Sunday Column: The Rules of Fencing

IMG_3349Happy July everyone. My favorite month of the year. I rung it in in family tradition by heading east to my grandparent’s lake cabin in Minnesota to hang with the relatives and do lake things.

And while the rest of the ranch and me were out in Minnesota last weekend frolicking in the water, eating summer sausage sandwiches, lounging in the sun, taking in the fireworks displays, DSCN3428DSCN3433DSCN3420 DSCN3417  DSCN3414

and trying to balance two Veeder girls and a baby bump on a paddle board…


Husband had to stay home to work and take care of the cows.


Now, don’t feel too bad. In the summer, with the tall green grass and plenty pasture land, taking care of the cows really just means making sure they don’t get into the neighbors field.

And that’s pretty much it.


I was feeling guilty a little bit, except that I know the man is fine with the responsibility, especially since his recent purchase…the two-wheeled cow checker–for when you’re pretty sure the cows are in, but just want to zip around to make sure so you probably don’t need to go through all the trouble of getting the horses in and saddling up.

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It’s the perfect tool for a man who has the heart and spirit of a twelve year old…


And so that’s what Husband did this weekend. He mowed the grass and worked on wiring the garage and finishing the basement and he checked the cows.

And, not surprisingly, a few were out.

So he got them in. With the dog and a dirt bike.

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And then, as it would tend to go, while he went back to check the fences for the undiscoverable holes, he looked behind him to witness one feisty and athletic old bovine, the one he just put back in her place, making a leap back to the other side, like a 1,500 pound mule deer.


Because sometimes even the best cowboys with the best dogs, the best forms of transportation and the best fences cannot tame a cow convinced that the grass is greener…


Coming Home: Rules of fencing, the never-ending chore, are never forgotten
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications

There are jobs at the ranch that are truly enjoyable at times. Fencing is generally not one of them.

Fencing at the ranch involves wood ticks, nasty brush, a kazillion horse flies, barbed wire, pliers and a lot of bending over.

And if that doesn’t sound pleasing enough, ranchers get a little extra comfort when they pull on their flannel jammies at night knowing that they are never at a loss for work as long as they have barbed wire fences.

Some of my earliest memories as a ranch kid are of hopping in the pickup on a hot July day with my dad to go check fences.

I remember leaning against the stick shift of the old truck as my dad drove slowly down the fence line, stopping every few moments to get out, grab a staple or new fence post and make a repair. I remember eating warm ham sandwiches, sweating and swatting the buzzing bugs that multiplied in the thorny brush patches where the fence was always down, the poke of the barbs and the hum of the Clint Black song coming through the am radio of the old work pickup.

But mostly I remember being hot.

And so as long as I live, I will never forget the 10 (or was it 11) basic rules of fencing the Veeder Ranch, because monumental and never-ending tasks like these leave an impression on a kid.

1) Choose to take your trip in the heat of the day. It’s not a smart option, but the only option for procrastinators who like to have coffee, bacon and eggs, and then another helping while they catch the end of CBS Sunday Morning.

2) Intend to apply a thick mist of Deep Woods OFF to ward off the hawk-sized bugs, and then forget to bring it along as you head miles into the wilderness. Because how else would you be able to really test how much buzzing and biting a human sauna can endure?

3) If you think you may need five to seven steel fence posts to get the job done, be sure to only locate one to take along. Because a man needs a challenge, and figuring out how to re-stretch a half-mile of wire using a rusty plier, reused fencing staples from 1918, a pocket knife and one measly fence post is the type of feat only a real Renaissance/MacGyver-type specimen can handle. Which brings me to the staples …

4) Forget them in the shop.

5) But for the love of Martha, don’t forget the dog. I mean, running for 3 to 4 miles at top speed behind the four-wheeler to a location void of water or an adequate breeze is the perfect death-defying act for a cow dog. Go ahead, just try to leave him behind, but don’t be alarmed when he pops up over the hill and makes a beeline to the tiny bit of shade the midday sun provides off of your small ATV.

And while you’re at it…

6) Forget to bring your good leather gloves. Instead, pull on the pair with the hole where your right pointer finger is located. Because the No. 7 rule of fencing just happens to be …

7) Bleed. You’re not fencing until you’re itchy, poked, stabbed, bruised and bleeding.

8 ) So make sure to bring company. Because if a man cusses in the pasture and there’s no one there to hear it, is he really even angry?

And if you’re cussing anyway, you might as well …

9) Sweat. Sweat out all that water that you forgot to pack. Sweat so you must roll up your sleeves just enough to expose your flesh to the thorns you must reach into to yank up trampled fence.

10) And then bleed again, cuss louder, sweat a little more, turn around to find that your companion has disappeared over the hill to pick wildflowers, decide that only a really smart and athletic cow could maneuver through your fence repairs, head home for lunch with every intention of returning after the meal only to revisit the site the next morning to find those extra plump, extra lazy cows are in the field again.

11) Repeat until the ground freezes.

Peace, Love and Fence Posts,



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.