Winter and why we’re never doing anything ever again…


It’s winter. It’s almost Christmas. December 21st. It’s official.

As if the weeks of sub-zero temperatures, snow piling up and blowing across the road and last nights freezing rain didn’t give us enough of a clue, we needed the calendar to confirm it.

Well, Happy Winter.

We’re going a little nutty around here, doing whatever it takes to find amusement while we’re socked in the house dealing with teeth problems and head colds, both mom and baby included.

There’s nothing more fun than a teething baby who can’t breathe out of her nose hanging out with her mom with a toothache who can’t breathe out of her nose.

Good thing we have the same sense of humor. Like, only a mother would find her child’s grapes-on-her-head-instead-of-in-her-mouth-trick funny.

What a weirdo.


In a few days we’ll be celebrating Christmas with all the relatives we can get our hands on, so I’m hoping we can get our shit together. Husband’s been in on that goal. He’s actually helped me wrap presents this year, a task I find so amusing to watch, him hanging out on the floor with me hunched over little boxes, his big hands trying to maneuver little folds and pieces of tape, trying to get things just right and pretty in an adorable juxtaposition of masculine energy performing a task that requires some daintiness.

I’d post a photo of it, but he’d never help me again, soooooo…..

In other news, Husband and I finally took my little sister up on the offer of watching Edie for a few hours while we had an impromptu date night. I came to town with the baby to visit the nursing home on behalf of the Cattlewomen and afterwards I didn’t feel much like pushing my runny-nosed child through the aisles of the store trying to remember what I needed cream cheese for,


so I called Little Sister and all was arranged. I would meet Husband after he was off work and our first night out together since the baby was born  (besides our anniversary vacation) would include grocery shopping and a burger.

Seriously. What’s wrong with us? Why don’t we go out together? We need to make a resolution. Did you get a haircut? Is that a new shirt? Are your eyes still brown? I forgot what you look like. Aren’t we having a good time? These are the things we talked about while I tried hard to remember that I didn’t need to hurry in the store or scarf my burger because we were frrreeeeee…….

And then I got a text message. A video. From Little Sister.

Edie was walking! Ever since she took her first little steps in the hallway weeks ago, I’ve been begging her to do it again. I’ve tried all my tricks and the kid would dance. She would bounce. She would clap and play peek-a-boo, but she wouldn’t walk.

She was never going to walk.

Unless we went out for the first time in months and months and months and left her with her aunt for thirty minutes. Then she’d walk.

“This is why we don’t do anything ever,” said my husband.

And it appears we might have to go for a burger and leave her with Aunty A. if we ever want to see her walk again…

Why am I in such a hurry to get her to walk. I’m going to regret this…


Ah, anyway. Merry Christmas friends. I hope you find yourself in a season void of the sniffles and full of tiny little every day miracles.

Peace, Love and some pictures of my baby in a sled.




Sunday Column: Dad jokes

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My husband spent all weekend (and it was a beautiful weekend) in the basement with his dad, putting up sheetrock, wiring lights, sawing and cutting and nailing walls together to get the house as ready as it can be for the rapidly ticking time bomb that is the arrival of this baby.

Because apparently I’m nesting and the sawdust and unfinished nature of this house is driving me absolutely insane. So insane, that I actually found myself scrubbing the insides of the oven, racks and all.

And organizing my kitchen cabinets, which hasn’t happened since I moved all our stuff into this house three years ago.

But as much as I can do, I am still waiting on dearly beloved to get his tasks in that basement checked off so I can put together this baby’s room already. As I type I’m sitting surrounded by unopened boxes of baby gear, blankets, books and onsies hanging out in my office full of guitars, CDs, paperwork, my desk, printer, sound system and microphone.

My instincts to organize it and put it everything in its proper place is overwhelming. It’s another pregnancy symptom that I assumed was a myth.

But as I visit (battle) with my dearly beloved about the meaning of “urgency” I have been thinking and wondering about what’s going on in that handsome head of his. If his fatherly instincts aren’t based in ridding the house of saw dust, making sure we sweep under the refrigerator and vacuum the light fixtures, what are his priorities? What is going on in that head of his (because I haven’t sensed any panic so far) and where are all the web articles, books, literature and YouTube videos analyzing and giving advice on the topic of fatherly instincts?

Surly some social scientist somewhere has thought about studying what the male mind and heart is mulling around while he watches his wife or partner’s belly swell month after month.
All I have found so far are some tips on how to prepare him for this, as if he were a child. But he’s not a child. He’s going to be a dad, with lots of responsibilities he’s nervous and excited about taking on. And I’m pretty positive there’s more going on in that brain of his than being worried about keeping his regular sleep pattern.
So I’ve been studying him a little bit. Listening, learning and contemplating…
And that’s what this week’s column is about…

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Coming Home: Becoming a devoted dad is no joke for my husband
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Comunications

My husband has been practicing his dad jokes.

It’s been a long rehearsal, I’ll tell you. Six months of lame comebacks followed by a blank stare (by me) and a sort of ba-doom-chick, knee-slap, finger-gun-point routine (by him) before he officially declares it a “dad joke” and laughs his way out of the room.

Some men agonize over the best car seat/stroller/baby monitor in the world with countless hours of Internet research, testimonials and calls to their dad friends.

My husband?

Dad jokes.

Literally the first thing he said when he saw the image of our little baby floating around in his (or her) big ultrasound debut was, “Huh, look there, I think I see a mustache.”

It was such a sweet moment.

And a reminder of how embarrassing he can be sometimes.

But I appreciate that about him, and I think this kid will, too. I know I appreciated that about my dad anyway, to know that a man charged with lifting the heavy things in the lives of his family still had the energy and heart to sing “Be Bop a Lula” and dance with his daughters in the kitchen, using laughter as an exclamation point at the end of a long day.

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In our lives together, I’ve seen my husband take the same route. Lurking in his generally stoic nature will be a witty rebuttal that catches me off guard or an unexpected leap from behind a closed door so that he can relish me flailing and falling to my knees, half weeping/half laughing in terror.

It keeps things interesting.

Anyway, as we get ready for this new person to arrive, I’ve been obsessively pining over baby preparation material, because I figure if I can’t be in control of my hormones, waistline, sleep pattern or endless heartburn, I can at least learn about the things I won’t be able to control in the next phase.

And that’s where I ran across a few articles about the dad — how to help calm his nerves, prepare him, inform him, keep him involved and one of the top 25 things he should know before the kid gets here, which I read, of course, in case there was something in there that they planned on telling dads but were going to keep from me.

Needless to say, there was nothing in there about preparing for the arrival of your infant by keeping a logbook of lame jokes that will embarrass your entire family year after year, but judging by the short Rolodex my father-in-law repeats annually around the Thanksgiving table, I’m thinking the development of the skill is inherited.

It’s instinct. Which made me wonder: In all the discussion about a mother’s instincts as a couple prepares for their first addition, why does it seem like a father’s instincts go unrecognized?

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Now, I know there are good dads and bad dads out there, and the same goes with mothers, so lucky are those who have two devoted parents. And that devoted dad is who I’m talking about here. In my life, I’ve seen and have been influenced by plenty of examples of these types of men; the ones who take their kids along on cattle roundups, hunting excursions, trips to their favorite sporting event or just on a run to the hardware store.

Because in those excursions, there might be a chance to get some dad jokes in, yes, but there’s also endless opportunities to teach, to show, to answer questions and help expose a kid to a skill or a fact he can put in his pocket so that he’s better equipped to take on the world.

When my husband was asked what he was most looking forward to about becoming a dad, his response was, “To have a buddy I can show around this place.”

That seems to be a theme. A dad’s basic instinct. To teach. To prepare. To show.

Because dad was the original Google, after all. Which may make things a little tricky these days, you know, now that kids can fact-check.

But it also comes in handy when diversifying that pool of dad jokes, which apparently is the first step in the wonderful journey of fatherhood.

And, when I got done writing this column, my husband texted me his latest ‘dad jokes:’

“I went to a zoo and there were no animals except one dog. It was a Shih Tzu.”


“Without nipples, boobies would have no point.”

Lord help me.

6 weeks and counting…

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The day he lived.

10 days ago my dad lived.

My dad, with his beautifully raspy voice, his strong, callused hands, his passion for this landscape and the creatures that exist here. My dad who loves unconditionally and laughs with a promise that things will be ok.  My dad who’s given the shirt off his back, the boots from his feet and all his heart to those he loves or those who need him.

Our dad who knows things. Takes care of things.

Takes care of us.

The weather report warned us that the early January thaw was about to turn treacherous, sending snow blowing across slushy roads, turning them to ice and dropping the temperatures to dangerous lows. But it was warm that early Friday morning when Pops struggled to find the phone to make a call that would save his life.

That evening as Husband drove us home in that mild winter air I was uneasy. There was no reason for it really. We had just finished a nice dinner with my family, celebrating my mom and little sister’s birthday. We laughed. We ordered steak. We watched Little Man move from lap to lap around the table. And then we all said goodnight and happy birthday.

But on the road that night as the tires hummed along the highway I looked up at the stars with a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach and asked my husband if he ever feels lonesome for something. Something he can’t describe.

He said he thought so. He said he understood.  Then we pulled into the drive, trudged up the steps and tucked ourselves in safe and unaware that in a few short hours, at 2 a.m. the phone would ring in the darkness, threatening to change the comfortable and blessed life we take for granted.

The hours that followed are indescribable, a nightmare that threatened to paralyze me and send me gasping for air at the sound of my father’s voice asking for help and the sight of him lying helpless on the floor. But deep down under the fear that percolated and boiled up in my throat was an untried and reassuring belief that this was only an obstacle and not the end.

The stars spun in the warm January night and under those stars our neighbors responded to the call, loading up in the fire-trucks and an ambulance, asking their God for strength to make the miles in time to help a suffering friend laying too far from town, too far from help.

And so how do you thank that God for second chances? My dad looked up at me from the floor of the home where he raised three girls and loved one woman, the walls that absorbed the sound of a family’s laughter and arguments, the notes of his guitar, the smells of supper warming on the stove and a life well lived and he told me he was dying.

I held his hand, looked him in the eye and without a waver, without a tear, I said no. No, you are not.

But he was. I didn’t believe it then. I didn’t know it then, but he was.

That big strong heart of his, the one that taught us – showed us – compassion and patience, bravery and tenderness, was torn and leaking and poisoning his body.

And with each passing minute, each hour it took to load him in the ambulance, to get him to town, to test, to poke and prod and diagnose and medicate, to plead with the nurses and doctor, to fight to make him comfortable, to hold his hand and ask him where it hurt, where is it…what is it…what can we do…do something…help him…the odds fell quickly and silently away from his favor.

“Dissection of the Aorta,” the doctor said. “We’re calling an airplane. There’s no time to talk now…”

My mother’s hand went to her mouth. My sisters gasped. The temperature dropped outside where the wind blew chilled rain across the plains and I ran out there to stand in it, to come to grips with the idea that we might go on living in this world without my dad.

But I could not accept it. This wasn’t our story.

I pushed down the fear and walked back inside where we hugged him goodbye for now.

“See you in the big town,” I said.

“Are you sure you want to drive those roads? The weather’s getting bad,” he told us. “I’ll be ok, really. You don’t have to come all that way.”

Just like dad to worry about us.

Silent and shaken we crawled in the pickup, 180 miles of daunting highway stretching before us under the darkening and freezing winter skies.

And up in those skies they flew him, my dad, on the wings of the plane and some merciful angels, to get to where he was going in time to be saved.

Who am I to give words to the feeling of moving through those miles in the dark, uncertain and silent, mind wandering to a future you can only will and pray for. Who am I to tell you how my stomach knotted with each ring of the phone, what it was like to watch my mother and sisters suffer with worry? Who am I to describe the relief we felt when we got word he made it to the hospital where staff and surgeon were waiting to perform one of the most difficult procedures of their careers?

How can I tell you what those hours were like, waiting with my family while my father was in another room with his chest cut open, his big, strong heart exposed and open to the uncertain world?

How can I describe what it meant to us that you drove all those miles behind us in the storm, neighbor, to sit with us and ease the silence while we waited hours for news of his life as the earth froze over?

What words do I use to thank the doctor who walked into that waiting room with news that he saved him? The nurses who cared for him? The family and friends who sent prayers and positive thoughts into the universe, begging for mercy for a man we still need with us here, while all around the world people with much better odds of living were being taken up into those spinning stars.

Ten days ago my dad lived. The earth froze solid while he slept. 60 below zero the weatherman said and we were frozen too with fear of the unknown. We touched his hand while he slept and told him we loved him.

Two days after that he breathed on his own and the air warmed up enough to let the snow fall. In the dark of the night we took turns sitting with him in that room in that city full of lights and unfamiliar noises as he healed, passing one another’s footprints in the snow on our way back and forth from the hotel to his bedside.

Twelve hours later he was walking down the hall of that hospital aware of his mortality, grateful for his saviors, both unseen and on this earth, and planning his escape back to the ranch where there is so much more work to be done, more people to love and more life to be lived.

“I almost died,” he said as the drugs wore off and he came back to us.

“But you didn’t dad. I told you you wouldn’t,” I said.

“You know why I didn’t?”


“Because I’m a son-of-a-bitch.”

Maybe not a son-of-a-bitch, but the strongest man I know.  How comforting that his sense of humor was so quick to reappear.

And with each passing day that laughter eased our worries, the temperature warmed and the earth thawed out as we all learned to breathe again.

Our dad is a miracle. Doctors and nurses got word of his survival and recovery and stopped by to see him, to tell him he’s an anomaly.

I could tell you the odds. I knew them all along, but it doesn’t matter now. He was meant to stay with us.

Because ten days ago, in a world that worked to freeze up, crush us and break our hearts, my dad’s heart, big and strong and open, against all odds in a world that can be cruel and forgiving all at the same time, kept beating.

Ten days ago he lived.


Sunday Column: Rooted

My dad is a man who is rooted.

He knows what he loves and he loves it wholeheartedly. He showed us how to stay planted while finding our wings. He taught us how to sing and how to ride a horse.

He taught us that sometimes the best idea is to take a moment to sit on the hilltop, look around and say “wow, isn’t this something.”

His outlook on life has been his greatest gift to me. His love for place flows through our blood.

Happy Father’s Day to a man who worked hard to make this my home.

Coming Home: Discovering history, past and future
by Jessie Veeder
Fargo Forum 

A horse with no name (Prize alert!)

Good morning. I need your help.

I don’t have time to talk about this beautiful weather we’ve been having, or how summer is slowly and in a lovely way turning into fall. Or how I have been procrastinating my chokecherry syrup project for riding every evening.

No. I can’t talk about that.

This shit is urgent.

My horse needs a name.

Here she is, I think you’ve seen her before.

The mare.

The paint mare.

Girly girl.

Miss Piggy.


Jessie’s horse.

Cause I’ve claimed her. Yup. Put my name all over her after pops brought her back to the ranch for the second time in my life. Maybe I should take some time to explain this so you can get a general idea about what I’m dealing with here.

See pops is a horse trainer, horse whisperer, horse fanatic, horse lover, damn horse crazy man. He admits it.

This would be his heaven. Living, sleeping and eating pie with the horses...

And he admits there hasn’t been a horse in the universe that he has met that he didn’t love. Even the one’s that bucked with him repeatedly for no apparent reason, the ones that will run around the round pen for an hour before they’ll give in and be caught, the ones whose feet are always tender, the ones that walk too slow, the ones that only want to run, the ones that knocked the wind out of his lovely middle daughter time and time again as she found herself launched out of the saddle and whimpering on the hard, clay ground, unable to feel her entire right side.

Nope. Dad liked that horse too. Just not the behavior…of horse or rider I must add. Because in the Horse Whisperer’s eye it is rarely solely the horse’s fault. I suppose Ceasar the dog whisperer has the same theory–it’s misunderstanding. Miscommunication that causes the issues.

And its pops mission in life to talk to the horses, you know, let them know that there is at least one man in the world who will try to understand where the beasts are coming from.

I think he’s been this way since birth.

Which brings me to the reason this ranch has been home to hundreds of horses in his lifetime. They find their way here when someone is having trouble with them. It could be a young colt that needs a start, an older animal with a stubborn streak, a temper, fear or anything in between. Horse owners and friends and friends of friends will somehow find their way to pops who rarely ever says no to giving it a try.

And after a few turns around the corral he always falls in love and either offers to buy the horse or to ride it until the owner would like it back.

That’s the first scenario.

The second scenario is how my-mare-who-remains-nameless found her way to our house the first time–because pops went a looking.

Yup, he found himself at a horse sale watching the hand me down animals come through the ring. Horses that others may have given up on, or didn’t have time or room for. He can’t help himself, even when he swears he’s just going to look, he brings his trailer along just in case. And so, about three years ago when I was working in the big town with the horse sale, pops shows up at my office with the trailer. I walked out across the parking lot, stood up on the tire of the rig in my fancy shoes and slacks and peered in to meet two paint mares that would have likely gone to the land of no return.

How lucky they were that pops was there with his horse selecting technique: jumping on them bareback with a halter to test their reaction.

Well they lived up to the test and so we had a couple new mares, one, the one I call mine, happened to be at the prime of her life. 8 or 9 years old, cowy, quick, sound, calm with just the right amount of energy. Yup. A great little horse. Pops was thrilled. But this is where it gets a little complicated, so hang in there with me.

Pops is like personal shopper when it comes to picking out equines. He was so thrilled with this purchase, but at the time he was the only one riding horses on the place and what he really wanted was his buckskin back. So he called his buddy in the badlands. The buddy who currently owned his beloved buckskin horse, acquired through a previous horse trading deal (there have been multiple in this friendship). He said “buddy, I have a horse for you. You’ll love her. She fantastic. Wanna trade back?”

And his buddy did.

So pops had the buckskin and his badlands buddy had the mare. The mare he titled “Left’er,” claiming that pops had just come around one day and, well..left ‘er. Apparently that horse trade story didn’t sound the same when badlands buddy told it.

Anyway, so there pops sat for three years with his beloved buckskin whose sore feet deem him ridable about three times out of these summer. No worries, there are plenty more horses to ride. Horses that have come to the Veeder Ranch in the wake of a major meltdown only to be coaxed back to life, pops tolerant of their quirks in the end.

And badlands buddy, he was loving the mare. Riding her on mountain trail packing trips, through the badlands, herding cattle. That mare had his heart indeed. But badlands buddy is a wandering cowboy and when he made plans for a year-long trip to the mountains where he would be responsible for maintaing trails, he called pops.

And I came home at the end of June to find the mare munching oak leaves in the horse pasture below our house.

So I saddled her up and, well, I will not ride another I say.

I will not ride another.

She’s gentle, but not overly friendly. She’s got a little attitude and is hard to catch unless you have treats or a bucket of anything really. Because sister loves to eat. If we are running through clover field at top speed I swear she just opens her mouth to catch what ever plant might be at the proper height. The girl is hungry.

I can relate.

And when it comes to cows you might as well just take a seat, because she’s got it under control.

I’ve been riding her for a good two months now and I am more convinced every day that she’s the best horse I’ve ridden. Other’s may not agree, but that’s my story and we’re sticking to it, her and I. She makes this ranch woman’s life a little easier…and I don’t even mind her mohawk really because it means less time spent plucking burrs from her hair and more time spent getting business done.

Which brings me, the long way (as usual) to my point.

Girlfriend needs a name.

And I need your help.

Now that you know our story it should be easy right? Oh, and I have incentives! If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been working on putting some of my photographs from this site up for sale on my Etsy site. See that tab up there that says “Store”? Yup. You pick a name that suits her and you can pick any print or necklace you want from there and I’ll send it to your door, a thank you for fixing this little predicament I have found myself in with no name to call out when heading to the pasture looking for her.

You are all creative, intuitive, smart people. I know you can come up with an appropriate title for her. 

Thank you.

Love you.

We’ll be out riding if you need us.

P.S. I am constantly adding photos and gifts to my Etsy site. I also have photos for sale in the Visitor’s Center in Watford City. If you see a photo here you would like in a print, canvas, barnwood frame, anything, I would love to fill your order. Just shoot me an email at These photos make great gifts for the North Dakota lover you know (especially if that North Dakota lover is, you know, yourself). 

Christmas is coming. 

And that’s my shameless plug. 

The art of cow cooperation.

I had the pleasure on this fine fall day of accompanying pops, just like old times, in bringing the cows home in fall roundup fashion.

My pops loves cows. He is first a horseman, but second a sort of cow whisperer. I am not kidding. It is, in its own way, extraordinary. His method for punchin’ cattle is not necessarily the bullwhips and whooping and hollering old western type of scenario most think of when visualizing a cattle roundup.

No, there isn’t even much swearing involved (unless I’m along. Then there might be a few slung here and there, I’m not gonna lie…) Anyway, the art of chasing cows with my pops is actually, I might stretch as far to say, a sort of “zen” experience, with the motto being, “slow and steady…let the cows think they are in charge.”

And really, they are. In charge that is. The cows. Because they will always outnumber us, no matter the strategy, no matter the brains and brawn you and the cow horse that is under you posses.  Most of the time things generally go as planned, with the cows catching wind of the horse at their backs and filing, nose to rump, on the trail to the gate. Just like pops had visualized. But then there are the days when the cows see that same gate open to greener pastures, and then choose, very casually, very snarky, to simply not enter and, you know, run as fast as their creaky legs can carry them to the nearest, most snarly, most thistle ridden brush there is on the entire place.

Yeah, I can see ya girl.

Then laugh and whisper to each other as pops and I discuss the idiotic fact that we own a pug, two labs and an old, crabby shepherd between the two of us and not one sense to possess a decent cow dog (whose job it is to correct these bovine attitudes). And then we proceed to dismount and walk into the critter and weed ridden brush to chase them out ourselves.

“Hya”  “Whoop.” “Come on girls.” “Yip. Yip. Yip.”

Arms waving, these are a few of the most choice phrases used by pops and me to encourage cow cooperation.

(I admit, I sometimes say “Dammit.” I know I shouldn’t, but I am passionate.)

Anyway, no matter the attitude, this type of situation is bound to occur on a cow-moving extravaganza, but it very rarely causes heart failure and hissy fits in the cowboy.  Because pops is a man who has been working cattle on this ranch his entire life, so he knows the drill.  He gets in their heads. He sees what a rebellious cow is thinking before she makes her move. He knows where all the gates are located in case the bovines get picky, he has been in all of the draws and has crossed all of the creek beds and has had to run damn quick to the tops of all of the clay hills. He’s got it down, so there really is no need to cuss, Jessie, geesh.

But for the last five years, pops has done this type of work, moving anywhere from 10 to 50 to 100 cows by himself on the back of his most savvy horse for years, being out here as the lone cowboy since his kids left home.

So he is really happy to have help, no matter how distracted that help may be by her camera and the lazy, spoiled pleasure horse she stupidly selected to take with her on the job.



But it all worked out, like it always does on this fine fall day. After watching as a few surly strays decided to run down the steepest cliff with the most thorns and bogs in the entire pasture, with pops in the lead, saying “Well, if this is how they’re going to be, we’ll just follow them around the entire pasture until they find the gate,” we calmly rode in after them. And then I remembered why cowboys wear chaps as one of those thorns found a home in my shin. I might have said “shit” but I can’t remember.

And then, after a few “Yip yips” and Hya”’s, like well trained beasts, they came out of the brush…and proceeded to head for the other side of the pasture to a lovely spot where a deep creek winds up and back again through cliffs and washouts and lots and lots of thistles.

We followed.

We followed as the cows, with their rather large calves at their tails, waded in mud up to their knees to get away from us. And then proceed to swim across the deep creek and climb and claw and scramble out its steep, 90 degree bank. You know, to get away from us.

I shook my head, kicked my pokey mount along and scratched at the thorn in my leg. Pops laughed and commented on how gorgeous the view is out here. He said this is his favorite pasture. He pointed out the nicest calf.

What a beautiful day.

And it was, because just as I was sure these cattle were calling the Greyhound Bus to get the next ticket to NYC  (you know, to get away from us) we popped up over the hill and saw them file in line behind their girlfriends and their babies who were making their way through the open gate.

Just like pops had planned. Just like he asked them to.

And as they all gathered for a drink of water before their final destination, pops looked out over his spread, their shiny black coats glistening in the sunlight and said, “Look at those beautiful cows. What a herd. Take a picture of that Jess. Those are some great cows.”

So I did. I took a picture.

Then shifted my lens to snap a picture of a cowboy. You know, a real one.

“Happy Trails Y’all”…well we don’t really say “ya’ll” around here…let me try it again..

“Happy Trails You Guys!”

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Until we meet again.