Veeder: This is the life we chose
“Well, I guess this is the life I chose,” he said as he pulled on his boots and headed out the door. “Work all day in 100 degrees so I can come home and work all night in it.”
Yup. That’s the story out here on the ranch where we can’t quit our day jobs. And on evenings when the wind settles down and the sun sets just right on cows grazing on green grass in their proper places, it feels pretty dang good.
But then there are days like today where you wonder if you might be able to fry an egg on the back of those black cows and the tractor won’t start and you just roll up your sleeves, wipe the sweat, crawl back under the tractor and hope to hell in those 10 minutes of scratching your head that you’ve magically developed the necessary mechanic skills and do what you gotta do.
Rain or shine. That’s what they say. Whoever coined that phrase obviously didn’t live in North Dakota. If they did, they would’ve likely added a few more elements – like hail – or 50 mph winds – or blinding, subzero blizzards. I get that about this place. And I get that about the work.
But what’s been amusing me lately is the fact that up here we seem to apply the same motto to the idea of fun. Because it’s summer here, and dangit, we’re gonna stand in the street with a beer and listen to this band regardless of the fact that it’s 40 degrees and sleeting. It’s JUNE! We only have three months to fit in all of our outdoor activities, people!
Just a few weeks ago I went to my niece’s softball game where we all wore gloves and beanies and sat in lawn chairs under blankets while we watched the cold wind whip these poor children to a misery, and I couldn’t help but wonder at what point we stop referring to this as a fun and games.
Don’t even get me started on the memories I have of monsoon rain turning high school rodeo arenas into soup while our mothers sat steadfast, writing scores on soggy programs shielded from the brutal weather only by visors and the slicker that’s been sitting at the bottom of the horse trailer since last year’s rodeo in Elgin.
Oh, I come by this observation honestly. As a musician who’s spends her summers singing on flatbed trailers in my home state in the name of a festival, I’ve feel I’ve been with you through it all. But nothing sums up the insanity of our people better than the view I had from the stage on the Capitol grounds on the 125th birthday of our great state a few years back. As the rain shot sideways into my eyeballs, I sang “Red River Valley” to a crowd of diehard North Dakota neighbors as they swayed back and forth under umbrellas and make-shift newspaper hats and I wondered if this is how I might go out, electrocuted by my soaking microphone – because 100 degrees or pouring rain, this is the life we chose.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband and daughter on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. She blogs at veederranch.com. Readers can reach her at email@example.com.
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