launches her body half-way across the length of the corral in a leap, lands both feet in the dirt and then finishes it off with a jump and a kick.

Hands on hips the Queen waits for the response.

Her subjects stop.



and follow suit.

Her Highness laughs and claps with delight.

And the Queen’s subjects shower her with kisses and bid her adieu.

Then the Queen, a hot royal mess, climbs the fence  to make the short trip home, only to do it all again in the coming hours.

Because this Queen goes above and beyond…and her work is never done.

Ah, princess Kate, you may have a castle and a country and a handsome prince, but are you the ruler of all this?

Or this?


What about him?

Or him?

But most importantly is this yours?

Yeah. Didn’t think so fancy pants. Didn’t think so.

Happy Royal Wedding day everyone! I want to know what makes you king or queen of your household today.