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Jessie Veeder, Published April 05 2014

Coming Home: Yellow boat never meant for fishing

Over the hill in the barnyard and behind the old garage, covered by a tarp and a fresh dusting of spring snow, sits a little yellow boat on a little trailer.

I want to talk about this boat because it’s April now, and it’s time to start making plans to cast a catfish line, pull on some cutoffs and grill something, already.

It’s time now, to stop it with the snow.

And I want to talk about this boat because I want to talk about boy I once knew who spent hours in the garage with his dad, sanding, scraping, painting and turning the remnants of an old wood and fiberglass flat bottom custom junkyard find into an 11 foot by 6 foot piece of bright yellow marine-time dream come true with a 40 horse Johnson, quite a mighty motor for a boat that small.

A boat they were planning to turn into a legend, buzzing around Lake Sakakawea and turning heads.

And as soon as the yellow paint dried, that’s exactly what they did. Father and son proudly loaded it up in the trailer and headed to the big water, visions of speed and notoriety bouncing between them in the pickup before they plopped that boat in the water and squeezed in side-by-side, shoulders squished together, chins almost resting on their knees as they reaped the benefits of the many hours spent on dry land turning a relic into a masterpiece.

They pushed it to its limits, testing what it had, wondering if they never slowed down if they might just keep going forever, out toward the buttes that hold the lake in place, to the river and then into the ocean, a man and a boy in a tiny yellow boat they made together after the sun went down on their real lives and that boat turned into all that mattered between them…

But boys need to become men on their own time, so they brought that boat to shore so that boy could drive his old Thunderbird out of the driveway to the highway that would take him away and back again to live on a ranch by that lake with a girl who used to sit beside him in that old car when he drove too fast and played his music too loud.

But until I married that boy, I never sat beside him in that yellow boat. Until one day, when I came home to find my new husband holding a fishing pole and a tiny cooler of beer and a container of worms.

“We’re going fishing,” he said.

And off we went on a hot July evening, the windows rolled down on the little white pickup as we followed the prairie trail down to our secret spot on the lake below the buttes. A place without a boat ramp, a picnic table or any sign of human life.

My new husband and I pushed that little boat in the water, navigating the deep mud on the banks of the lake before we jumped in and sat back to back with our poles in the water, the little cooler on my lap, trolling the shores for hours without a bite before the sun threatened to drop below the horizon, convincing us to call it a night.

Funny how fast night came then, when my husband, in an attempt to hook up that little boat and pull us all back home, backed up just a bit too far and, well, there we were in our secret fishing spot stuck in the mud up to the floorboards, miles from the highway, cell phone reception or any sign of human life.

And there are many relics on this place. Old tractors, used-up pickups, tires and spare parts that need to be hauled away and given new life. But over the hill in the barnyard, covered by a tarp and a fresh dusting of spring snow sits a little yellow boat on a little trailer that was never meant for fishing … in fact, now that I think of it, that boat might not have been made for anything really, except to be made.


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.