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,



Bikinis do not go with neckerchiefs.

Ok people. That up there? That was real life here this weekend. Like real, zero degree, blustery, white, snowy, wintery life here in our little piece of Western North Dakota paradise.

That’s a real life rosy nose. And that’s a traditional camouflage neck warmer and real snow carried on their shoulders into the house directly from under the unpredictable November sky.

And those men have just come in from working under it, trudging through the deep white blanket like two abominable snow men roaring through the trees and valleys on a quest to find the cattle in a near white out.

Because the show must go on. Even when you feel like you’re trapped in some sort of glitchy snow globe that was put together without the pretty, sparkly Christmas decorations.

Anyway, it’s times like these I am glad I can feign being busy with housework and avoid the outdoor chores. And it’s times like these, when the ice melts off the men’s muddy boots and onto my “freshly mopped” floor, that I look for a reason not to find the nearest bear den and join in the celebration of hibernation, chances of being mauled and eaten be damned.

So for my sanity and for the sanity of the puffy coated beings around me, I came up with the following. Hopefully it will help convince you this season can be loved and trusted to happily deliver some wonderful things.

I present to you:

The Top Ten Reasons You Can Like Winter And Move on With Your Life:

Because he's still not convinced...

1. Pockets. Now that you are wearing an excessive amount of clothing, you are bound to have a pocket or two.

And if you’re really lucky, you left a dollar or ten in there last spring when you put it away and are now smiling cause you found it… and promptly purchased 1-10 Snickers bars.

Because money found in that manner should be used to buy candy.

It’s a rule I just made up.

Also, pockets make it so you can carry an unreasonable amount of things you might need…like gum and matches and pictures of your pug…er, I mean kids…and candy bars.

2. Mittens. They allow your fingers to get reacquainted  after that long, hot summer.  Your fingers appreciate this. And I appreciate mittens.

You should too.

3. From November to April you have a fine excuse for your bad hair days. It’s called a beanie people (or a toque if you’re my neighbor to the north). Deal with it.

And they will, cause their hair looks exactly the same when they come in from the cold.

4. It is not swimsuit season.

And won’t be again for a good seven months. So have a cookie why don’t ya.

5. Snuggling with the cat.
Snuggling with the pug.
Snuggling with the lab.
Snuggling with the other cat.
Snuggling with the husband.
Snuggling with a blanket and a cup of coffee.
Snuggling with all of the above.

Oh, and snuggling with a Snuggie–God’s apology to man kind for inventing this weather in the first place.

Didn't know they made Snuggies for dogs did ya? Well, fortunately they do. And now you know.

6. This time of year nobody will give you a hard time if you watch “A Christmas Story” repeatedly until Valentine’s Day. Because nothing warms a chilly soul like a pair of bunny pajamas, a Red Rider BB Gun and a lamp that looks like a leg.


7. Can’t decide on what to wear? No problem, you can wear it all (and probably should if you’re fond of  your toes).

8. Sledding, skiing, skating, snowboarding and all of the other dangerous winter sports I stink at but you’re probably good at.

Just do me a favor and skip the triple axels and back flips and ollies when I’m around and we can remain friends.  I’m sensitive about my lack of skills.

And the constant stream of snot running down my nose when I partake in these activities.

9. The landscape looks good in white and you look good in wool and fleece– which makes you two a match made in heaven.

10.  This season–this blustery, sparkly, fluffy, temperamental season–makes spring all the sweeter and summer all the greener.  150 degree temperature fluctuations? No problem.

Where would we be if we weren’t adaptable?

Well, we would all be in San Diego…

And it’d probably get kinda crowded there and they’d more than likely run out of tequila…

So I’ll take my hot chocolate with a splash of peppermint schnapps and wait this out in my long underwear and a wool cap, thanks.

Because bikinis are overrated and don’t go well with my favorite neckerchief.

Cheers to the new season. How nice of it to show up early.

Because really, doesn’t it make for a stunning, fresh scene?

There, don’t we feel better now?

P.S. Email me and I’ll gladly give you the name of my stylist.