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Published August 24, 2013, 10:00 PM

Coming Home: Whether it poured or sprinkled, birth story holds truth

It’s late summer and the grass is tall. It scratches my bare legs as I walk on the two-track road up to the hayfield. I wear shorts because it’s summer, it’s hot and there aren’t many more moments these legs will get to see the light of day.

By: Jessie Veeder, INFORUM

It’s late summer and the grass is tall. It scratches my bare legs as I walk on the two-track road up to the hayfield. I wear shorts because it’s summer, it’s hot and there aren’t many more moments these legs will get to see the light of day.

I regret it though, especially when the grasshoppers fling their bodies to the sky in an attempt to get to the next leafy weed and land their sticky legs on my skin.

I still don’t understand how they just come out of nowhere, appearing with the wasps and the black flies and the burdock full grown out of the ground at the first wave of heat, making the grass buzz and hum and move.

I used to think the hoppers were snakes. Can’t you hear it, the way they sort of make eerie, rattling noises that can’t be pinpointed to an exact location in the rocks and hills? I would walk out into the pastures, making sure the dog was ahead of me. If she wasn’t concerned then I decided to follow suit.

That was before my ears were trained to hear a real rattler. Before I knew better.

I know better now. And I know when the grasshoppers show up, like the gold on the wheat, the stacks of baled hay, the dust of the combine and the wild sunflowers in ditches, that I will soon turn another year older.

The dusty, scratchy, heat of late summer is my season, and each year I am reminded of the drought of 1983. The summer I was born.

My father loves to tell the story. He says that summer no rain fell for months. At that time, his family of three was living on the ranch down the road from my grandparents, trying to run cattle and put up hay and make enough of a living to make staying worth it. The dusty, dry conditions made the landscape and those depending on it desperate for a drop of moisture.

And like the rain, I was late. Like weeks and weeks late. So my dad drove my mother around on this bumpy hayfield in the 100-degree heat to encourage my arrival and then the 30 miles to town on the day I decided to be born.

I was delivered by an old Norwegian doctor with a thick accent in a small hospital in my hometown. And as the story goes, or how my dad likes to tell it, he picked me up in his arms, looked out the window and it was raining.

Now I know all the shades of purple on an alfalfa plant and what they feel like against the bare skin of my legs. I know the grasshoppers and how the sound of a rattler prickles the hair up on the back of my neck. I know 100 degrees and the sigh of relief that fills my lungs at the smell of a late summer storm.

I know all about August.

But I don’t know if the rain the day I was born was enough to change anything for my parents or my grandparents, the hay crop or the dry stock dams. My father said it poured, but it might have just felt that way to him standing next to my mother and my sister, holding on tight to a life they imagined, counting fingers and toes on this brand new little person they waited so long to meet.

No, the details don’t matter much to me. Neither does the truth really. But to hear that I came with the rain is a sweet and magical story of arrival that has bound me tighter to this place with each retelling, until I believed that I could have just sprung from the dirt myself – like the hay crop and snakes, sunflowers in the ditches, black flies and tall grass where the hoppers fly in the heat and the dust of our season.

Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at jessieveeder@gmail.com.

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