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Veeder: A happy life starts with what you do on weekends

Jessie Veeder

Weekends around the ranch, no matter how well-intentioned and thought out, are usually pretty unpredictable.

Where some families have a nice routine that includes pancakes in the morning, taking kids to practices, catching a movie and maybe going out to eat with the family on Sunday after church, around here we try to keep our plan simple so as to not disappoint: Wake up when the sun gets up and see if we can’t get something done between the hours of sunrise and sunset.

Sometimes we rock it. Sometimes we accomplish our goals of moving cows, mowing the lawn, fixing fence, taking down the little Christmas tree or nailing something to something else in time to cook supper together and kick back with our feet up before hitting the sack.

Other times our biggest accomplishment of the weekend is getting out of our sweatpants.

And usually those Saturdays come after the Friday that the band plays in town.

Because when the band plays in town we don’t roll back to the ranch until 2 a.m.

And, well, you know what I say about 2 a.m.? Well, usually nothing because usually I’m sleeping. But if I happen to see it, I scold it. Because nothing good happens after midnight.

But making that drive to town to listen to the band play “Peaceful Easy Feeling” is worth the inevitable next day spent yawning and shuffling around the house. Especially because one of my favorite things in the world is singing with these men, my pops, our neighbor and two or sometimes three of the greatest musicians around.

Oh, and then there’s the talent that just might saunter through the back door sometimes, like the squeezebox player from New Orleans, the fiddle player from the Badlands or the bass player from the next town.

The music is always good.

And the next day after I have pulled off my boots and washed the smoke out of my hair, no matter the hour we arrived home to our bed, I am always a little rejuvenated, despite my blood-shot eyes.

See, when I was younger and looking over the edge of the nest, I only knew a few things: what it felt like to be loved and which direction my car needed to face to get me home. It seemed to be a good start.

And I had no major expectations. I didn’t see myself as a CEO of a company or a big PR executive, but I was open to the experience. I didn’t dream of climbing to the top of big mountains, but I would have taken you up on your offer. And I didn’t picture myself with 4.5 children, a white picket fence and a casserole in the oven, although I would have been happy had it turned out that way.

Casseroles weren’t something I dreamed of then.

But if I was lucky enough to catch a star falling from the sky, you know what I wished for every time?

A happy life.

Even though I had no idea what that meant, I wished for it anyway.

So here we are, a good week or so into the New Year and it turns out even our safe-haven, even the rolling hills of the ranch and dreams coming true can’t protect us from pain and uncertainties that can come creeping in under those falling stars.

I roll out of bed, trying to move through the fleeting thoughts that come with knowing there are things I can’t control.

Then I think about the music and those men who play guitar and sing while closing their eyes tight on Saturday nights at the bar in our hometown, and I’m reminded that there are things inside us that need to be nourished, things that need to be created and shared and thrown out into the night.

Things that can only be learned by learning about ourselves.

And for all the wishing on stars for a happy life, the secret to it all just might be nothing more than how we spend our weekends.

Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City. Readers can reach her at