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Jessie Veeder, Published March 30 2013

Veeder: Country living makes friends as neighbors a necessity

I sat in the passenger seat of my friend’s big Ford pickup as she pulled up outside the front door of the local pizza place. We were stopping to grab dinner on our way home from a photo shoot, a job we took as part of a business venture we started together to foster our love of photography and to fill a need in our community.

In the year we’ve been in business we’ve learned quite a bit about one another, mainly that it isn’t a good days’ work until one of us clumsy, frizzy haired friends trips on her own feet, drops a camera or dangles dangerously from a ladder. So we weren’t surprised when we pulled up to the restaurant we couldn’t get the doors of the pickup to open.

Not one of them would budge.

Really.

So there we were, stuck in the pickup in the middle of the 6 p.m. dinner rush with dozens of working men sauntering by to grab a burger and watch the spectacle ensue from the big picture window facing the parking lot. Between fits of laughter and declaration of hunger, we tried our best, but there was only one option left – I rolled down the window and climbed out, scaling and shimmying my body down the perpetually locked and mud-caked door until my feet hit the ground. I brushed myself off, ran inside, grabbed our pizzas and, mumbling, legs flailing, butt in the air, hoisted myself back up through the window of that giant pickup.

We had 15 miles left of our trip together, and we didn’t stop laughing the entire way.

Megan is my business partner, my friend and most importantly, my neighbor.

When my husband and I moved all our earthly possessions into the little ranch house a few years ago, Megan and her husband were doing the same thing on a little homestead they purchased about eight miles to the north.

Every time the phone rings and she’s on the other line I’m thankful there’s a young woman like me out here crazy enough to survive life with a similarly stoic husband, similarly ambitious ranch renovation plans and not a spa day in sight.

Needless to say we have plenty to talk about.

See, I love the landscape and Megan loves the history found in the old houses left along familiar roads. When we’re driving the countryside together we wonder how homestead families survived out here without internet shopping, the Schwann’s Man, and, if we’re getting really rustic, indoor plumbing or telephones.

See, we both find a sort of rhythm and peace in the isolation of rural living, but when the snow falls for the fourth day in a row and you find yourself stranded on a Saturday night faced with the realization that you’ve just run out of toilet paper, sometimes the only one who can rescue you is the neighbor woman.

I think that’s one thing that hasn’t changed through the years.

That summer we moved our lives to the ranch I received a call from a woman who shared how my grandmother helped make her life a little easier as a newlywed transplanted to the isolated buttes of western North Dakota by stopping over to talk about gardening, share a recipe or offer help during harvest. She said she appreciated the connection from a woman who knew what this life was about and was willing to share it.

I thought about that story when I first met Megan and I thought about the neighbor women who helped my own mother adjust from life along sidewalks to dusty scoria roads. Because the women, like my grandmother, who supported my mother supported me, too, a realization that didn’t come until that call to Megan turned into a friendship I vow not to take for granted.

Because that friendship means I’m not the only clumsy, frizzy haired woman living out in the middle of nowhere who wonders about old houses and who can totally relate to the toilet paper incident.

And sometimes it means climbing out the window of a Ford pickup in the middle of boomtown to get the pizza and laughing at the absurdity of it all.

This column was written exclusively for The Forum.

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.