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Published August 31, 2013, 10:00 PM

Coming Home: Summer can’t last as life goes on

The dust is flying on these back roads. Each truck that creeps down the long hill off the highway and chugs up the other side leaves a ribbon of hazy pink behind it.

By: Jessie Veeder, INFORUM

The dust is flying on these back roads. Each truck that creeps down the long hill off the highway and chugs up the other side leaves a ribbon of hazy pink behind it.

When the sun hits it right in the evening or in the early morning light, I can’t help but find that dust trail sort of peaceful, a reminder that we’re still on the back roads – even if the back roads aren’t so quiet any more.

Many out here would disagree with me. Most days I would, too. These scoria roads weren’t made for big tanker trucks and the 18-wheels it takes to haul black gold out from under our feet to somewhere where they turn it into money.

No. These roads were made for coming home from a rodeo in the dark with a tired horse in the trailer and a little sister sleeping with her head pressed against the window.

These roads were made for learning to drive a stick shift while dad sat in the box waiting for you to find the gear and turn off the road so he could shovel cake out to the cows.

These roads were meant for teenagers driving big cars made before they were born, looking to get just the right amount of lost, just the right amount of free.

These roads were meant for school buses with 10 seats and driven by the neighbor named George, who farms up the road and drove bus for your dad.

George had been kicking up pink ribbons that belonged only to him and that yellow bus in the early morning hours for years, pulling into yards at 7 a.m. to pick up kids with sleepy eyes, backpacks and arms wrapped around a giant project made of Popsicle sticks.

If it looked cumbersome enough, George might get out to take the project from the arms of the third grader so she would be free to safely climb the steps and take her seat next to her best friend, who had been riding the bus for a good 20 minutes already.

Because George knew from experience that transporting a Popsicle-castle on 30 miles of back roads was not a task to be taken lightly.

So that’s where that dust takes me these days in the early part of September –back to the nerve-laced days of new shoes, late summer heat waves and back-to-school – although it’s been years since a school bus has pulled into the ranch.

Six years, actually, since the last sister graduated, and my parents haven’t yet called the county to take the “School Bus Stop Ahead” sign off of the top of the hill.

Dad mentioned it the other day, and it took me a moment to realize that, of course, a sign like that would not be permanent.

There was a time I used to pray I would never grow up. I was living with my grandmother and my dad at the ranch before my mom and sisters joined us that winter. My grandfather just died, and we were moving back for good.

I was going to enroll in second grade with three other classmates in the country school 15 miles down the road, and I found myself very aware of time and what it does to the people in my life.

It makes them older. It makes them worry. It takes them away.

I would wish time to stop while my grandmother dozed in her easy chair and I lay in the late July sun streaming through the window and warming up the carpet.

But summer can’t last, and soon George and his ribbon of dust came to pick me up early that warm August morning, and every August since has reminded me that some prayers can’t be answered.

So the dust flies, but today I don’t mind if it’s off a big truck or a school bus. Maybe tonight I’ll tell dad to leave that old sign up, not because it will make the trucks or time move slower, or that it will change anything at all.

But because it will keep something the same.

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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