As wide as the sky…

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I took Edie on a horse with me for the first time last weekend. We just got back from what I’m now calling my annual Mother’s Day Ride, because we’ve done it two years in a row now and it’s pretty much the only time since giving birth that I insist that today I’m going riding, so who wants to watch the baby?

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The day before we took Edie to her first horse sale in one of those spontaneous last minute decisions to do the thing we probably shouldn’t do instead of the million other things we should be doing, and so, because it was going to be 80 degrees, too hot for productivity, we loaded up and headed to the big town to sit at the sale barn and see if we couldn’t find a horse or two to replace our good buddy Stormy.

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I submitted next week’s column on how much I love the sale barn, an affection solely tied to the memories I gathered when I was a kid tagging along with dad, because I found, even at 80 degrees with a wiggly, sweaty toddler, I still loved it. And I think Edie did too. She really got into the whole yelling thing. I think she might have even bid on a few herself 🙂

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Anyway, a have a little more to say about that for next week, but I will tell you this, if you think we sat through an entire horse sale without winning a bid or two, well then, you don’t know us very well.

If you figured we’d come home with more than one, well then you’ve hung around here a fare bit. Because we headed home with two nice geldings and my Sunday Mother’s Day Ride was a perfect time for the guys to try them out while I plodded along beside them safe on my trusty steed, Rocky, not willing to be the one who discovers the kinks.

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It was a beautiful, windy, spring day and we didn’t even really do any work or chasing cows. The cows were spread, hiding in the trees, munching on the long grass and weeds that grow on the creek bottom and so we just looked around at the scenery, commented on how things are greening up and caught whiffs of the blossom scent blowing up and on in our nostrils.

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Chad’s new dun rode out nice and calm and the paint we got for the purpose of an amateur/kid horse seemed to do his lazy job just fine. So we were pleased we could say so far so good.

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My little sister (and her big baby belly) was inside the house with Edie and I thought it would be fun to ride down and see if she wanted to get on a horse (the toddler, not the belly). I came in to get her just as Alex was getting ready to bend over and try to squeeze Edie’s boots on, so she was grateful for the relief.

And Edie was pretty excited to be up on that horse. As soon as she decided this was one of those things she loved, she basically did what she does, and became obsessed with it.

Couldn’t take her down.

When her cousin showed up to take a turn, she lost her shit when he disappeared with Papa over the hill, reminding me yet again that 1 1/2 year olds are the worst at sharing.

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Turns out she had the same sentiment toward sharing her harmonica, bouncy horse, toy tractors and Papa too.

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Good thing the 6-year-old is tolerant.

IMG_6509Anyway, having her up on that horse with me was one of those moments when I realized that a dream I used dream was coming true. I’m not deep enough into this motherhood thing to forget how much we wanted and waited for little things like this.

And I didn’t realize how wide my smile was until I watched the video back. It seemed it almost matched hers.

It was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time because of this. I remember how hard Mother’s Days used to be for me. It’s getting easier to forget, but I will never forget. For all those mommas-to-be out there waiting for their babies, I promise I will never forget.

And I hope with all my heart that you get a moment in your life like I had on Sunday, a moment where you hold your child and the two of you smile as wide as the sky you’ve been given a chance to raise her under…

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How old stories help us hold on

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Coming Home: How old stories help us hold on

One of the best parts about sharing stories every week is that sometimes it compels others to share their stories, too, reminding me how closely strangers can be connected.

For the past few months I’ve been traveling on behalf of my new book, telling stories about crocus picking, old pickup driving and growing up on the back of my old mare.

Inevitably then, after the show, I get to hear a few of your own memories, the ones sparked by my recollection of sliding down the gumbo hill in the pouring rain in my pajamas, because—aw, you have a gumbo story of your own? One that started out with a pretty pink jacket bought to impress his family and ended with you and that pink jacket planted in the sticky mud after a too-close-for-comfort call with a rattlesnake den.

Yes, your boyfriend might have saved you from a nasty bite, but you never got over the ruined jacket.

I’ve never really thought about it before, but this is how I acquired a reverence for storytelling. It was all those afternoon coffee breaks I’d sit in as a kid, the ones where the neighbors would take their hats off after branding or a day spent fixing a stubborn part on the tractor again, and the recount of the things that went wrong during the day would spark a story about another time, a few years back, when a new spring opened up on the flat over the winter and he was loping along across that stretch and the ground just disappeared beneath that horse …

And that would remind my neighbor of a time they ran the outfitting business, and they were taking some guests on a ride through a narrow trail of the badlands and down slid their best horse with a dude on his back. It’s a story we all might have heard before, the ground becoming a little steeper with each re-telling, all the could-have-beens recounted over and over as they rehashed their gratitude that it all turned out OK in the end.

Good grief.

Thank God.

Can you imagine?

Last week I got a letter in the mail from a woman who used to help out a family friend who ran trail rides in the badlands for years. This is the ranch where our old Stormy spent years working as a trail horse, and after reading about how we recently lost him to the years, this woman felt compelled to write me to share with me her own memories of that spotted gelding. Included among her recollections was a photo of Stormy in his younger days, taking that cowboy through the sagebrush badlands. I put my hand to my mouth, surprised by the tears that caught in my throat as I folded up that letter, remembering that Stormy was someone else’s coffee-break story once.

Reminded, in a world that spins too quickly, stories are the only way we can really hold on.

Keep telling them.

On the backs of old horses

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Somewhere in time’s own space
There must be some sweet pastured place
Where creeks sing on and tall trees grow
Some paradise where horses go,
For by the love that guides my pen
I know great horses live again.
~Stanley Harrison

Life lessons learned on the backs of old horses
by Jessie Veeder
1-15-17
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com 

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Every farm or ranch needs an old horse, an animal with a long story of seeing it all so that he can be trusted with the smallest rider or the most inexperienced visitor who wants to see the place on horseback, a request that can be sort of nerve-wracking if you don’t have a trustworthy grandpa or gramma in the pen.

Because an old horse can make up in experience what your rider lacks. He won’t shy from that weird-shaped rock on the hill because he’s seen it a thousand times.

He won’t be spooked by a pheasant flying out of the brush because he’s too focused on stealing snips of sweet clover while he walks.

He won’t buck because he’s learned it doesn’t pay, and he won’t run off because he knows better and, frankly, he’s too tired for running.

Never been on the back of a horse?

An old horse will make you feel comfortable, anticipating the trail, avoiding the holes, calmly swishing the flies with his tail and generally ignoring the fact that your nerves are making you squeeze your legs too tight around him, your reins are too loose and dragging and you’re leaning a little too far to the left. There’s really nothing stopping him from walking back to the barn if he wanted.

But he won’t.

Because old horses know the right times to get away with bad behavior (tip: always lean forward when he takes you through the trees.)

I learned to ride on the back of an old red mare named Rindy. She was perfect for me in all the ways she was imperfect; her lack of withers and round belly made me pay attention to the cinch, her rough gait made me focus on my seat and her cowiness taught me to be cowy too.

And just when I thought things were going along smoothly, that old mare would throw in a little surprise, teaching me that paying attention is the first rule of horsemanship.

Anyway, Rindy has been gone for years, replaced by an old rodeo horse named Annie before Dad traded one of his colts for an old mule and a speckled trail horse named Stormy a few years before I moved back to the ranch.

Stormy became the grampa out here, deserving of every extra nibble of grain he ever received.

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He was the first horse I put all my nieces and nephews on when their legs were barely long enough to straddle the saddle.

Stormy was responsible for the truest faces of pure joy I’ve seen on any kids and that’s just one of the reasons I will forever be grateful for him.

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But that’s the thing about old horses: just when they’ve become so completely priceless and precious and irreplaceable, we start to notice the creak in their joints and the hair on their muzzle turning gray, a reminder that time doesn’t go easy on even the best things.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Stormy gave his last ride to my oldest niece this summer. We took off after supper just the two of us riding the home pasture, taking it slow, Stormy trailing a couple horse lengths behind me, the way he always has.

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It’s fitting really, because Stormy was the first horse my niece ever rode. I remember what she said before I hoisted her up on his back, her little straw hat with the pink piping sitting proudly on her head. “My tummy feels funny, like there’s flutters in there,” she declared.

Stormy taught her what nervous felt like, holding the power to turn a little girl into the cowgirl she dreamed she could be.

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And he was ready and waiting in the pasture when she was old enough and brave enough to go trotting over the hill alone, a story we revisit together often and one my niece will no doubt carry with her for her lifetime.

Because that’s what old horses give us and in return we carry their spirit in memories, stories, lessons learned and on the back of every horse we’ll ever ride again.

Rest easy, old friend. You were loved.

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On horseback…

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We’re in the thick of fall at the ranch, which doesn’t mean as much pumpkin spice flavor as it does wooly horses, wooly caps and scrambling to get things buttoned up and rounded up for the winter.

On Sunday gramma came over to watch Edie do the things Edie does, like try as hard as she can to stand on her own, fall down and get concussions…oh, and blow kisses, and I headed out with the guys for a ride out to the west pastures to move the cows to a different pasture and find some strays.

The weather looked sort of threatening and chilly from behind the glass windows of my house, so I bundled up in layers and squeezed into the riding jeans I haven’t worn since I was three months pregnant, and headed out into a calm and sort of rainy day.

And it was a much needed trek for me, something I used to take so much for granted before I had a little one attached to my hip. Now, if I want to go out for a ride it involves “arrangements.”

So many simple things these days involve more planning than I ever did in my pre-baby life. But it’s worth it all around. Gramma gets one on one time with the baby and I get one on one time with the things I love most.

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I traveled those hills on my sorta of slow and lazy horse, took two pees in the pasture behind bullberry bushes because I drank too much coffee,

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Here, hold my horse…

chased cooperative cattle through open gates,

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got sorta lost looking for a stray, got slapped a few times by wayward branches, got kinda wet in the rain and the deep creek running high because of all the fall moisture and came home a different woman, reminded that heaven isn’t the only thing that can be found on horseback…

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Sometimes, you wind up finding yourself again too.

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Small challenges. Small reminders.

Here’s a video of Edie in the lake last weekend. It was hot as hell and it was my birthday month so I decided we needed to take the pontoon out on the lake for the first time all summer to celebrate, you know, now that summer is over.

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Edie loves the water, as you can see, and I’m pretty sure she would have floated like this all day. IMG_1997

I’m watching it now because the girl just finished fighting me for a good three hours about the whole nap thing. She finally gave in after having won two previous battles, but I’ve won the third and final and, I’ve come to find out,  that’s what really counts in this parenting game.

Who knew ‘strong willed’ came into play so early. Last night while she was standing up in her crib screaming at the top of her lungs, her post-bath mohawk illuminated by the night vision on the baby monitor, I ran across this:

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I showed my husband. He said, “Yeah, I think she’s as strong as you, but she might have you beat on the whole stubborn thing.”

Arghhh. And then Awwweee.  That’s personality and I love her for it. And it turns out it’s just like they said, for all the hard shit there’s the moments where you discover that your nine-month-old likes to watch the morning news like this.

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And it’s really funny.

And then there are the moments you’ve imagined for years and years that come to life right before your eyes and you have to sort of stop to catch your breath and tell yourself that this is what a dream come true feels like.

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Sometimes life gives you what you wanted and then it’s up to you to do what you should with it all.

Like squeeze her into a purple lifejacket and set her on her aunt’s lap on a boat floating across a beautiful lake so that you can help her put her tiny toes in the water.

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And point out the bald eagle soaring above us…

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And the horses who came from their pasture to take a long drink next to our beach blankets…

These things she won’t remember, but I want to.

I will….

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Because right now she’s sleeping but tomorrow she’ll likely be scaling that cliff to catch that eagle and I’ll be running after her saying things like “Honey, you forgot your jacket!” or  “Did you eat breakfast today?” or “Stop! Let me take your picture!!!”

or “Call me when you get to the top so I know that you’ve made it there safely.”

Oh my, they’re only babies for such a short amount of time.

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*sniff* *sniff*

Forget the drink, I need (a couple) donut(s).

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Peace, Love and good Lord take a nap,

Jessie

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This not-so-glamourous life…

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A photographer came to visit the ranch and I’ll tell you right now, it wasn’t pretty people. We spent the day before working an art event in town that I had been planning for months and didn’t get home until after eleven. It was the last event in a week with a full schedule. I was tired. I had to gather the troops. I sorta forgot to take a shower and fix my hair.  I didn’t make even a remotely healthy lunch for my niece and I (because when you’re tired you much prefer Doritos to salad). I didn’t put pants on the baby. I didn’t get the horses in ahead of time to prepare them and de-bur them so that they were photo ready. And I didn’t mention in the newspaper column below the part where the baby stuck her finger up my horses’s snotty nose, which was bleeding a bit because of a fresh little cut.

That was horrifying. And there was a man from Minneapolis with a big camera to witness my disgust.

So this is my confession published in newspapers across the state, in case you might get the wrong idea when you see the photos and article in the magazine that we have our shit together out here.

Because we don’t.

But I think you all knew that already…

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Coming Home: Glossy pages don’t reflect our not-so-glamourous life
by Jessie Veeder
6-5-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inform.com

This morning a big yellow screwdriver sits next to a half-eaten pan of cinnamon rolls (the kind out of the freezer section, not out of my KitchenAid mixer) and that sits next to a couple baby books about farm life that feature a perfect red barn against green rolling hills dotted with smiling black and white cows.

Today as I reflect on the last couple weeks, I’m wondering if I should even read those little farm books to poor Edie. Maybe I should just toss them in the trash and keep her from asking some hard-hitting questions about this place.

Like, why don’t the horses in the books have cockleburs in their manes? Aren’t horses born with them?

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And momma, why don’t you wear an apron like the mommas in the books? And where is that fresh-baked pie that’s supposed to be sitting on the windowsill to cool?

Yes, follow us around for a day and you would see that clearly the authors of these children’s farm books didn’t base them off of our life.

No.

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And while Edie’s not old enough to start asking questions (sigh of relief) I did have a reporter call me a few weeks ago with some questions of her own. Like, what’s life like on the family ranch for two people who got to move back to it? What does a typical day look like?

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I couldn’t think of an interesting or straightforward way to answer that. When she called my husband just got home from work and he was rocking the baby, trying to keep her happy so I could have an uninterrupted conversation. When that was over, he was going to go to his next job of taking care of this place. And when he returned we would have leftover lasagna for the third night in a row because I got distracted by a writing deadline when I should have been doing laundry because I’m out of clean underwear, for crying out loud.

And so they sent out a photographer to see for himself. A photographer who likely had a hope of capturing what I’m sure he envisioned as some picturesque scenes of a family of three working side by side and meeting up for a picnic meal with the grandparents who live down the road.

But this was an agricultural magazine so I hope they knew better. And while I was raised in an environment where both my parents worked, ran a ranching operation and managed to keep three kids alive, I’m learning what that really means as an adult. And I’m not sure we’re exactly killing it.

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I mean, when a photographer shows up, completely announced and expected, a balanced and together woman would have had pants on the baby. Or combed her hair.

Or at least cleared the evidence of her recent Dorito and Oreo lunch from the counter.

And when the request for a photo of my husband and I riding side by side through a herd of calm cattle sent me down to the barnyard attempting to lure uninterested horses in with a bucket of grain before resorting to leading one with the shirt I was planning on wearing tied around his neck so that I could spend the next half hour before my husband arrived home currying the tangle of burs out of their manes and tails so I wouldn’t embarrass the long line of Veeders who once called this place home, I began to question if we were really worthy of the press.

But at least he got authentic. Authentic sweat. And authentic cussing as my husband and I attempted the impossible task of moving a herd of cattle toward a man with a camera standing in an open pasture.

Needless to say, none of it was picture perfect.

Because around here burs stick to horses while they fill up on green grass that makes them fat and sassy on the hilltop behind the barn that needs painting. And inside, where the books might write in the apple pie, we have a screwdriver instead. Or a calf tagger. Or a hammer.

And it might not be glamorous, and it might not be easy, but that’s why they make frozen cinnamon rolls.

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Baby Edie rides her horses

Here’s Edie, doing what we do in the morning.

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Rolling and flipping and grabbing and smiling and screaming at her toys because they aren’t doing what she wants them to do and I have no idea what that might be but it sure pisses her off.

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But mostly she’s plain happy, as long as there’s action.

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So when she’s done rolling and flipping and screeching I put her on her horse.

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And as you can see she likes it.

So you can imagine her delight when we put her on a real horse yesterday.

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Yup.

We had a branding at the neighbor’s and Pops brought the horse around before he rode it back home.

I wish we had a video camera to record what she moved like when we put her close to the nose of that bay and then up on his back. It was one of my favorite moments with her.

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All of the sudden I had this flash-forward moment to all of the things I dreamed about doing with our daughter out here on this place someday. I saw her up there so tiny and excited, reaching for the horn of the saddle and squealing and then reaching further to grab the black mane and I saw her at five years old, blond hair and curls, riding a pony while I lead her around the pen in front of the barn. And then I saw her at ten years old, on a big horse, following behind us across the pasture in the warm glow of a sinking summer sun, her face flushed and dirty, her hair windswept.

And then she’s sixteen and I’m holding my breath, her ponytail flying and bouncing under her straw hat as she rounds the last barrel at a rodeo and I let out a sigh of relief…

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Maybe it was watching the neighbor girls that I used to babysit all grown up and beautiful, helping to ride and wrestle calves, or maybe it was the light of the evening casting long shadows and reflecting off the dust in the air, making everything soft and dreamlike, but I was nostalgic for a future with this tiny little human who could just as easily grow up to prefer video games to horses.

But for now she seems delighted by it all, by the big outdoors and the blue sky and the grass and especially the animals.

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She has a physical elated reaction to them. She sucks in air and reaches out her hands and grabs their fur. When we go to feed the calf she has a mini hyperventilation spell. When she’s crying for no apparent reason all I have to do is open the door and walk out on the deck and a smile spreads across her face.

She leans down from my arms and tries to get closer to the dogs.

She reaches out for the kitty’s fur.

The wild world is hers…

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Yes, this is Edie. Our daughter. Our baby discovering that the fun is just beginning.

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The long way home

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Coming Home: Sometimes we need to take a different road to get back home
by Jessie Veeder
5-15-16
Forum Communications


Last week I took a different road from town to home. I do that sometimes, to break up the scenery that flies by outside the window of my car. There were blossoms in the brush patches, the gravel roads had dried up from a week of rain, and I needed to see something new.

 
And we have gotten really good at arguing after all these years together. Throw a baby, a man who can’t eat solids and a woman who can’t sleep in the mix, and we got plenty of practice that week.

And it was only Monday.

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But as the sun was setting on a day that took him to work and kept me home trying figure out a way to rock the baby, type and return a phone call at the same time, we found ourselves all three alone in the car together, driving home. 

I can’t remember why we were all in town together, but I do remember that the radio was low and the baby was sleeping and I turned left off the highway where I normally would keep going straight and my husband asked what I was doing.

I said, “Don’t you ever take a different way home?”

“Yeah, I do sometimes,” he replied. And then we were on the back roads driving past neighbors’ houses we haven’t seen for a while, taking note of the green grass growing in the pastures, the baby calves kicking up their heels and the way the light hit the big butte close to home.

And under that butte, right next to the road, two large dark figures appeared before us and revealed themselves as giant elk. I reminded him of the weekend before

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Yesterday morning while the baby slept, I watched a flock of turkeys come down to the same dam to water. They lingered there undisrupted, one tom fanning his feathers, showing off in the morning sun.

I was wrapped up in the tasks of the day, the dirty bottles in the sink, the dirt tracked in on the floor and the work deadlines, but the privilege of witnessing wild things never fails to make me pause.

I’m glad we put so many windows in this house. Sometimes it’s easy to forget what a majestic place we’re living in when we’re living in it. I looked up from my computer screen and watched them waddle up the hill. I cracked the patio door and listened for the gobbles.

Last Saturday my husband arranged for my little sister to babysit for a few hours so we could take a ride together through the cows. It was a simple gesture that put me back in one of my favorite places after over a year of giving it up to grow and care for a baby. I swung my leg up over the saddle and listened to it squeak as I rode alongside my husband out of the barnyard and into the hills, the sun and the scent of plum blossoms.

In the past few months I’ve experienced some of the most wonderful moments of my life, but I’ve also found myself overcome with the task of working, mothering and trying to figure out how to be my best for my family. I’ve had my most happy moments, but I’ve also had my most ungrateful waves rush over me in frustration and exhaustion. But last Saturday my husband took me out — not to a movie or to a restaurant for wine — but out of our house and into the hills and coulees of the place we love.

Because he knows, sometimes all I need is to take a different way home.

Sunday Column: The boy on the hill

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Longtime blog readers might remember this story. I stumbled across it in the archives last week while I was revisiting some of my writing as I contemplate putting together a book.

Yes.  A book. Because I’m not sleeping anyway, so I might as well start another project.

Anyway, in those archives there’s lots about the weather and family and what the landscape looks like as it goes on changing every day.

And then there are little snippets of conversations, glimpses into our lives, past and present. These are my favorites.

Sunday Column: Family lore lingers around Sunday dinner table
by Jessie Veeder
3-20-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Most Sundays we get together with Mom and Dad for dinner. After a week of work and crazy schedules, one of us decides that someone should cook a decent meal, pour some wine and make us all sit down.

Recently, Dad shared a story about his childhood that I’m sure I’ve heard dozens of times before. But it doesn’t matter.

I want to exist in this 10-minute vignette of my father that somehow sums up everything he became here on this landscape.

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I love the way he tells it, sitting at the end of the table, plate pushed forward, arms folded, coffee brewing for dessert. He looks to the ceiling as if he might catch a glimpse of that little boy, 4 years old with curly black hair riding bareback on a paint pony alongside his father. He throws his head back, squeezes his eyes shut and laughs.

It’s fall or summer, he can’t remember, but I imagine the leaves were just starting to turn as the pair trotted out of the barnyard, the little boy on his father’s trail moving east toward the reservation where the cattle graze in the summer.

He’s not sure why his father took him along for an almost 7-mile one-way cross-country trip. He thinks now that it might have been a little extreme, but ask him then and it was all he wanted to do. Leave him behind? He would have tried to follow.

The pastures out east, even today, are some of the most isolated and untouched places out here. The rolling buttes rise and fall for miles between fences into creek bottoms with black mud and cattails. The oak groves, bordered by thorny bull berry brush and thistle, begin to blend into one another and look the same.

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So there he was, a little boy clinging tight to that pony as it jumped over the creek and raced up side hills to keep up. And it was at the top of one of those rocky hills that he was told to stay and wait.

“Don’t move,” his father said as he made plans to check the tricky creek bottoms for cattle. “I’ll come back for you.”

So my father waited on his pony, wind flopping his hat and moving fluffy clouds over the buttes.

Dad searches for more recollection in his coffee cup and then rests his chin on his fist. He remembers he didn’t move, he just scanned the hills and squinted into the oak trees. And while he was peering into that horizon, holding the reins of his pony, someone did come over that hill. But it wasn’t his father. It was a girl with long black hair and legs dangling on each side of her bare-backed horse.

“Can you imagine what she thought?” my father chuckles at the memory of this girl, who he recalls was a teenager, but was probably only about 10 or 11 years old.

She asked him if he was OK and if he was lost. He told her that he wasn’t supposed to leave this spot. That his dad was coming back for him.

So she stayed with that little boy with curly hair on that hilltop, likely joining him in holding her breath and scanning the horizon for any sign of a cowboy hat.

He doesn’t remember how long she sat with him. When you’re 4 years old, 10 minutes can seem like hours.

But it doesn’t matter. She stayed until that little boy had an escort through the valleys and over the creeks, back west to the barnyard and to his mother waiting with canned meat, biscuits and a report of the day’s events.

So he told his mother his adventure, and for years to come this would be one of their family’s stories shared over and over again at Sunday meals, about a little boy who found a girlfriend out east on the hilltop.

And as my father protested, they would throw back their heads, close their eyes and laugh.

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Sunday Column: Dreaming of horses…

Chad and Jessie Maternity 1

Coming Home: Dreaming of horses, the best gift a ranch kid can get
11-9-15
by Jessie Veeder
http://www.inforum.com

A funny thing happens when you’re in the home stretch of your first-ever pregnancy. Between all of the unpleasant symptoms we’ve all heard about — the heartburn, the aches and pains, the insomnia — you suddenly find yourself with an overwhelming need to purchase a festive Christmas baby hat because the most important thing in the world is being prepared for this new baby’s first Christmas photo under the tree.

It’s all you can think about, never mind that you don’t yet have the car seat properly installed or a single diaper stocked up. If you have this hat, you will be ready.

But three days later when that handmade Rudolf hat with the red button nose arrives in your mailbox, you’ve completely forgotten that 5 a.m. panic order altogether. Because you’ve already moved on to the next obsession.

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And lately, for me, three weeks away from my due date, I’ve decided I should really be thinking seriously about this kid’s first horse.

It’s not logical, I know, not in the sequence of things anyway. I mean, I have a good few years to find the right animal, one I can trust to take care of my firstborn as he sits tall in the saddle beside us, chasing cows or checking fence, honing his skills and his way around this place.

But to have a horse of your own as a kid is a unique and life-shaping privilege, one not granted to every child, and one I want to give to mine. Because I remember how I was one of the lucky ones. I inherited an old red mare from my grandma. Her name was Rindy, and she was short and squat with just the right amount of attitude and a rough trot.

I would ride her bareback in the summer, learning about balance and patience as I searched the tree lines for raspberries, leading her to big rocks or side-hills to help me swing my short legs up on her back if I happened to climb down or fall off.

 

I broke my arm tumbling off Rindy.

I broke my foot jumping off her in a youth rodeo.

I won “best groomed” at a sleepaway horse camp because she couldn’t find a mud hole to roll in like she did at the ranch each time I groomed her the night before a 4-H show.

I put red, white and blue yarn in her mane and rode her in the county fair parade.

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I rode double, or triple, with my best friends on her back, trotting through clover fields, seeing how fast we could go before we all tumbled off, leaving her grazing a few yards away as we rolled around on the ground laughing.

And in the fall I would saddle her up, pulling the cinch as tight as I could around her round back, and she would puff out her belly to trick me into thinking that’s as tight as it would go only to let the air out once I climbed on, her way of controlling her comfort level, I suppose.

Oh, that horse was something. But that’s the thing, anyone who had a horse of their own as a kid will tell you stories like these about an animal that helped raise them in an environment that has the potential to be intimidating for a kid.

But a horse out here gives a kid some power. I felt like I was worth something on Rindy’s back, like I could help move a cow through a gate or learn where the fence lines run. I had a partner, a big companion that gave me new abilities. I was stronger and bigger up there. I was capable.

Who wouldn’t want to give that gift to a child if they could?

And so I have that Christmas hat in the drawer, we’ve set up the crib, I’m washing onesies and putting away diapers, and late at night, when the world is dark, my husband’s chest rising in sleep next to me, I lie with my eyes open in our bed, a hand on my swollen belly, waiting on this baby and dreaming of horses.

Maternity Haze