JESSIE VEEDER: Neighbors again, and ready for our next mission
WATFORD CITY, N.D. -- I used to keep a wildflower book. I was 9 or 10, and I decided somewhere in that summer that my life’s work would be collecting, identifying and pressing every blooming thing that grew on the hillsides out here.
It made me feel adventurous and smart, like I was discovering something that most people didn’t know.
I had a best friend, too. She lived about a mile up the road. And the thing about best friends is that if you have a mission, it automatically becomes hers, too, with minimal explaining.
During the summer of the wildflowers, we would ride our bikes between our two places and scan the ditches for new species, collecting them and pressing them between the pages of my parents’ 1980-something encyclopedias.
If my best friend was chasing cows or checking fences with her dad, she promised she would keep her eyes peeled for flowers we hadn’t found. Once I came over to her house to find she had the purple fluffy bloom of a thistle in a vase up on her mom’s windowsill above the sink. Somehow she’d managed to extract it from its thorny stem, and she knew where we could get another sample – if we brought our gloves this time.
It’s August, and the raspberries have ripened in the bushes, the chokecherries are growing heavy on their branches. It’s August, and I see kids putting up lemonade stands on the corners of our busy Boomtown streets.
It’s August, and the wildflowers are blooming and drying up all at once. And I’m thinking of that summer and the others I spent with my best friend setting up our own lemonade stand along the empty highway with hope that a neighbor might drive by on their way to town to pick up parts.
So we had time then, while waiting for a customer or waiting for her mom to call the neighbors and suggest a drive up to the highway, to come up with our next idea.
Maybe we should bring our moms’ blenders to the county fair, set up a booth and sell Orange Julius.
You know what we really need? A shield we can wear to keep the bugs off of our faces when we ride bikes. I think we could make one out of a ketchup bottle and dad’s old hardhat.
How could we rig up a go-cart with what we can find in the old shops around here?
And pretty soon the dollar or two we made selling lemonade to our little sisters wasn’t heartbreaking because we had plenty of better things to do around here.
There’s a little girl on the corner of Main Street who’s been selling cookies for a few days now, a homemade package for a dollar. A week ago I bought lemonade from a kid and his brother.
Kids of Boomtown.
If we were younger, my best friend and I, we set up a hot dog stand right where the lemonade stand used to sit on the highway between our two places. We would make a killing, you know, all those hungry men driving trucks on the road that used to be all ours, making noise and ruts and going to and from places we wouldn’t understand.
We might even bake cookies or sell peppers out of her mom’s garden.
But that’s not us. We weren’t the kids of Boomtown. We were kids riding bikes on quiet roads, dreaming one day we’d grow up and come back here and raise our own kids together, knowing nothing back then about jobs or money or who we would love.
Knowing nothing of Big Oil and the trucks that would make it so much easier for kids like us to spend the rest of our lives here.
Last month, that friend moved her family into a new house along that highway, just two miles away from mine, and now we’re neighbors again, two grown women, older but not much different. Full of ideas.
It feels good knowing she’s there now, where she should be, along a highway littered with wildflowers, close in case she needs me. Close and ready for our next mission.
Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.