Daddies on their way to work

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Coming Home: Daddies on their way to work
by Jessie Veeder
3-19-17
http://www.inforum.com

I unloaded my daughter and her backpack, and we left the car with the mechanic and sat down on the chairs in the lobby. It smelled like a combination of tire rubber and grease. The sun had warmed the snow enough to make it stick to the rubber soles of the muck boots everyone wears around here, leaving squeaky, muddy footprints to and from the door that dings when it opens…

We live in oil country. It’s been this way since my husband and I moved back to our home turf nearly six years ago. We used to call it a boom. The Wild Wild West. Men arriving from all corners of the country looking for high-paying jobs, some young and single and up for anything, others with families they left in Oklahoma or Arkansas, going back to visit every other two weeks, living in close quarters with other men in trailers, hotel rooms or apartments and sending money back home.

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Watford City, 2014

Add the heavy traffic flow, long lines at the post office and extravagant news stories about crime, safety and how you couldn’t find a woman in the mix with a magnifying glass, and that was the narrative out here.
It’s funny how fast a story can morph into history in a place like this.Funny what a half hour in a Jiffy Lube with a toddler can show you about your community.
I’m married to a man who works in an industry that sends him out into the elements every day to help fuel the world. Along with raising cattle on our ranch, this is his job.
He wears fire retardant jeans, a button-up shirt, a hooded jacket and a ball cap every day, the ultimate uniform of a majority of the working men in this part of the country.
In Edie’s eyes, in Jiffy Lube that day, every man that came through the door for an oil change that day was a daddy. And she was thrilled about it.
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So she hollered “Hi!!” loudly and repeatedly to each of them.Certain that none of them wanted to spend their wait having a conversation with a toddler, I tried to distract her with crackers and a story.”How old is she?” the man across the room asked.”Oh, she’s one,” I replied, reminded then that they’re likely also husbands.”Hhiii!” Edie waved.
“I remember that stage,” he said as Edie dropped down from her seat and did a little twirl on that dirty floor, and soon we were talking about his teenage daughter and her short-lived trombone career, his tech-savvy sons and the wife that moved his family here from the south to be with him.
Because when they talk about their families, history taught me to ask if they’re here together.”Yeah, they’re here,” he said. They’d been here for four years or so. They have a nice place in a new development south of town.”We like it here,” he said. “It feels like home.”
They called his name.
“Have a great day,” I said.”Byyeee,” said Edie.
As he went out, another young guy in the uniform came in. I got up to keep Edie from running down the hall and into the shop.
“How old is she?” He asked.
“I have a 1-year-old boy.”And the same narrative followed.
Our kids will likely be in the same grade, but probably not the same classroom, because there are so many young kids here now. More than a hundred in the current kindergarten class. I’m 33 years old, and I’m older than average in our once aging town, a statistic I was recently made aware of.
And now that I’m thinking of it, it’s pretty clear you no longer need a microscope to find the women here anymore.

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Photo in my mom’s coffeeshop on Main Street. On Saturday, the PTO organized a “Princess” event in honor of the opening of Beauty and the Beast. Countless mommas and princesses attended. It was overwhelming and still surprises a woman like me who grew up in this town when it was 1,200 people with no movie theater. 

It seems we’re invested now, building the new swim team, organizing an arts council, building a new hospital, working alongside all those men they talk about, setting up businesses and young professional organizations. Building a community that will help raise our families.

Taking our toddlers to make friends in Jiffy Lube in a town that went boom and then settled itself quietly, like the dust kicked up behind pickups driven by daddies on their way to work
Main Street, Watford City

Watford City, 2016. Photo by Chad Ziemendorf 

 

Everybody’s Baby…

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“How’s everybody’s baby doing?”

That’s what the Mayor of my hometown asked me at a community meeting last night.

Only in a small town would the Mayor (who is also a family friend) be so genuinely interested in the newest member of the community.

He was about the twentieth person to inquire about our little one that night. Business owners, column readers, classmates, old teachers, cops, waitresses, bankers, and so on and so on asked about her, because that’s what it’s like when you live in a small town.

Your baby is everyone’s baby.

I’m sure my friend who had a baby a few weeks after me had the same experience that evening.

Her baby is everyone’s baby too.

And while every mom documents her kids’ to an extent, I couldn’t help but be reminded last night just how reported Edie’s little life story actually is.

Because I’m a writer. A blogger.

And a newspaper columnist.

Which is not something I think about weekly, because I don’t want to induce a sorry case of writer’s block, but the words I write go out to half a dozen newspapers all across the state every week. Take that and add it to the support I get from you loyal readers on this trusty blog, and, well, Edie’s story has a substantial fan base that dates back to a time we didn’t think we’d ever meet her.

Yes, every week I get emails from people rooting for us, cheering us on, sending love and prayers and positive energy and sharing their own stories of what it was like to be parents to a baby as wiggly and wild.

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Those thousands of people read about her birth, her first smile, her large shoe collection and her big farts…

(Oh, she’s just going to hate me when she’s a teenager…)

And while I know this baby is loved by me and my husband and all this family that surrounds us, I can’t tell you how overwhelming it is to realize that she is loved by so many others.

Maybe it was the energy in the room at a party dedicated to celebrating how far this community has come in the last year, despite the boom and in the face of a current and unforeseen oil slowdown. Maybe it was the fact that I was out doing my job again knowing that my baby was snuggled up at the ranch with my husband while I drank wine and chatted with familiar and new faces, but the mayor’s comment hit me in the heart last night, and got me thinking.

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To be everybody’s baby. I wonder when she’ll realize it? Growing up in a small rural community you sort of take it for granted that there are caring eyes pointed at you at all times. You feel secure in knowing that the stands are full of your supporters at a football game, or a spelling bee, or your first choir concert. And if your parents are late in picking you up after a 4-H meeting (not that that’s ever happened to me dad…) in a small town you get to not worry, because it will be ok. There will be someone there to wait with you, because in a way you’re their kid too.

Edie has so much love and support here for many reasons, being the 5th generation community member and a child of a columnist are a few, and I am so happy that this is true for her. That she’s everyone’s baby.

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But last night we reflected on how our town was getting bigger. We just completed and opened a new multi-million dollar high school. And despite the oil slowdown, families are still moving here with their young children. And as the elementary school classes grow and new babies are born to this now young community, I can only hope that the love and support we feel as new parents to one of the youngest members is not exclusive to us.

This isn’t a new concept. It’s the traditional “It takes a village” mentality. But just because it takes a village, doesn’t mean everyone always gets one.

I hope we’re doing a good job out here. I think that’s what everyone in that room was hoping for last night. I know it’s one of the biggest concerns we had as a community watching our town boom from twelve hundred people to somewhere closer to ten thousand in the last five years. We didn’t want to let go of our small town spirit. We wanted to fight for the ability to not lose one another in a crowd.

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The kids in this community today are different than we were growing up. Many weren’t born here to parents who were born here. In fact, it seems it’s more common to be the new kid in town these days than to have roots here.

More languages are spoken, more perspectives are given, there are more miles driven to see the grandparents and more new names to learn. But I hope none of that makes a difference when it comes to missing the bus or forgetting your practice clothes for basketball or having to keep the library open just a few minutes longer because your mom was stuck at a meeting and couldn’t get to you in time.

As a new parent to a new kid in town, I can only hope that, regardless of how big this boomtown gets, each kid gets the chance to take for granted that she or he is every body’s baby.

And I would venture to guess that everyone in that room, the Mayor included, feels the same way.

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Sunday Column: My mom’s coffeeshop

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My mom owns a clothing store in town. She has for a few years now. And while I don’t work there, I reap the benefits of popping in to get my hands on what’s new and accompanying her to market in boring places like Las Vegas where there is an entire event center dedicated to only shoes.

It’s a tough job. But I’m happy to do what I can to assist.

Growing up in a house with two sisters and a fashonista mother, clothes and “what we’re going to wear today?” is a regularly addressed topic.

So we’re all right at home weighing in on her business.

But now I’ve gotta tell you, as happy I am about having a 24/7 solution to my wardrobe issues, I’m even more excited about my crazy mother’s new endeavor.

Because it involves the #3 love of my life (behind Edie and my Husband).

Her name is coffee.

And my mom has opened a shop dedicated to it.

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Yup. Right next door to her boutique. So you can find an outfit for your big date and then head next door to grab a latte and talk all about it.

Or a chai tea.

Or a smoothie.

Or a mocha.

Or a cappuccino.

Or a caramel macchiato. That’s a thing too.

Turns out coffee is more complicated than finding the right jean size, but I’m willing to try. Because trying means sampling and all those long drives to and from town has helped me develop a high caffeine tolerance, and for that, I am grateful.

Congratulations crazy Momma.

And if you’re ever in good ‘ol Watford City, stop by Door 204 for a cup!

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Coming Home: Mom’s entrepreneurial drive inspiring
by Jessie Veeder
1-25-16
http://www.inforum.com

My mom turned 60 at the beginning of this month.

We couldn’t celebrate on Saturday because she was in town, working on plans for the building she bought on Main Street that she’s turning into a coffee shop.

So now she’s trying to find him a girlfriend.

Because when my mom believes in something, she doesn’t give up.

Lord help you if you’re the someone or something she believes in. She’ll give you the shirt off her back, a job when there’s no openings or the last brownie in the pile on her kitchen counter.

And so here she is learning about the coffee business when most women her age are thinking about retiring and moving to Florida.

When I ask my mom about this elusive retirement, she says, “Well what would I do? I can’t just hang around here making brownies all day. I don’t have any hobbies.”

So she’s going to hang around Main Street Watford City to make coffee and help keep this small town dressing well. If you added a dance studio and a wine bar in the back, you would have all of my mom’s favorite things in one place.

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And while she might not crochet baby beanies or take photos of wildflowers, the “no hobby” thing isn’t true at all. She just seems to have turned her love for people and shopping into a business. Come to think of it, after witnessing her energy and enthusiasm for new challenges, I wouldn’t be surprised if on her 61st birthday she added that wine bar after all.

As it turns out, the woman’s always had an entrepreneurial and creative mind, one that she’s been honing since opening a day care/dance class business in her backyard when she was in fifth grade.

I doubt that fifth-grade ballerina would have guessed she would grow up to marry a cowboy and wind up raising kids on a ranch 30 miles from the nearest grocery store. I mean, when she moved out here she didn’t even know how to drive on a hill.

But she did it. And while ranching wasn’t in her wheelhouse, she brought her wheelhouse to town teaching aerobics and dance class. And then, when she took a full-time job, she taught those classes in the evenings.

Because at that time, there wasn’t a plethora of jobs to choose from in small-town Watford City, so my mom made her way, eventually landing a career she held for years working from a home office and traveling across the state, until about three years ago when a change in the company inspired her to look for a change in herself.

And the clothing store on Main Street was up for sale, so she took the leap and put her entrepreneurial spirit to use again, finding her way back to her creative place after years of putting it second to the needs of her family.

And so it seems with one idea comes another, and she’s got her momentum now.

And I’m proud of her. Proud that she’s finding success, yes, but more so breaking through the walls of a notion that there’s a time limit on potential or passion or dreams.

It’s something I’ve wondered about in my unconventional career as a musician and writer. I wondered how it might fit in later in my life, especially in my new role as a mother.

But I look at my mom bringing home samples of coffee beans, reading up on latte technique and ordering coffee house furniture as she celebrates a new decade of her life with a new challenge, and she motivates me. Not just to work hard and do what I need to do for my family, but also with her example that, whether you’re 10 or 60, if you fuel the flame, life can continue to inspire you.

 

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Sunday Column: The “what if’s” in Boomtown

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My husband and I moved back to the ranch more than five years ago. If you’ve been following along here, you’ve likely seen how much has changed, and how much hasn’t, at the ranch, in our family and in our community.

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We moved back for a few reasons. Number one was because it is where we wanted to settle down and raise a family, but the number two reason made it possible–the economy was booming due to the oil and gas industry and seemingly overnight there were more jobs and more opportunity than our small town could keep a tally on.
The results have been unprecedented growth for our small town that was once only 1,200 people and now boasts a population that is seemingly uncountable due to fluctuations and many people living in temporary housing situations. My guess is we’re likely close to 8,000 people today.

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Our small town that never had a stop light, now has many. We have a sort of suburban sprawl happening with new apartment buildings and housing units going up. We have Main Street bars and a sushi restaurant. We have little strip malls. A big grocery store. A nice daycare, a brand new high school and multi-million dollar community and event center going up, with two indoor ice slabs and a couple pools. We’re working on a new hospital and clinic.
Everything that once was is now updated, expanded and improved upon, including our roads.
When oil prices were at $100 a barrel we worked on playing catch up because the entire country was moving in.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.16.56 PMAnd now we’re planning for the future in a time we knew could come, a slow down due to lower oil prices.  We’re in a sort of eerie place where we can catch up, not realizing how we’ve gotten used to such a fast pace until there’s a shift.
In the new year I think we all wish we could see into the future, knowing that all we can do is believe in and trust in today. And today it seems like despite what looks sort of grim, my community is showing it’s a little beacon of light and hope on this cold prairie.
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by Jessie Veeder
1-17-16
Forum Communications

It’s been more than five years since my husband and I unloaded our hand-me-down furniture into the little brown ranch house in the barnyard where my dad grew up, fulfilling our dream of moving home, because unlike the economy the two of us grew up in during the ’80s and ’90s, there were jobs.

Everyone talks about how the oil boom seemed to happen overnight, but when you’re living among it, that sense of immediacy is only partially true.

It’s hard to explain the feeling of “what-if” that sits alongside “could it be true?” in your mind as you wonder about the alleged oil well that promises to pop up on the hill behind the house.

It seems like it could never happen, until one day you wake up and there it is.

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That’s how it’s been for the past five years around here in western North Dakota. Not believing and then believing — that there would be a stoplight in town, a four-lane highway to Williston, a fast-food restaurant, a brand new high school, dozens of new apartment buildings and so on and so on until you find yourself used to the stoplights, sushi and Southern accents surrounding you.

The “if you build it they will come” mentality wasn’t as much the case here in this once 1,200-person town. No, it was more of the “they have come so let’s do what we can to make it work better.”

And so we made time for the extra traffic, the long lines and construction detours, and have come to expect events and restaurants filled to capacity with people of all ages, races and backgrounds, our new little melting pot on the western edge of the state.

We knew it would slow down eventually, that the four new hotels that were built wouldn’t be filled to the brim every week with working residents, and instead we would have to find a way to fill them with guests.

We knew that we wouldn’t always have to make reservations for supper.

We knew that oil wouldn’t stay at $100 a barrel, and that we might get a chance to take a breath someday and catch up, even though the thought was both terrifying and relieving.

Because we knew what it was like to have our quiet and slow life interrupted, but maybe we didn’t realize how quickly we could get used to a new normal, a fast pace of planning hectic moment to hectic moment.

But that hectic moment has slowed for a bit now and, as oil prices have slid, adjustments have been made.

Is the boom over?

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That’s a question every news source and coffee conversation wants answered.

I’m not sure if anyone knows. Just like nobody seemed to know exactly what was coming five years ago. I read a different dramatic report, opinion and prediction every day.

But here’s what I know to be true for us: Oil prices have changed, but the sense of “what-if” coupled with “could it be true?” has not.

We have never settled into a sense of security in such fast-paced growth. Instead, we have remained committed to keep steady in our own plan to figure out how to stay here at the family’s ranch for the long run.

And I’ll tell you, it’s been much easier with better jobs and more opportunity at our fingertips. But along with that, for whatever challenges we continue to face, what our community has become in the wake of the boom has made this an easier and exciting place to live in many ways.

And for that we have been grateful.

I think that realization might be the case for most people who, after coming here for the work, have decided to make this place their permanent home now. Because of the jobs, yes, but also because, like us, they see a future here.

And it’s because of those people it seems our new population is remaining more steady than predicted. Yes, people are losing jobs and families are moving away, but businesses are also still hiring and new residents still seem to see the value in a community that has moved from building to keep up with the present into building for a future we want for our families.

For more information on Watford City and McKenzie County, and for other perspectives on Boomtown Living visit: 
www.mckenziecounty.net
www.voicesofwatford.com
www.oilgoesboom.com
www.boomtowndiaries.com 
www.beautifulbakken.com 

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Sunday Column: Raising a new generation in a familiar place

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This is a photo of my best friend (the tiny little blonde thing) and me sitting on her dad’s lap when we were just babies.

This was likely taken in my parents’ little trailer where they first lived on the ranch when they got married.

I think we still have that rocking chair.

I spent my entire childhood with that little blonde girl who lived up the hill along the highway on the place where her dad was raised. We had plenty of adventures and we were lucky to have each other out here growing up in the middle of nowhere. I guarantee having her in my life went a long ways in the ‘happy childhood memories’ department.

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We used to plan on how we would grow up, have some adventures and move back to our ranches and be neighbors forever.

Who would have thought that the best laid plans of ten year old girls would wind up coming together twenty years later.

It’s a story that doesn’t get told much out here in Western North Dakota where the focus is on Boomtown and oil and all the trouble and sacrifice and nervousness it creates.

There is that. Some of that.

And then there is the fact that I would never be here, on my family’s 100 year old ranch, living down the road from my childhood best friend who was out helping our dads work cattle last Friday just like the old days, one or two of her four kids in tow, if it wasn’t for an economy that could support us building houses and making lives and carrying on traditions out here on our family farms.

When I graduated from high school in 2001, the porch lights along the gravel roads that connected us to town, were going out one by one.

Now they are turning on by the dozens, fourth and fifth generations getting a chance to be involved in the family business, or, like many of our friends, taking advantage of the opportunity to return home to a place they were raised and raise their own children.

Take this picture for example. This is a photo of my husband and some of his closest friends at our senior prom fourteen years ago (gasp!).

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At a time when our hometown and home state were dealing with outmigration and we were told to get out of here, go get an education, move to Minneapolis or Chicago and start a life, make something of yourself, it’s interesting to note that of the six young men in this photo, all six of them have moved back to western North Dakota to raise their families.

Three of them are back on family ranches and one of them is in a beautiful house outside of our hometown raising three boys.

These guys, for all the wild shit they survived in their teenage years, grew up to own successful businesses, build houses and hold and be promoted in professional jobs. One of them is even a teacher and a coach. And between them all they are raising (or will be raising, if you count our little one coming along) fourteen kids out here in Western North Dakota…a place that seemed to once be on the verge of extinction.

Now, when I look around at events happening in town, basketball games, figure skating shows, dances on Main Street, I see about a hundred more stories of hometown kids coming back to make a life in a familiar place that is growing and busting at the seams.

A place they help make better by volunteering to coach 2nd grade football or, like my best friend up the road, help run the gymnastics program. Because their memories of this place motivate them to make sure they’re making good memories for their own children.

A few weekends ago I went up to have supper at my best friend’s beautiful house up the road. She invited some of our other friends to join us, and they all brought their kids and we ate meatballs and gravy and it occurred to me how unique of a situation we’ve found ourselves in…knowing each other’s history, loving each other from the time of fanny packs and biker shorts, and getting the opportunity to raise our own children together.

So that’s what this week’s column is about. Generations having the opportunity to build lives out here.

Who would have thought?

Coming Home: Newfound hope means we’re raising kids with our old classmates
by Jessie Veeder
10-25-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

On top of the hill across from the golf course, my hometown is busy building a brand-new, beautiful high school.

Plans have been in the works for a few years as our student population continues to grow, forcing classes to be held in portable rooms even after a recent elementary school renovation. 

Even during these times of lower oil prices.

It’s hard to imagine, but it’s true. The kindergarten class this year registered well into a hundred students, and in a matter of six or so years, we have not only exploded in population from 1,200 residents to closer to 10,000, but we’ve turned from an aging community into a young one.

Last weekend, my best friend — the neighbor girl who used to meet at the top of the hill so we could ride our bikes along the centerline of the highway — called us to come over for supper. A few years ago she and her husband, my classmate, built a beautiful house on her family’s ranch, fulfilling the plans we made when we were kids jumping from hay bale to hay bale to “grow up, get jobs and be neighbors forever.”

So I grabbed a bottle of wine (because someone should be drinking this wine) and headed up the hill to her house where she’s raising four kids, the youngest a son who will be only six months older than our baby on the way.

Lord help us all if this baby is a boy, too.

Anyway, that night we gathered for meatballs and gravy to catch up with a house full of friends. I looked around the kitchen, listened to the guys talk sports and bounce new babies and realized that every single one of those five grown men grew up together. And there were more of them, quite a few more of them, who couldn’t make it to the party.

And while it’s not a surprise (more than half of the classmates who attended our 10-year high school reunion had either moved back home or were making plans to move), it was fun to take a look around and think about the next chapter in our lives as friends in a town they told us no one could come home to.

But look how wrong we can be about predicting the future. One of my husband’s best friends — the one who lived right down the block and was in on more than a few paint ball and principal office shenanigans with him — held his newborn son at the table. That friend was my locker buddy, and his dad was locker buddies with my dad, and it just occurred to me that the baby boy he was bouncing could very likely be locker buddies with our baby, too.

(Would it be more or less trouble if our baby is a girl?)

And there are quite a few stories like this in my hometown these days, not just among our small class of 40 or so, but among other classes here as well. Best friends from childhood raising families alongside one another, taking turns driving kids to football or gymnastics, meeting up to barbecue, to sit and visit with a sort of ease and familiarity that comes with knowing one another when we wore our pants too baggy and drove too fast.

Who would have known? When I left home almost 15 years ago, the porch lights on the farmhouses were going out one by one. This landscape was so much darker without any real hope of new and younger hands to flip the switch back on.

And nothing was going to make it any different except a change in the makeup of this place that would make it so we wouldn’t have to struggle the way our parents did.

Around the supper table that evening there wasn’t a person raised here who didn’t respect and love it in their own way. But just because we’re connected by the land doesn’t necessarily mean that we would naturally remain connected to one another.

Except in this case it is enough, to find this place worthy of returning to and planting new seeds, a new generation raised in a familiar, changing and unpredictable place.

Sunday Column: Getting lost in my hometown

I’ve sort of been doing the North Dakota, small town tour lately. I’ve been hired to speak and sing at some special events, touching on topics like ranch living and what it’s like in Boomtown.

It’s been fun, hitting the open road and taking the exists on familiar highways that I’ve driven by but never turned fully discovered.

But it’s also been nostalgic in a way. Because I’m reminded in these small towns what my small town used to be like. Actually, I’m reminded that not all small towns are bursting at the seams, under constant construction and constant growing pains.

I’m reminded that some places stay the same. Quiet. Quaint. Full of people who know one another, their children and their children’s children.

The funny thing is even after watching my small town boom from 1,200 people to over 12,000 or more, I still think of my town the same way as I thought of it growing up. And, in a way, I see it that way too.  I mean, I’m not blind to the changes, but the way it was seems to sort of be ingrained in me.

Like, I still call the hardware store Hardware Hank, even though it hasn’t been called Hardware Hank since I was in junior high.

And when I give directions or talk about the new developments, I base locations off of where things used to be…like the old Chuckwagon cafe that closed when I was in high school or the where the bakery used to be…or where Larson’s used to live…

Funny how memory works. Funny how we connect to place in different ways and at different times. Funny how, in my mind, time sort of stopped for my hometown fifteen years ago…

Funny how this causes major issues when a new resident is trying to give me directions to a new development (that used to be a field next to my friend’s house) based on street signs…

Funny how annoyed I was at the reality of getting lost in my hometown…

Coming Home: Getting Lost in my quickly changing hometown
by Jessie Veeder
4-26-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Jessie Veeder-“Boomtown”-Official Music Video

And now for the video!

The premier of the music video for my song “Boomtown” happens today! I hope it give your a glimpse into the some of the stories hanging around Boomtown. I am so happy and excited to have this out in the world.

Thanks to Nolan with Quantum Productions and to those willing to share their stories with us that day.

Please pass it along!

Sunday Column: Other people’s stories…

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This is my life here, crammed into this little room I’m calling my office for now. This is where I work to tell stories.

This is where I edit photos of the neighbors and strangers who have hired me to take their portraits.

This is where I write music, and these last few days, this is where I’ve been recording it to send on to the studio in preparation for another album.

Yup. Here I am, surrounded by cords and screens, cameras and props, notebooks and piles of paperwork, a puppy in the corner terrorizing the random hiking shoes I dropped off in here and a cat climbing up the leg of the sweatpants I haven’t changed out of yet today..

This has been my story these days. Writing things down, capturing moments in this room.

Tomorrow I will release a music video to the song “Boomtown,” a ballad, an ode, I wrote to the people coming and going and working to make lives here in the place where I grew up. I hope you click on over and check it out on www.youtube.com/jessieveedermusic. 

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Tomorrow is also election day, voting day, as you know.  There are some big and controversial measures on my state’s ballot this go ’round.

Some are pretty personal to me.

And so I’ve been thinking about our stories more than ever these last few months. I’ve been thinking about how powerful and sometimes terrifying it can be to tell them.

And then I’ve been thinking about how incredibly important it is to talk, to talk to talk this all out so that we might understand each other. Because these days I feel so much gets lost in translation, in the argument, in the polarization that has become politics.

So that’s what Boomtown’s about, little snapshots of other people’s lives, a reminder that we’re all flawed and worried and desperate, so damn hopeful sometimes and really, not that much different…

So I suppose it’s fitting that I release it on election day, a little reminder, a little snapshot of our tiny corner of America, a look into the eyes of people out there just doing their best…

Coming Home: Seeking stories behind the snapshots of life
by Jessie Veeder
11-2-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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See you tomorrow in Boomtown!

Sunday Column: My sister, the coach…

And now I give you one of the most embarrassing photos of myself on file.

IMG_20141006_0001Here I am. Twelve years old. Fresh into my seventh grade year, first year out of country school. First year in a real sport. Trying my hand at volleyball, but apparently not trying my hand at ironing my wrinkled shorts that are pulled up way beyond my bellybutton, barely able to contain the size Large shirt I was given.

Where are my arms?

I don’t know.

Where are my braces?

Coming next year.

Where was my talent for sending a ball over the net, at least once or twice a game?

Non existent.

But you can’t blame me for trying. Growing up is all about finding out what you like and what you’re good at, and unfortunately, sometimes, they don’t go hand in hand.

For example, I liked wearing leotards…

Why? Wwwwhhhhhyyyyy?

Why? Wwwwhhhhhyyyyy?

But I was no good at dancing.

You know who was?

That little California Raisin doing jazz hands to the left of me.

Yup, Big Sister was made to dance, as you can tell….

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Thirty-some years later and she looks exactly the same…think she even still has those pants… could probably fit into them…

My spandex leotards, as you can see from the photographic evidence provided, didn’t stand a chance on me the first go ’round.

Yeah, the right sister is the dancer.

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Because it turns out me, my long, gangly, noodle arms, lack of coordination or control over those limbs, my fear of floor-burning my entire body and my nonexistent competitive nature didn’t magically combine to create a phenomenal athlete.

But rest assured the athleticism in our family didn’t start and end with those jazz shoes. Because along came Little Sister.

There she is down there on my right, strangling our momma dog in a mischievous love embrace, hair wild, planning her next move…

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And her next move was to get straight A’s, make sure everyone is being nice to everyone else, practice dribbling and shooting the basketball on the only slab of concrete on the entire ranch, make varsity and head to state basketball…then do it all over again during volleyball season.

IMG_20141006_0004Always working, always making plans that one.

Anyway, this year Little Sister, all grown up now, is at the beginning of her first year as a guidance counselor in our hometown’s elementary school and at the end of her first season as a junior high volleyball coach.

So last week Big Sister, Mom and I headed to the school, bought some popcorn at the concessions and went to watch her work and cheer on her team of Wolves.

And then I had a flashback…

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*cringe*

Anyway, it was quite a proud moment for us and one we hadn’t seen on that woman since her days of hitting free throws and playing mean defense in high school.

We watch Big Sister put on dance recitals and my family comes to my concerts, but we haven’t had a chance to be spectators in Little Sister’s work life for years.

And she was good at it. So positive and encouraging. So adorable and official with her clipboard under her arm. I couldn’t help but think, watching those skinny seventh grade girls hit the ball back and forth over the net, that if I were them, I would have loved her as my coach…

We were so proud.

So that’s what I said here in my column this week. I wrote about why it matters in our town now, the town that’s bursting at the seams…why it matters that someone like Little Sister would find her calling here, chose to come back home with a big wide world out there ripe for the picking. The same big wide world that seems to be making their way here too, with their hopes and their plans and their volleyball playing children…

Coming Home: Little sis shaping kids’ future one volleyball game at a time
by Jessie Veeder
10-5 -14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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Coming Home, my weekly columns, appear in newspapers across the state, including the Fargo Forum, Bismarck Tribune, Dickinson Press and Grand Forks Herald.

Sunday Column: 100 years!

IMG_1995The party of the century took place in my hometown this weekend. I sit here this morning at the ranch, my cousins and aunt and uncle visiting from Texas likely milling around the cabin in the barnyard over the hill, getting ready for another day in North Dakota, just one of the many family’s who made the trip back home to celebrate.

It’s fitting then that they would be spending their nights in the very spot that raised my grandfather and then raised my aunt and dad and uncle, right above where the old shack used to sit, right next door to the old red barn, family feet still making tracks in this mud.

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I can’t tell you what it means to me to have them here and I’m sure they can’t explain that the miles and time don’t make a difference, that this is always home.

I am certain that among the thousand plus people who celebrated with us, most would say the same.

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There’s coffee at my desk and I’m nursing a sunburn and tired feet. I have the whole summer ahead of me now, packed with more stages, more cows to chase, more events to plan and more sun to catch, but what I’m thinking now is “phew, we pulled it off.”

And that I’m proud to have been a part of it.

Because for two years we’ve been planning the bands and the art show, the kids games and the sidewalk sales, the film festival and the magicians, the clowns and the books and the auction and the big free feed under the tent.

We didn’t plan on rain, but we knew it was inevitable. We didn’t plan for a party in the mud, but we had one and it was great.

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We’re a young establishment, this booming small town in America. Things have changed since the railroad made promises and the first little wooden store took shape on the desolate landscape. Every day time passes and residents make decisions to build, to come, to leave, to stay.

Within those 100 years there have been booms and busts and years spent standing still waiting for and making our own opportunity that might help keep the streets alive with young people and babies again…

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Within those 100 years land has been bought and sold and split and kept. Businesses have changed hands, closed doors or stayed right there in the family.

Kids have learned between the walls of schools and out in the streets, riding bikes to the pool or driving their first cars out to help with a branding at a ranch in the badlands.

I am one of those kids. This weekend I was surrounded by them, tapping their toes to the music on the big stage, dancing and laughing, buying each other a beer, swinging around grandchildren, sitting down with a roast beef sandwich and catching up, just like they’ve done for decades.

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And isn’t it refreshing to know that no matter how things have changed us, no matter how fast the cars can go now, how we can fly across oceans, no matter that we can see each other on computer screens though we’re thousands of miles apart, still after all of these years there’s nothing like celebrating shoulder to shoulder, embrace to embrace, laughter to terrible joke.

There’s nothing that beats a good old fashioned party together.

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Congratulations hometown. Here’s to another 100 years and more!

Coming Home: We call it a century. 100 years. The Centennial
by Jessie Veeder
7-29-14
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

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