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Published September 21, 2013, 10:00 PM

Coming Home: ‘Beautification project’ begins on ranch

On every farm or ranch there’s a place where old cars, pickups, tractors, augers and lawnmowers go to their semi-final resting place.

By: Jessie Veeder, INFORUM

On every farm or ranch there’s a place where old cars, pickups, tractors, augers and lawnmowers go to their semi-final resting place.

And I say semi-final because eventually, even if it’s 60 years later, some naïve relative will want to hold a family reunion/wedding/ /funeral/potluck at the farmstead, build a house in or near the old junkyard or just get a wild and delusional idea that he or she might be helpful in organizing a “homestead beautification project.”

All scenarios call for the removal of the rusty relics, and all the crazy and naïve souls mentioned above are me.

I’m the event planner.

I wanted to build my house in the junkyard.

I’m the delusional helper.

Because next year the Veeder Ranch will celebrate 100 years of being the Veeder Ranch, and despite the memories that old machinery might hold, it’s time to assess the situation.

It’s time to revamp, to build new corrals, to make a decision about the old red barn and its crumbling foundation and leaky roof. It’s time to finish this house and string new wire for the fences.

It’s time to tear down that old garage.

It’s time to clean up.

So, goodbye old brown ’78 Dodge Ram. I remember when you were our fancy pickup. I remember how I used to scream in frustration at your sticky gears, red faced as I learned to drive stick shift. I hated you then.

But loved you when you took me to my first high school rodeo, the one where I rode the ranch horse through the barrel pattern and then tied her up to the trailer only to find she got loose and was running down the highway.

I left for college, and you were running like a champ.

I came back, and you were at the bottom of the hill.

Rest easy, brother.

Goodbye, replacement Dodge. In my life you could only be counted on to leave us stranded in coulees and on windy flats miles away from the barnyard. Somehow the only way to keep you running was to keep you floored over cow poop and clay buttes, hollering with the windows rolled down. To drive you meant full speed ahead, knowing that if we turned you off, you may never start again.

Looks like you never did.

And you. The old International. You’re from a different time.

I never heard your gears grind or your engine rev. I only knew you as an artifact, a symbol of my great-grandfather’s presence on this place, a load of wood waiting in your box, as if someone was sure to come back to finish their work for the day and put you in the shop. I find it hard to part with you. In fact, I don’t think I will. It seems you’ve earned your place here. Maybe one day I’ll find someone to fix you up. Maybe one day you could run again?

Maybe.

And goodbye to Pops’ first riding lawnmower, the one he attempted to use to mow down the entire coulee in front of our house, so excited and funny-looking sitting in his cowboy hat among the grass reaching up over his head. No wonder that little machine died before its time. Yes, you will be leaving us too.

Along with the old augers my cousins and I used to pretend were dinosaurs, the combines that acted as ships on a sea of clover, the car with wings.

Yes, this is us, making plans and taking little pieces of this place, the history and stories, up from the coulee and down from the hilltops where they might have sat until they rusted away and got lost in the grass and mangle of brush for the next 100 years.

I’m not sure why we’re so compelled, except a place like this needs to be cared for and tidied up so that we can work and play and be proud of it. We can’t be expected to hold on to bolts, iron and steel for the sake of memory can we?

Because this is our semi-final resting place too.

I just hope we weather time as well as these old beasts we’re finally laying to rest.

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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