It was 175 degrees and 200 percent humidity. I knew because my hair told me soon as I sat up in bed. The higher the hair, the closer to God, and I got closer to God with each passing, sweltering hour. It was 175 degrees and 200 percent humidity, so I did what any good and reasonably sane mother would do: I loaded up the kids and went to the county fair in town. Because this was our only chance before they packed up the carnival and quilting projects, put the horses away, sold all the 4-H steers and took the show rabbits off of ice and back home to safety.
We sit at kitchen tables, on blankets in the park, around picnic tables at street fairs and on tailgates after a long morning in the field. We crack eggs in our pancake mix while we tell our kids about the time their grandmother baked coffee filters in an early morning batch, her attempt at a legendary April Fool's joke. We flip our burgers on shady decks while our friends talk about the time they got lost in Mexico City. We scoop up spoonfuls of peas and choreograph a song-and-dance routine, complete with a jazz-hand landing to convince our toddler to open her mouth.
Last night, I put the girls to bed before the sun set and headed out to the garden. It had been an entire week since I had a chance to dig in that dirt in an attempt manage my little crop of vegetables, and I could see from my window all the rain gave the weeds permission to set up shop.
"This place, there's just something about it that makes people feel like it's their own. It's special that way I think," my husband said as he pulled his pickup off the highway and onto the gravel road that leads us home to the ranch. Our girls were sleeping in the back and the sky was turning dark in anticipation of a summer storm.
Well, it's officially gardening season around here, which means the friendly competition I have with my dad about who is better at keeping the cows from eating the bean plants and pooping on the radishes has begun.
Throw open the doors and bring out that old book that props up your window. Let the sun in and the breeze blow through the house because I think spring might finally be happening after all. I wouldn't dare say for sure, except last weekend I picked some crocuses and a tick off the back of my neck, and out here those two things might be the most reliable indicators that sub-zero temps are on their way out, for a few months anyway. It's incredible what a 70-degree day will do to a person up here where winter drags its heavy feet coming and going.
Out here on the ranch there are millions of tasks that require the proper attire. When I was growing up I don't think I ever saw our neighbor out of his Carhart bibs during the winter months. He would come in for a visit and sit at the kitchen table for an hour or so looking prepared to get up and go at any moment. Which he is — prepared, reliable and fearless. We know, because we've tested him.
She was munching on a pea pod I'd plucked from the plant in front of her, her fine blonde hair escaping from the ball cap she insists on wearing backwards, rendering it completely useless for protecting her rosy cheeks from the 80 degree day. Before she finishes her first garden treat, she's reaching out her hands, mouth full, mumbling "more." I pick her two, one for each hand. Pleased, she struts across the garden in her cowboy boots and shorts, trampling over my onions on her way to see if she might get the chance to pull up an entire bean plant before her momma tells her "no!"
WATFORD CITY, N.D. — Last night, the person in front of me paid for my meal at the drive through. It had been a long Monday, and I got to the end of it only to realize I hadn't really eaten anything all day. So I went to one of the only drive-throughs in town, sacrificing nutritional value and inevitable heartburn to make sure that I didn't pass out on my drive home.
They left me with a plate of Snickerdoodles, a fridge full of half-finished dips, opened bottles of white wine, sheets to be washed and a heart full and lonesome at the same time. A group of eight of my friends made their way to the ranch from Colorado, Minnesota and eastern North Dakota last weekend, fulfilling our promise to get together once a year, no matter what, since we first met 11 years ago during a hot summer spent moving picnic tables and cutting pies at a performing arts school.