Sunday Column: Summers that can change your life

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Summer is making a promise to appear once again and I am thinking today about the way life can change in that short season.

When we were younger, summer meant a break, a breath, a transition onto the next phase in our lives, the next grade, the next chapter.

Now that I’m all grown up, it’s changed a bit. Summer means hustle and heat and a chance to get things done around here. It’s not a transition but a season we look forward to so we can warm up and make plans.

But sometimes when you’re in the middle of making plans for your life, your life changes.

That’s what happened to me almost nine years ago today. I opened the classifieds to look for a summer job to get me through the slow months between touring in the spring and fall, and I ran across a job opening for a Special Event planner at a performing arts school in Fargo, ND.

I was a year out of college, planning a wedding and getting ready for the rest of my life. The job was going to be a stopover, a temporary position, a stepping stone to the happily ever after.

Turns out on my way I found what have become some of the most important people in my life. I fell in love with them between flipping burgers, moving picnic tables and changing the lights in the porta potties. They made me laugh while we worked our asses off in the 104 degrees of the hottest summer of my life.

trollwood friends

And when that summer was over, we just held on to each other. Not out of some master plan to never lose touch, but because we liked each other. Because when we meet up we get a break, a laugh, a chance to be our true selves together before rushing back off into the real world, the one we were imagining that summer, the one that we never seem prepared for.

The one that’s a lot easier with these friends on the other end of the line.

We’re scattered all over the mid-west now, married or paired off or single, but we meet up when we can. Just a few weeks ago it was flinging ourselves down a mountain in Colorado.

It seems we always find an excuse to drive or fly in the direction of each other.

And so I was thinking about my friends when I wrote my column this week. I was thinking about them and so I wrote about them,  but maybe didn’t get to say exactly what I wanted to say in the end. Because it turns out it’s hard to conjure up words to describe how lucky I am to have found a set of people who are just so perfectly themselves that they make me believe in all different kinds of love.

And in summers that can change your life…

Coming Home: Stepping stone job fosters lifetime of friendship
by Jessie Veeder
4-12-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Sunday Column: Thousands of miles away…


January is a tough month for us here in North Dakota. It’s smack in the middle of winter. It’s generally the coldest, the days are the shortest and the holidays are behind us…ahead of us? More winter.

To combat the January blues this year we decided to to break free before the New Year and ring it in somewhere warmer, somewhere that didn’t look anything like the rolling, white and brown ice colored hills and bare trees of the winter landscape at home.

So we packed up our swimming suits and our vacation hats, gathered our friends and headed to Mexico.

On a real vacation. One that wasn’t attached to some sort of work I had to do. (Which is typically the types of vacations Husband and I do).

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I told you about it a bit, I showed you the juxtaposition of it all in a slideshow of contrasting photos of bare skin and snowsuits.

But there was more to say about it I think. More to say about a chance to break free for a moment…

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It’s funny how a few days in a world so different, so far away from our own, sort of pulls you out of place, your own place, sweeps you off your feet, widens your eyes and lets down your hair.

But it wasn’t long before I started wondering what it might be like to really live there, on a place that touches the ocean. A place where cactuses stretch their arms to the sky and the wind blows sea salt and sand up on the shore, a place with sea fisherman instead of oil men.

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Who would I be here in this sand, under this sun? What would I love?

What would I do?

Coming Home: Finding yourself thousands of miles from home
Jessie Veeder
1-18-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

This week I’m back in Nashville, working on finishing up the new album. I’ll spend my days listening to instruments–dobros and guitars, fiddles and harmonies, fill up the spaces in my songs, songs about work and worry and love and landscape.

Songs about horses and home.

And I will sing and sing and sing to get every word right.

That’s the work I’ll do this week, hundreds and hundreds of miles from the buttes and the place that raised me…and I am so grateful for it.

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

 

 

“Cow Dog,” defined

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You all know this about me, but I grew up with dogs who slept in barns and garages, on hay bales and under heat lamps. They were the first to go into the brush after a wayward, ornery bull and the first to be there to lick your face and give you a nudge when you fell of your bike and skinned your knee.

They were cow dogs. Working dogs. Partners.

They chased field mice, got in fights with raccoons, rolled in cow poop, howled with the coyotes and rode in the back of pickups.

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In various stages of my life out here we had a border collie, a blue heeler, a kelpie, an Australian shepherd and mix of a few.

This place is hard on dogs it’s wild and dangerous and full of just the kind of trouble that makes life worth living of dogs like these, so, unfortunately, some of our beloved canines, due to snake bite or bull fight, didn’t make it to old age. 

But regardless, I am almost certain they had the best lives for them out here. They were made for this place, as tough as the ground they run across.

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As a kid I knew inside dogs existed, I just didn’t know anyone who had one. I knew there were dogs who wore sweaters and had their own place on couches, but, it was like how I knew a million dollars existed somewhere, it knew it was true, I’d just never seen it.

In a few weeks, Husband and I are going to bring home our first real cow dog. I am so excited I’m counting down the days.

Here he is on the bottom, left side of the pile.

I’d tell you his name, but, well, last night we had a lengthy discussion on that topic that I won’t get into, but it got pretty heated. Good thing we have a some time to get this all worked out.

Anyway, I was thinking about this little guy and how he’s going to change the make-up of this place. And how his makeup: border collie, heeler, kelpie, Australian shepherd and Catahoula, is the make-up of all of the best cow dogs a girl could ever ask for…

And how he’s the same animal as that big brown dog laying out in the garage, snoring away a rainy October day, but how they might as well be a different species.

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The biggest difference? With a cow dog in the family standing guard in the yard, a herd of cattle will find it pretty hard to stand and chew cud on my new concrete patio.

Because labs, frankly, don’t give a shit.

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And I need something out here to give a shit.

I need my little cow dog.

I can’t wait!

So in honor of Throwback Thursday I found this little gem: a declaration I made when I was 8 or so that used to hang on my grandmother’s fridge, ready to tug at the heart strings of all of the ranchers stopping by for coffee with a blue heeler-cross waiting for him in the bed of his feed pickup…and, well, to put the wayward city slicker in his place…

Country dog:city dogAs you can see, I was pretty passionate…

I promise to never put you in a sweater little guy.

But you might have a place on the couch…just for a little while…

 

Like rain in August…

It rained this morning. In August that’s a gift around here. Things have stayed green and fresh because of these little showers. So we are happy and so are the cows.

There are things in this life that are just simply good, and a rain in August in Western North Dakota is one of them.

The other is a ride through the pastures with Pops under overcast skies, checking the cows, the grass and the chokecherry crop.

There are a million chokecherries.

And you should see the raspberry bushes.

Aww, I miss summer, even when I’m in the middle of it.

I wonder how that can be? How can I be lonesome for these long days when I’m out in them, doing the things I wish to be doing when the winter drapes it’s cold arms around us and holds on for dear life.

I have done this my entire life, not just with summer, but other things as well. Like I remember distinctly laying on the floor of my grandma’s little house at the ranch, in a sunny spot after an afternoon of playing outside in the barnyard with my cousins, and feeling so content, so where I wanted to be, that I squeezed my eyes tight together and wished to never grow up…wished for time to stop…

How could I know at a such a young age that the way things were in that moment would inevitably change? How could I know enough to be sad about the fact that as it was happening it was also, slowly ending…slipping away from me into another uncertain day?

Yesterday, after my ride with Pops I came home to my Husband sitting in the Bobcat moving dirt around our house, creating a nice slope in the yard where we can plant some grass, build a fence and continue with the whole making our lives out here project.

I took a drive to the gas station and got him some fuel. I came home and helped him move boards out of the way, hauling and stacking and making plans for the next project.

It was Sunday and it was just us out there getting things done and I have always liked it that way, I’ve always liked Sundays, always wished them to be a little longer…

We’ve spent so much of our life here in the last few years planning for the future, the next project, that I am much more in love with the moments after they’ve passed than when I am in them.

And some days I just miss when it was a little simpler…when we lived in my grandmother’s house over the hill and everything was broken and tumbling down, we didn’t have enough space for our things, we had wide eyes and a few less gray hairs and the rest of our lives to look forward to, so let’s just go down to the river and go fishing…

But anyway, our lives stretch out before us every day, staring at us with ideas and procrastination and all of the things we should be doing.

Some days it’s nice to just believe that what we’re doing is what we’re supposed to be doing. And I knew it. I knew that when Pops came over on his 4-wheeler to get his dog (she decided to spend the night with us) that I should follow him down to the corrals and saddle up.

I knew that I should taste the chokecherries, even though I knew they were going to be bitter, not quite ripe for the eating.

I knew that I should get Husband a treat at the gas station, something sugary and cold to drink.

I knew that I should be standing out there in the yard with him taking directions and lifting things I am too wussy to lift.

I knew I probably shouldn’t have pointed out that my belly button was filled with dirt from all the manual labor…and then showed him…

Except I only knew after he told me I should keep that stuff to myself…but who else am I supposed to tell…that shit is funny…

And I knew that days like these, days where we get to choose what we should be doing, days where we get to make progress at building our lives, days where we get to sit on the back of a horse and ride a little further just because there’s time, are things that I’ll miss when the snow falls, my hair turns gray and they are gone from me.

Like rain in August…

I don’t want summer to end.
I don’t want to grow up.
I don’t think Husband will ever admit that he also had dirt in his belly button…

A day in the life…

And now for a day in the life of a woman who refuses to get a real, regular job and insists on taking on new activities as part of her “business plan” so she has time to take off singing, or photographing something or chasing a cow on a whim. 

Monday night, get home late from a random job shooting photos of a truck in the badlands. Husband gets home from a fireman meeting. 11 pm.  Says cows are out on the road. Call Pops, we’ll deal with it in the morning…

Tuesday morning, wake up girl, you’ve got a column to write, an interview today to meet a quick deadline and a trip to the big town to practice with the band tonight. Squeeze Husband goodbye and tell him to call if he sees the cows. I’ll go get them, you think in your early morning delusions…

But first, coffee. Ignore the dishes. I’ve heard they start doing themselves when left long enough.

Walk to the office. Clear off a spot on the desk for coffee cup. Check a few of those emails, but then get distracted by the photos of big horns I took in the badlands yesterday when I was supposed to be out scouting for places to take photos of oil trucks.

Yes. Look at these beauties…click…click…I should post these on the blog…

Phone rings. Husband says no cows in sight on the road. Decide to wait for the boys to come home to find cows. Decide it’s time to get to that column…

Stare at a blank screen for three to thirty minutes, I can’t be sure…somehow find myself watching a funny cat video on YouTube…

Focus Girl!

Type type type some musing about those damn burdock plants that will not die in our yard and how I think Husband might actually go crazy if he doesn’t get the garage doors on fast enough to prevent more barn swallows building nests and shitting on my car…then wonder how those black flies keep getting in the house…wonder if life would just be easier if we lived beside a sidewalk beside a lawn that was planted and groomable…

 

Wonder why I spent all that time trying to mow down the wild clover with Pops’ one bladed mower in our un-landscaped lawn last week only to come home the next day to Husband’s ambitious earth-moving, landscaping project turning up the freshly-mowed earth. We should really talk more…

Seems like an earth-shattering piece of journalism here…

Say “Shit” because it’s already noon and I have to tame my hair and get out the door in 15 minutes for an interview down the road about 30 miles. Run upstairs, decide hair is untamable, put it in a ponytail, brush teeth, deodorant, grab camera, pen, paper, check dog and cat bowl for proper levels of food on my way out the door…

Turn on radio, open windows, cruise down the gravel road with dust flying…wait. Cows. Those are our cows. Great…pull over so I can get a closer look…curse my flippy floppies as I trudge through poky grass …yup, those are ours. Call Husband. Let him know I’ve found the cows. Talk about when he’ll be home to help me…

Get back in car. Call interviewee to tell her I’m running late. Get to appointment, have a nice chat, stop for gas and a bag of Cheetos because I forgot to eat lunch.

Point car back toward home. Decide Cheetos are a terrible choice for lunch. Drive by where cows used to be and fail to see any cows. Decide to wait for the boys to come home.

Arrive at home. Start writing story. Respond to text saying Little Sister is at the barn scouting out wedding sites. Say I have to wait for a phone call but I’ll meet her down there.

Get phone call to tell me my phone call is cancelled. It’s now 4:00. Cool. I think I have time to catch horses and get cows in before I have to head to the big town to practice at 7. Get on 4-wheeler. Hope it starts. Call Husband to remind me how to put the damn thing in reverse. I can never remember. I should make a note and tape it to the seat.

Head down to the barn and say hi to Little Sister. Convince her to help me catch the horses. I swear I just saw them on the side hill. She can hold the grain bucket while I drive. It will take three minutes.

30 minutes, three Little Sister screams concerning the safety of her life on the back of the 4-wheeler, 3,000 horsefly bites and countless cuss words from yours-truly later, still no horses in site.

Go up one more hill…shit…4-wheeler is acting up again…it’s powering down…didn’t the boys change the fuel filter? Nothing? Sister squeal. Dammit. Shit. Dammit. Shit…

See if we can get the thing home…come on you piece of crap…

Make it through the gate to the big corral and that’s it. 4-Wheeler stall. Little Sister departs. I cuss and get in the pickup with the grain bucket. The horses must be in the trees. Text Husband.

Damn Horses. Damn 4-wheeler.

Husband calls. He’ll be home in 10 minutes. Make a goal to have horses in in 10 minutes. Drive old pickup around the corner. Spot the paint in the trees. Awesome. Yell “Come on Boys!” out the window of the pickup where I  am dangling a grain bucket. Horses come running.

Finally.

Get them in the round pen. Wonder why the easiest ones to catch are the ones we don’t want to ride. Give them a bite of grain (because I’m not a tease) and catch the two bays. Brush. Fly Spray. Saddle up.

5:30 PM.

Shit. I have to leave here in an hour.

Decide to trailer to the cows. Hold horses while Husband gets the pickup hooked up the trailer. Think that he’s moving sort of slow for someone who’s wife is in a hurry. Tap my toe. Hold my tongue.

Finally.

Load up the horses. Follow him in the pickup so I have a quicker way home if things go south.

Drive down the gravel road, spot a cow and a calf. Pull over. Wave to Husband who pulls in.

6:00 PM

Unload the horses, swing on and head for the cow who has magically disappeared. Take a route through a big tree row while Husband swings around. Try to keep horse from eating every damn piece of grass that touches his nose. Swat at the horseflies. Swat at the mosquitos. Wish I would have worn a long sleeve shirt.

Come out on the other end of the tree row. Spot the cows. Yell to Husband. He comes running. Notice how great the two look against the dropping sun. Wish I had my camera.

Follow the cows along the trail, up a butte, watch for holes, along the fence. Watch as they head toward the trees. Kick up the pace to head them off.  Go around the trees while Husband cuts a path behind the bovines. Watch as they all come out in an orderly fashion. Regret yelling at Husband in frustration. Apologize. Tell him he’s handsome. He tells me I should really start eating lunch. Push them through the gate to the dam.

Wonder where they got out. Ride the fence line to find out.

Declare what a nice evening this is. Swat at the horseflies biting my neck. Sweep off the swarm of gnats on my horse’s neck.

7:00 PM. Gotta go. Kick it up to a lope around the big butte to the road. Spot Pops on his 4-wheeler by the road. Stop to say high and bye. Leave the boys to chat. Lope off toward the horse trailer. Load up the bay. Get in the pickup head to the house. Strip off my clothes on the way up the stairs. Change into clean stuff. Look in the mirror, ah what the hell. Run downstairs, grab my guitar and head out to the highway.

Text band tell them I’ll be late. Just a half-hour.

7:30 PM

Turn up radio, roll windows down, drive…stop for gas station pizza, rethink my diet plan, get to town. 8:30.

Tune guitar. Promise to learn new songs. Make plan for next show. Laugh. Sing. See you later guys.

11:30 PM.

Get in car. Radio on. Windows up. Head home, bugs smashing on my windshield. Headlights pointing toward the badlands. Pull into the doorless garage, trudge up steps, pull off clothes, land in bed.

1 AM

Breathe. Think I should get a real job. Think life would be easier. Think I’ll think about it tomorrow. Think that was fun…

 

 

 

With that boy…

It’s Saturday and the wind is howling like 50 miles per hour out there. I just spent a good five hours out in it doing the one thing that makes the most sense in 50 mile an hour wind–cleaning up and hauling construction materials out of the yard.

Half of the earth is in my ear…

The other half? In my eyeballs.

Husband and I are on the down hill slope of this home construction project. Which means, when I look around I only see about another year or seven of work left…which isn’t too bad considering we started this project three years ago with a a pretty clear idea that we will be working on this house for the rest of our lives.

But here I am on a Saturday and I can tell you this: there’s trim in the living room.

And base boards. And outlet covers.

So pretty much we’re fancy now.

Except for the air compressor in the master bedroom.

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you that I’ve started hanging things on the walls. This is a huge step for me.

I haven’t committed to the whole wall-hanging/decorating ritual since I moved into my first apartment in college, so this is a big deal.

For those of you who are new here, I’ll refresh you. Husband and I have been married for seven years.

Six out of those seven years have involved some sort of major home/rental construction renovation project, and saw dust and tools on pretty much every surface of the house for months on end. (Oh, and scary ladder projects…)

So you see where I’m coming from.

Anyway, I don’t know why I felt compelled to sit down at the computer on a perfectly, unbearably windy Saturday at the ranch to tell you this, except that I felt like I wanted to say that, yes, the wind is blowing 50 miles per hour out there and I just stood in it for five hours next to my husband throwing boards and boxes, bent nails and shingle cuttings and pieces of plywood and house wrap and leftover pieces of our work into the back of the old green pickup that guy bought in college when we were broke as hell.

I bent down and stood up seven million times. I hauled pallets and filled buckets with tiny little squares of wood and screws. I told him I’m glad we kept this pickup. I told him that this job sucks as he threw a giant piece of plywood over a pile in the pickup box that was dangerously close to toppling over and then I got in the passenger seat as we drove to unload that dangerous pile, chasing after stray particle boards and escaped pieces of plastic flying in the tornado like winds before we went back to do another load.

And another.

And another.

He told me he wished it was summer so that when he lifted these boards he might find a salamander or two.

Salamanders are like tiny water dragons he said.

You’re a dork, I said.

And then I said I wished it was summer too.

We always wish it was summer around here.

And the job, the chore itself, it sucked. And here I am now inside the house on a Saturday night with a homemade pizza waiting to be put in the oven and a husband worn out and sorta snoring on the easy chair…

The evening is mine now.

I can do anything with it.

And I’m sorta wishing we were still out there throwing boards into the back of that green pickup.

And I don’t know why that is except that I would do anything with that boy.

I have just always wanted to do anything with that boy…

 

Feeding Hay

It doesn’t say so on the calendar, but the temperatures and blowing snow make it perfectly clear.

Winter is here.

And because we still have some cows around, this means feeding hay and breaking ice for the animals.

When I was growing up we had cattle every winter. And every evening after my dad came home from his work in town, often after the sun had gone down, I would bundle up in my coveralls and beanie, and sit beside him in the feed pickup as he rolled out bales for the cows.

It was always one of my favorite chores for a lot of reasons. The pickup had heat, so that was one of them. I got to sit bundled up and watch the cows come in from the hills in a nice straight, black line.

When we would feed cake or grain, I got to drive the pickup while Pops shoveled it out the back. He would put it in low and release the clutch and tell me to keep it out of the trees. My nose would barely reach over the steering wheel, but I felt helpful and I liked it.

And I liked the way the hay smelled when it unrolled from the back of the pickup, like it had kept some summer underneath its layers.

There’s something about an everyday chore like this that is sort of comforting. Maybe it’s the knowing that you’re a necessary part of the order of things. Knowing that you’re responsible.

It’s the taking care I think.

These cows are heading to different pastures next week, leaving these prairie pastures to the horses.

So I was glad to get one last feed in with the ladies.

Bon appetit fine gals. I’ll miss taking care of you!

Why I’m here.

We were out late last night working cattle.

And by late, I mean after dark.

And by after dark I mean, a sliver of a moon, a thousand stars, 50 head of black cattle, five people and one flashlight.

No, it’s not all raspberry picking, sunflowers and margaritas on the deck out here.

Sometimes we have to get Western.

And when all available cowboys and cowhands have jobs and responsibilities in the sweet and useful hours of the day, sometimes we find ourselves chasing the sun while we’re chasing the cows.

It’s difficult. Since moving back to the ranch two summers ago I’ve learned a lot of things. I’ve learned how to can a tomato, tile a shower, where to find a missing pug, how make a meal from what I have in my pantry because I’ve got no choice, I’m not driving to town, how to kill a burdock plant, what time of day makes the most magical photos and how long I can go without taking a shower before the neighbors start to complain…

But above all of that, mostly I’ve learned there aren’t enough hours in the day.

And I don’t know how Pops has done it all these years.

Ranching is a full time job. It’s not just about watching them graze in the pasture and riding through them like the Man from Snowy River every once in a while to get your cowboy fix. You have to feed them, move them, watch the water, watch for illness, doctor, move them again, find them when they’re out, fix the fence, move them, fix the fence, patch up corrals, bring them home, let the bulls out, get the bulls in, roundup, doctor, wean the babies, fix the fence, get a plan for hay, move the hay, feed the hay, break the ice on the stock dam and check them every day.

My dad has always had two full time jobs, one of them being ranching. His goal was to keep this place in the family and, during that time, that was the only choice. He would come home from work in the winter and I would bundle up in my Carharts and we would roll a bale out for the cattle in the freezing cold, nearly dark landscape. Sometimes I would drive the pickup while he scooped out cake or grain for a line of cattle trailing behind in the falling snow.

In the spring we would drive out and watch for calves being born. I would sit in the pickup as he braved the wrath of momma while he tagged and checked the baby.

There was more than one time that momma won the battle.

Summers were spent riding horses and moving pastures.

Fall was roundup and time spent in the pickup on the way to the sale barn.

And then he’d do it over again.

Every memory of being a side-kick ranch kid was one I hold close to me as part of my makeup, no matter the fact that I likely wasn’t one bit of help, except maybe that driving part.

And I like to think I’m good company.

I’ve been bucked off, had my fingers smashed, broken bones and cried out of frustration when facing a seemingly impossible task.

Ranching is not a job for the weak, and often I wondered (and I still wonder) if I’m made up of the things my father is made up of.

Why all of those years of long hours in town and late nights? Why not a house in town with a lawn, beer with the guys on Friday nights, golf on Saturday?

I never asked him because it’s a stupid question.

I’ve never asked him because I know the answer.

I’ll tell you here, but I have to do it  quickly, because in an hour, we have to be home from town and saddled up. We have to bring more cows home and it’s gets dark earlier every night.

So here’s what he’d say:

This is it for me. Give me the beaches of the Caribbean, the steep mountains of Montana, give me perfect city streets laid out and predictable, give me the cactus and mysterious heat of the dessert, give me the shores of the mighty Missouri, the fjords of my grandparents’ homeland and I will say they are good.

I will tell you they’re beautiful.

I have seen them and I believe that’s true.

But I would not trade one day out in these pastures for a lifetime on those beaches, even if it means broken tractors and working until midnight with no light but the stars.

And I don’t know what else to say about it except this is my home and I will do what it takes to make sure that it stays the truth.

And that’s why I’m here.