Because of the women they were yesterday…

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It’s International Women’s Day.

Yesterday the wind blew snow across the plains at 60 miles per hour at times. I got out of bed at 6 am after a completely sleepless night with my one-year-old. I climbed in the warm shower and got my hair washed and legs shaved. I pulled on my robe and shuffled downstairs to wake my finally sleeping daughter, to kiss her cheeks, to change her diaper, to get her dressed, to send her out the door with her dad so she could spend a day at daycare and I could drive in the wind three hours across the state for work and then drive myself home again hopefully in time to miss the dangerous and snowy dark and to rock my baby to sleep.

I’m a mother living on a 100+ homestead at the end of a long winter.

Some days I feel lonesome and isolated.

Most days I feel fortunate.

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Every day I think of the women in my family who raised kids before me out here on the edge of the badlands before electricity, before telephones, before washing machines and the conveniences of our modern world that make it easier for women like me to pursue my own dreams.

Gramma Edie

My grandmother Edith as a young woman helping on her family farm

I wish I could talk about dreams with my great grandmother Gudrun who came to the United States from Norway at sixteen years old and raised twelve children out here in the early 1900s,  in all our brutal seasons.

8. Great Grandma Gudrun and Great Grandpa Severin Linseth and their 12 children Edith Linseth Veeder is center in the plaid

Great Grandma Gudrun with her twelve children, my grandma Edith in the center in the plaid and bow

I wish I could talk dreams with my grandma Edith, one of Gudrun’s middle daughters, who grew up on that homestead with eleven siblings, married the neighbor boy, taught school children on the reservation next to the ranch, raised three kids and took many others into their small home and worked cattle alongside her husband, making sure breakfast was served in the morning and supper was on the table at night.

18. Gramma Edie holding baby Jessie

Grandma Edith holding me

I wish I could talk dreams with my great-grandma Eleanore, who raised two boys on her own as a working woman after the war in a time where single mothers weren’t a common thing.

And I am so grateful I can talk dreams with my mother’s mother, my grandma G. I’m grateful that I’ve taken the time to ask her what it meant to raise four girls in the fifties and sixties as a working career woman. I’m grateful she’s shared with me the struggles and accomplishments she’s found so important to her and to the lives of her daughters so that I can better understand how far we’ve come.

Gramma Ginny

My grandma Ginny with three of her four daughters, two of her four granddaughters and one of her two great granddaughters. 

And more than anything, I am thankful for my own mother who taught me to persevere, to pay attention, to laugh, to be kind, to recognize the struggles and have compassion for those different than you, to never be the victim and to work hard.

Always work hard.

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I have become the woman I am today because of the women they were yesterday. 

Let’s celebrate that strength in our past and look to the future with muscles flexed today. 

For a little motivation, a little celebratory music, here’s “Work Girl.”

In the thick of it.

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I spent Labor Day weekend on a little getaway with my husband to celebrate ten years married and our two birthdays. It was the first time we’ve done anything together since the baby was born. It was the first time I was away from the baby overnight.

We left her in good hands, at home with my mother and father-in-law and two of our nieces who Edie’s attached to and we headed south to the Black Hills of South Dakota, so extremely aware of how we used to take these sort of outings together for granted.

I mean, we only had two bags between us.

There was a moment when I stepped out of the hotel that morning and into the pickup where I felt like I was missing a limb without that baby attached to my hip.

We didn’t do much in particular. We just drove and ate and drank and walked around and visited and made plans for the future like we like to do. Gave each other advice. Laughed at things probably only we would find funny.

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And talked about the baby.

We came home on Sunday in time to tuck her in and the next morning my husband turned 34 so I made him breakfast in our kitchen with the cool rain soaking the oak trees outside our windows and our baby crawling around on floor.

We are in this thing now, the both of us. Deep into adulthood and marriage. On the brand new edge of parenting. In the thick of it, as they say.

I doubt we’ve been happier.

And it’s terrifying and surprising and lovely and a wonderful thing to say out loud.

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Life in your 30s means knowing who you are
by Jessie Veeder
9-4-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

When I turned the more momentous 30 a few years back, I was discouraged at all the advice I was reading in women’s magazines about what it meant to get older. I wondered how many times I could be told what jeans I should wear and what face cream to use.

Coming from a woman who had recently won an Elvis-impersonating contest in front of thousands of people, I really couldn’t argue.

But it wasn’t until lately that I started to believe she might be right about this phase of life. I mean, gone are the days of ramen noodle suppers, paying rent on questionable apartments and wondering who I should be when I grow up.

Because I am grown up. This is me, give or take a few hundred lessons coming down the pipe. Not that I no longer have aspirations and goals, I’m simply saying I’ve lived long enough to know which direction I should steer this truck and what prairie trails to avoid to keep me sane and happy.

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The day I turned 30 I sat down and wrote a list titled “30 things I know at 30.” Having found no inspiration from those women’s magazines for what’s ahead besides more face cream, I needed to be reassured that I had acquired some tools for this adulthood thing.

I’m glad I saved it. Because among a few reflections on cleaning, clothing choices and eating carrots straight out of the garden were some good reminders:

• When you’re younger you expect your community to take care of you. I know now that it’s our responsibility to take care of our community.

• Art is a chance to see life through one another’s eyes. If we don’t encourage it, we’re ignoring the part that reassures us that it can be beautiful. Because even the sad parts have colors that move you or a melody that sweeps you up.

• I used to think that love was enough. It turns out love goes a lot better mixed with kindness, respect, laughter, humility and a nice meal together once in awhile. So maybe loving is just the easiest part.

• A girl needs a dog.

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• My mom was right. My sister did become my best friend. Just like she said she would when I was slamming my bedroom door.

• There will always be more work, more things to build and more stories to write. When there isn’t we will make it so, because as much as anything, living’s in the work.

• Some people struggle to have what may come easy to you. Think of this when you say your hellos. Compassion is a quality we could use more of.

• Learning to cook does not make you a housewife, a stereotype, or some sort of overly domesticated version of yourself. It makes you capable. Same goes with laundry, lawn mowing and hanging a dang shelf by yourself.

• On Christmas, feed the animals first … and a little extra.

• Always wear proper footwear. And by proper, I mean practical, and sometimes practical means cute. You know what I’m saying.

• You can tell yourself there’s a reason for everything. It helps to ease the heartbreak and suffering. Believe it. It’s likely true. But know that sometimes it’s OK to think that life’s not fair, because sometimes it isn’t.

And here is where I’d like to add perhaps the only profound thing I’ve learned since writing this list, which is you just don’t know what’s really in store for you. All you can do is use the strength of your will, your community, your family and your coffee and try to believe that maybe the best work is yet to be done.

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Click here to see the entire list.

 

Sunday Column: A warm welcome to the mommy club.

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Coming Home: Wait is over to celebrate Mother’s Day as a mom

by Jessie Veeder
5-9-16
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Long before I became a mom, I often heard the phrase “You just wait” from other parents. While well-meaning, it was an expression that made me cringe for a few reasons. Besides the fact that it made me feel like I was being set aside to a place they put people who couldn’t possibly get it, it made me want to scream, “I am waiting! I’ve been waiting for years!”

“You’ll understand when you have kids of your own.” That was another one.

It was never really clear, the mystical thing that I was to understand. If I could just get it together enough to have a kid already, I could finally know what I desperately needed to know.

I’m sorry. I’m sounding sarcastic. I haven’t been sleeping.

I think that’s one of those things I couldn’t have possibly understood.

OK, I get it now.

This year I will celebrate my first Mother’s Day with a baby of our own in our house (and in my arms and in my car and in the bathtub and in her carrier walking with me across the cow pastures) and I can’t help but notice that over the past five months it’s felt like I’ve become a part of this big, new and welcoming club.

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My Sister-in-law, who is busy raising my three nieces. She sent us home yesterday with five big bins of girl clothes. God bless her.

I walk through the grocery store with the baby strapped to my chest, wiggling and drooling and smiling at the stranger in the dairy aisle who smiles back. “Two teeth already! How old is she? Wow, that’s early! My son didn’t get teeth until he was almost a year. He’s 21 now. They grow so fast …”

And we stop there, holding our milk cartons, feeling compelled for some numinous reason to share with one another our most intimate birth story, the struggles we had or didn’t have with feeding, the joy of the first smile and ugh, the sleepless nights, the stranger so eager to reflect and relay, and me, a new mom, hungry to know that I’m not alone in the joy and, more importantly, the challenge.

“She’s precious,” she says. And I beam with pride as I move on to the cereal.

Working men in muddy boots push past us with carts full of chips, burgers and pop. One stops to take a peek at my baby’s chubby cheeks. His daughter is 3 and back home in Tennessee. Before I had Edie I would say, “I can’t imagine what it would be like to be away from her.” Now my heart breaks for him.

Until five months ago I only understood motherhood from the perspective of having one. And I have a great one. One of the best. But I always thought she worried too much. I’ve been telling her that since I was a little girl. Don’t worry, Mom. Don’t worry!

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Now I know what an impossible demand I was making on her as I pulled on my boots and went out into this big, sharp and dangerous world, my little sister trailing behind me.

Asking her not to worry was like asking her not to breathe. I get it now, Mom. I haven’t stopped worrying since the moment I found out I was pregnant. And when I’m done writing this I’m ordering Edie a full-body helmet.

Because the big, sharp world is dangerous, yes, but now I get to watch my baby discover it, and I think I might have taken for granted what a gift it is to have hands that can touch and eyes that can see and a voice that can laugh at the wonder of it all.

Apparently with all this motherly worry comes waves of overwhelming gratefulness.

Yes, they told me I’ll understand when I have kids of my own and, finally, here I am discovering what being a mother means to me.

And while the birth of my daughter has somehow given me a big happy welcome into this warm and open club of parenthood, after such a big discovery, this Mother’s Day I don’t have anything more profound to say than this:

Thank you, Mom, for worrying.

Thank you, Baby, for being born.

And to all the mothers-in-waiting, may your children find you.

 

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Sunday Column: My great grandmother was Strong Man Johnson

A few weeks ago I gathered a group of women together for coffee and a visit at the pioneer museum in town. I was asked to craft a story that featured farm woman advice for city girls and, while I had a few ideas, I thought it would be wise to get the conversation flowing from  the minds and experiences of women of all generations.

So I called my friend Jan, who grew up with my dad on a ranch down the road, and she called her mother, the woman who raised her out there, and taught Jan enough about making chokecherry syrup and canning salsa that Jan could be of help to me in one of my  “canning emergencies…”

The two women joined me, my mom and another three generations of women to talk work and worry, weather and washing machines and what it was like, and what it is like,  to raise children and crops and cattle out here on the edge of the badlands.

Really, I could have stayed with them chatting all day and into the night. The history and knowledge, the fortitude and respect and connection to place was palpable. But so was the humility. They were all so humble when faced with questions about their accomplishment and hardships on a land and under a sky that could be so beautiful and so brutal all at once.

I asked them what they learned out there so far away from the conveniences of town, and what it was like without the help of today’s modern technology when there was so much on the line.

My friend’s grandmother, who homesteaded her place, and then helped her sister follow suit before falling in love with a town boy and moving him out to the farm with her, gave the end all answer:

“You just roll up your sleeves and do what has to be done. There is no other choice.”

And so this has been on my mind as I’m working to extract all the wisdom and lessons and strength in these women’s’ stories.

And I’ve been thinking of my own grandmother, and her mother, a first generation Norwegian immigrant who arrived at Ellis Island when she was only 16 and made her way west to Minnesota before marrying and moving out to their homestead in Western North Dakota when she was only 18.

She raised twelve children and lived well into her 90s.

I was a young girl when she died, but I do remember visits to her room in her nursing home, her teasing the grandkids with her cane and this photo that set on her night stand, the youngest on her husband’s lap added to the photo later to make the family complete. My grandma Edie, dad’s mother,  is the girl in the middle with the bow.

I wish I would have been old enough to ask her things. I wish I would have known her.

Now all I have is stories and other people’s memories, my dad’s particularly, of a woman who used to call herself “Strong Man Johnson” before heading out the door of the house and pretending to lift it off its foundation at the grandkids’ delight and horror.

So that’s what this week’s column is about. My Great Grandmother Gudrun, Strong Man Johnson.

Coming Home: Winters on the prairies took immense strength
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

And now, after it’s been published, I’ve received a few emails from those who knew her, one in particular from a woman who cared for her in the nursing home and remember’s Gudrun’s story of baking five loaves a bread every day.

The spirit of these women drives me. It inspires me and it reminds me that I am braver and more capable than I think I am. Because it’s in this heart that pumps this blood, the blood of strong women.

May we raise them. May we praise them. May we be them.

My grandma Edie. One of Gudrun’s five daughters

And the winner is…

Ok Ladies, today is the day I make the big announcement. Who won the FREE pair of RED ANTS PANTS?!

The anticipation is killing you I’m sure, but before I announce who won the drawing, I have to thank you for sharing your hilarious stories with me. These giveaways are my favorite because I get to hear from you, and, based on what I’ve seen here, I want all of you over for margaritas on the deck.

One of my favorites from my friend Diane:

Well I grew up in eastern North Dakota, not too many cowboys or cowgirls out there. So my senior year in the mid-60s I moved to western North Dakota and experienced cowboy boots, cowboy hats and chaps. It was like “seriously are all these people from Texas or what?” So this cowboy asked me for a date and he wanted to go riding horse all day…..Trying to be impressive of course I said yes, even though I was scared to death of horses as I had only been on a horse for a few seconds and had gotten bucked off before my hindend was even totally in the saddle. I thought I can do this, I can ride a horse, I can impress this cowboy, God forbid it can’t be that difficult. JEANS, never owned a pair or even thought about wanting any so I decided to put on my pretty polyester turquoise “stirrup” pants with my pretty turquoise angora sweater. After all I had to be impressive on this date. So bright and early in the morning I am riding off into the sun on this big “cowboy date” with my polyester stirrup pants, angora sweater and my tennis shoes. I was pretty proud of myself faking this cowgirl image all day, after all I didn’t even fall off or eat dirt. I even yelled giddy-up and whoa-Nellie a few times with sort of a half-way smile on my face. If I remember right I think the horse’s name was Lightening or something like that but Nellie sounded better, made me feel safer up there in that saddle. We rode and we rode and I bounced and I bounced and then we rode and we rode some more and I bounced and I bounced some more the whole darn day. I was lagging behind a lot and I kind of noticed that I seemed to be bouncing more than him as I could not see daylight under him at all, but I was still in the saddle so I was cowgirling up. It was starting to get dark so we headed back to the corral to end my first horseback riding date. I did not dismount that horse I actually fell off that horse onto my knees and could not get up, nothing worked it was all numb, including the hindend that bounced all day. My legs would not hold me up and my knees were like rubber and there I Iayed, my beautiful turquoise angora sweater in the dirt. Cute, real cute. I think I laughed, I probably did, I have a habit of laughing in weird embarrassing situations, it is better than crying in weird embarrassing situations. When the numbness wore off some he helped me up like a good cowboy would and I was brushing off my turquoise stirrup pants trying to be nonchalant about it all and realized the backend was about totally missing. Yupper there was not a half a spool of thread left in the backend of those polyester pants from bouncing all the darn day. Ok the laughing stopped wondering how I was going to get home without turning around. Darn I missed those pants. Now I knew why cowgirls wear jeans…….Oh and just a little FYI he did marry me later……………..

If you haven’t yet, visit the original post The Pants Situation (and a PANTS GIVEAWAY) and read the rest of the stories for yourself in the comments section, visit these blogs and talk amongst yourself. I mean, really, I think you will all be friends.

And I think it’s clear that we all see a need here, based on the blown out butts, inner thigh rub, butt crack, man-pants, suspender situations I’ve heard from you. So, if you don’t happen to be the winner of the pants,  you should go visit the Red Ants Pants website and see if you cant find yourself a pair. I mean, seriously, some women have been wearing these pants for years without mishap! Think of it as an investment.

Ok, I’m going to announce the winner now.

But first, another example of me in unfortunate pants.

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Now, the winner, drawn out of one of Husbands crusty old hats is… drumroll please…

Ashley M-K with
www.dairyinnovation.wordpress.com 

Ashley says this:

Gah! I would love to try these pants. I have a total lack of thigh gap. I am a very slender woman but I have thighs and without a doubt, I will wear a hole in the crotch first on all my pants. And then I keep wearing them until I blow the butt out in them. And yes, I am totally guilty of buying cheap jeans but I just can’t seem to make a pair of $60 jeans last any longer than a $15 pair. And girl, don’t even get me started on day long wedgies……

No more wedgies for you girl!

I’ll be in touch on how to redeem your new Red Ants Pants!

Thanks for the fun girls. I seriously love you and admire the work you’re doing out there!

Stay classy now!

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The Pants Situation (and a PANTS GIVEAWAY!)

It probably won’t come as a surprise to you considering you’ve heard about my mother, the lady who owns a clothing store in my hometown, that in my life I have always been very aware of “the outfit.”

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I mean, this woman was raised in a family of four girls and then went on to raise three herself, so it goes without saying that there have been countless hours spent filling and flinging clothes to and from closets, discussing what to wear for Christmas, for Thanksgiving, for a date, to a concert, to a wedding, to my wedding, to your wedding, to the beach, to the bar, to a baptism and everything in between.

There have been arguments and tantrums over denim skirts and borrowed shoes, a great deal of philosophy spent on the concept of accessories and where to get the right purse and plenty of time wondering why the hell my fashion forward mother let me wear leotards and tights for the majority of my third year here on earth.

So I won’t even mention the hair bows and this mortifying Pirate shirt…
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As women we spend a lot of time standing in front of our closets, scratching our heads trying to piece together items in our wardrobe that will serve our purpose for who we need to be on that particular day.

Because in our daily lives, just as like our outfits, we rarely are asked to serve one purpose.

And while I can assume we can all appreciate fashion phases, I think even more than that women can appreciate clothes that actually work for them, not against them.

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Comfort, function and fashion, that’s me…

Maybe that’s why I liked leotards so much…the stretch…

Why? Wwwwhhhhhyyyyy?

Why? Wwwwhhhhhyyyyy?

Anyway, these self-imposed trends exist to remind us of the process we’ve gone through to grow on up into ourselves and find a way to present that self to the world.

These are the types of conversations I’ve had with my mother anyway.

The conversations with my dad? Well, they have always gone something like this:

“It’s cold out, you better wear layers, because when we get out there you can take things off, but you can’t put more on.”

And by out there, he meant, of course, wherever it was we were chasing cows or fixing fence or breaking down that day.

As a girl, and now a woman, out on the ranch, function trumps fashion, no questions asked. Even my mother appreciates this, although she’s been known to stand in shoes blistering her feet all night in the name of looking damn cute. And I can’t judge, because I’ve been there…but I can blame her for the blisters…

Anyway on the ranch if your feet ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy. Same goes with ears and hands. These are lessons learned through a few wrong choices made before an all day roundup in the chill of the fall air where there is nothing you can do about it but shut up and ride and take note that next time and every time you get your ass back out there you will wear:

1) Good gloves
2) Proper boots
3) A decent, weather appropriate hat
4) And the right pants…

Ugh, the infinite struggle of the pants.

I can’t tell you how many all-day wedgies I’ve endured throughout my life, convinced that they just don’t make pants for girls like me. Pants long enough to cover my boots, high enough in the waist to save everyone from the site of my crack, but not so high as to impose on my boobs and durable enough to save me from the embarrassment of blowing through the ass of not one, but TWO pairs of cheap jeans on a ride with world renowned horse trainer Craig Cameron.

Yes. This actually happened.

And then you know what happened after that? He offered me his Wranglers.

It was my last resort. There was another entire day to ride. I had to wear them.

And I’m not sure if that’s pretty awesome or pretty pathetic.

That’s been almost 10 years ago now and I still cringe…the same way I cringe at this unfortunate, but functional, look:

ANYWAY, a few years ago I met a woman who resides out in rural Montana who was annoyed with the idea that for years women had to fit their cute, curvaceous butts into men’s pants to get any work done. So she decided that if you can’t find what you need, maybe she should figure out a way to make them herself. So that’s what she did. She designed Red Ants Pants, durable work pants for women that celebrate our butts, hips and curves and the fact that not all of us are created equal in those departments.

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As a girl who spent her childhood in boy Wranglers until I grew some curves of my own, I thought, well she’s on to something isn’t she?

And indeed she was. Founded in 2006, Red Ants Pants was the first company dedicated to making work clothes for women. It’s sort of hard to believe considering women have been working their asses off right alongside the men since the beginning of time, but that’s where we are here.

Thank the Good Lord for Sarah.

So to celebrate her dedication to keeping me and you wedgie-free while we get things done, I’m giving away a pair of Red Ants Pants to you, my hard working, sexy readers.

All you have to do to be in the running is leave a comment for me here, on my Facebook or Twitter pages. You know I love to hear your stories, so share them here about your favorite chore, the dirty work you’ve done in your life, or, if you want to make me feel better, a time when you ripped the butt out of your pants in front of a national celebrity.

I’ll give you some time to share. The winner will be announced next week Thursday, October 30th.

I can’t wait to hear your stories and get you in these pants!

Peace, Love and Work Girl!

Jessie

 

 

A prayer for wild women…

To be content at the end of the day. As the sun goes down and the world goes dark, to know that it was yours for the taking, and so you took.

This is my prayer for you and wild women everywhere.

To know you’ve tamed some wild things, and let the others run free. To have ridden hard and fallen harder.

To have found your way back to your feet.

This I hope for you.

To have loved a good man, a good horse and a good dog, but not necessarily in that order.

To have been loved. I know you have been loved.

To have mud on your boots, on your face and under your fingernails and still call it a good day. To know the smell of a well-worked horse and call it sweet. To stand in the rain because it’s raining.

To find a soft place to land, wild women, I pray for a soft place to land.

To climb a hill to be closer to the moon.

To do it yourself because you can do it better.

To work. To work. To work. And to love it as much as you can possibly love it.

Wild woman.

Wild, wild women.

This is our prayer.

There’s nothing wilder…

There is something about a girl and a horse.

Yeah, boys have their toys with wheels, their guns, their tools, their dogs and they look noble and masculine (and a bit like a western movie if they’ve got the outfit right) on the back of the beautiful beasts….

But it’s not the same.

I was reminded of this phenomenon this week when my twelve-year-old cousin from The Cities (yeah, we’re in Western ND, so even though Minneapolis/St. Paul is an excruciating 600 plus miles to the east, those are our cities ok…) came to visit the ranch for the first time (without her two brothers). My cousin is a fiery, sweet, smart redhead who has spent much of her childhood on the pavement giving all of that animal loving heart to her declawed cat who moves, like city cats do, throughout their beautiful home from sunny spot to sunny spot until he is let loose in the night to lurk through the neighborhood, exercising his wild side.

I love this girl and have spent time with her when she was younger, but never, I realized, one on one. So I admit I was a little nervous to have her out to this wild place, so far removed from the Super Target that is located down the street from her house, so far from the structured entertainment and the embracing neighborhood full of friends and swimming pools and a bike rides and movie theatres at your fingertips. I was worried she would be bored. I was worried she was going to miss her friends. I was worried that the things I liked to do when I was twelve (and let’s just admit it here, still do) would not appeal to her.  And to top off the unexpected anxiety, it occurred to me that this pre-teen might never survive without cell service!

OMG!

So the plans I made to walk through the creek beds and pick wild berries and go fishing in the big lake and ride bike were on a list right next to the back-up plans of movies and swimming pools and manicures…you know, just in case.

But sweet Red was not nervous at all. Red packed her bags diligently in her room in the suburb of Minneapolis at the end of her summer with sweet adventure in her sight. She was on a quiet mission as she endured bravely the ten hour trip out west in a car with nothing on her mind but exploring every inch of this place on the back of a horse.

As soon as the car pulled through the breaks of the badlands and down into the valley of my parent’s home, Red stepped out and sucked in the fresh air and immediately buried her face in the necks of the two dogs rushing, tails wagging, coming to greet her. I’ve never seen a smile that genuine. I’ve never seen a heart open that wide.

And in that moment it was quite clear that this girl, with the freckles and the blue eyes and the beautiful, straight, long red hair–a girl so far away from me in miles and looks and lifestyle and years, did indeed share the same blood.

I should not have been surprised.  I should not have doubted this wonderful, curious, adventurous child.  With the perfectly placed ponytails and the cowboy hat and boots I lent her she even reminded me of Annie Oakley!

So I took this as my cue and I shredded my backup list and made plans to check off everything on the first one—the real one.

We had two days.

So we scoured the hills for chokecherries and plums, got her shoes muddy in the black mud of the crick (“do you say creek or crick?” “Well, I guess we say crick around here…”), threw the stick for the dogs to fetch and caught a frog. And because she is a Minnesota girl, I thought she should see a lake completely different than those in her backyard. So down the road we went to big, rugged, untamed Lake Sakakawea to fish for walleye against the clay cliffs that border the shore. And damn if Red didn’t catch the only fish. Big Fish.

Oh, her brothers would be jealous.

She swam with the lab in the cool North Dakota lake, she shot a Pabst can right off of the fence post with the .22, she rode the 4-wheeler, she tamed the wild cat, she sat out in the yard with the four dogs as the sun went down on what I hoped was a day of her dreams…

And she rode horse.

And If ever there was a moment that needed to occur in the life of a twelve year old girl—a moment that makes all of the annoying troubles of the world disappear (like puberty and high-water pants and friends who betray you and parents who just don’t understand), a moment where complete innocence and trust and hope appears again in the eyes of a girl on the verge of womanhood, it was this one.

We walked into the corrals and I pointed out her horse. Her eyes sparked.  I slowly and carefully showed her how to bridle the creature. She listened intently. I gave her the currycomb and she brushed his coat and mane. She asked where horses like to be scratched and her hand reached up under the chin of her animal and he answered her question as her new four-legged friend showed his appreciation by stretching out his neck and nuzzling her shoulder.

And if I thought Red’s heart was open as wide as a heart could be with her face nestled into the necks of the labs and the pug and the shepherd, I know now that I was strongly mistaken about how big hearts really are.

But I should have known. I was that girl.

I am her.

Because there is nothing like a girl on a horse. And until now, I guess I must have thought I was the only one who lost myself completely on the back of an animal who takes your life and carries it across the rugged prairies, through fields of clover and snakes and wild, wild things. I guess I thought I was the only one who threw my heart wholly to a beast who could launch you high in the air with one kick and send you tumbling to the ground, but mostly chooses not to (mostly…but sometimes you need to learn a lesson or two) and instead listens as you ask him to climb a hill

or go fast around a barrel or get up close to a raspberry bush so you can have a sample and then help you bring the cows home.

See, there is a certain amount of trust, a special trust, a different kind of connection between a girl and a horse. And bear with me because I think there is an amount of truth here…

A boy, a man, and his horse have a different agreement. There is a certain amount of power a man, whether physical or mental, is not willing to relinquish to a beast. There is an understanding between the four legged animal and the two legged creature on his back that they will indeed accomplish a task, together, successfully, the way it was meant to the man. And the man thanks the horse for his assistance.

And this is a wonderful thing.

But a girl loves her horse with the kind of tenderness only a woman can give. She longs to understand the animal and knows there are days when all you can do is walk slowly together down the road, no matter how pressing the issue. A girl wants to ride just to maintain a connection with her animal, to let him know that he is hers, she is his and she is here. But when the time comes to run, there is nothing more untamed, there is nothing wilder, there is nothing closer to the wind than a girl, hair tangling behind her, face close to the neck of a her beast as they reach for the horizon.

And up until now it didn’t occur to me that maybe that sort of wild is in every woman, somewhere.

So thanks Red. Thanks for coming over and showing me that even city girls can open their hearts and let go of their fear and their life and the world as they know it and….

ride like the wind.