I won a contest? What the heck.

So I have spent a great deal of my life, especially in my musical career, talking to people about North Dakota. I love to tell its story to the unsuspecting who think there is nothing up here but a couple horses and some fields.

“You have running water up there?” ”


“Damn, it sure is cold up there isn’t it?”

And Yes are the answers.

But I love to find those people pleasantly surprised when they get to really hear about this place—about the badlands, the economy, the people, the beautiful weather and the fact that we may not have everything, but we know exactly who we are.

I’ve said this before, but I truly have a love affair with Western North Dakota. So when I moved back to the ranch for the second time in my life I felt like a kid again. It was like I was rediscovering this wonderland that I somehow forgot about when I was out on my own trying to discover myself.  After traveling the country singing for my supper, I saw this place with fresh eyes and for what it was to me when I was eight or nine or ten–natural, raw, adventurous, beautiful, wild, cowboy country. I immersed myself in it. And don’t plan to stop.

Because when I was seventeen I left the comfort of this little oasis with a couple songs in my pocket and a dream of an education and coming back to the ranch to make a living and start a family and write and love and live and create and sing and keep the place alive.

And now my dreams are coming true.  And I am so thankful.

Hense all the photographs, all the musings…all the plans.

And it seems like others are intrigued as well, because in my enthusiasm about my new found old life, I submitted one of my many photographs to the North Dakota Governor’s Photo Contest in an attempt to share my point of view and take a look at others’.

And I won.

I won a contest.

What the heck?

But I’m pretty damn thrilled.

And it turns out others are thrilled for me and are spreading the word.

So I’d like to give a shout out to Grand Forks, the community of my alma mater, the University of North Dakota, for giving me get the guts and brains to go out in this world and do what I want on my terms. And thanks for claiming me to this day.

Thanks Watford City for growing me up, sending me off, and taking me back. No matter what.

And thanks North Dakota for letting me love you so.

And loving me back.

Sharing a snapshot of life on the ranch
Jessie Veeder Scofield’s photo, which is part of a larger plan for the future of the family ranch, wins state contest
October 21, 2010. Grand Forks Herald

North Dakota Governor's Contest Winning Photograph

Jessie Veeder Scofield is in love with western North Dakota. It’s her home, and for years, she’s been singing and writing about it. After earning a degree at UND, touring as a musician and marrying her cowboy, she’s back on her family ranch 30 miles south of Watford City.

And she’s won the top prize in the North Dakota Governor’s Photo Contest with a picture of her cowboy husband on one of the west’s most treasured landmarks, the Maah Daah Hey Trail. A favorite of horseback riders, hikers and bicyclists, it winds 97 miles, beginning 20 miles south of Watford City, through the Badlands and gently rolling prairie, to Sully Creek State Park south of Medora, N.D.

Veeder Scofield said she snapped the photo of her husband, Chad Scofield, during a trail ride on Chad’s birthday. In the snapshot, a horse waits in the background as Chad leans against a fencepost, head down, smiling, in his cowboy hat and chaps.

“He has this natural laid-back vibe about him, and he just photographs well,” Jessie said. “I think that’s why it worked really well.”

The North Dakota Department of Tourism will take Jessie’s photo and the others from the annual contest for amateur photographers, and use them to promote North Dakota.

That is fitting because Jessie has picked up a camera in recent months to illustrate her blog, which is one way she’s promoting the establishment of a ranch vacation property on her family’s 3,000-acre ranch, homesteaded by her great-great-grandfather, Ben Veeder, in 1915.

Jessie and Chad want to make a life and a living in western North Dakota. They see the ranch and the beauty that surrounds it as their heritage and their future, she said.

“I’ve been in love with it all my life,” she said, “taking so many pictures and writing about it and singing about it. I grew up helping on the ranch, riding horses. I was lucky enough to marry someone who has the same interests.”

Jessie may be best known in the Grand Forks area as a singer/songwriter. During her years at UND, she often performed in public. She recorded her first CD, “This Road” in 2000 when she was 16. Her other recordings, “A Place to Belong” (2005) and “Jessie Veeder Live at Outlaws” (2007) are available on iTunes. (For more about her music, go to www.sonicbids.com/jessieveeder/.)

As a young girl, Jessie attended a rural school about 15 miles from her home. She went to Watford City occasionally for band practice, and that’s when she met Chad. They dated in high school, attended UND together and married in 2006.

She grew up performing with her father, rancher Gene Veeder, a folk singer. By the time she was 10, she was playing the guitar and doing some soloing. At UND, she took marketing and public relations classes, and kept singing, getting picked up by a music agent in Nashville, Tenn., and touring colleges all over the Midwest. After graduation in 2005 with a communications degree through the honors program, she toured full time. Chad finished his psychology degree at University of Montana.

After their marriage, they lived at the ranch, technically anyway. She spent most of her time touring and Chad worked in the oilfields. Jessie said she loved being on the road and met many great people there.

“But it was one of those gigs where you could have gone on and on with that lifestyle for a good number of years, and it’s hard to make a living like that,” she said. “There were other things that I wanted to do as well, more than be on the road by myself all the time.”

She and her father still perform from time to time, including at Medora, but her focus is on the family ranch. After living in Dickinson, N.D., for a time, she and Chad are living in a little house her grandfather built, about a mile down the road from her parents,

Watford City is a growing community with lots of opportunity, she said.

“A lot of my girlfriends are moving back and starting their families, so it’s a great time to come back,” she said.

She’s taking a lot of photos these days for the website and blog about the ranch vacation property, which she envisions with cabins for visitors, offering riding, hiking and biking trails. She hopes to use music, hers and others, as another way to draw visitors. But what she’s put online already is drawing a lot of interest, she said.

“With that blog, I started documenting a lot of our lifestyle and what is around me. It really got me into photography again. I’ve had interest from people all over the world. They’re really following what we’re doing and interested in it, which is really encouraging,” she said.

Veeder Scofield said she hopes to have a visitor cabin open on the ranch by next summer, depending on how things go.

“We’re just happy to be living in the place we’re living and I just like to celebrate it and sing about it, and I’m glad other people like it as well,” she said.

Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or send e-mail to ptobin@gfherald.com.

Link to the above article: Grand Forks Herald Article

Link to my hometown newspaper: McKenzie County Farmer

Discover my great state: North Dakota Tourism

Love Ya!