Weather Forecast


COMING HOME: There’s always a way for dreams to come true

WATFORD CITY, N.D. -- She stood on the edge of a stage facing a dimmed room. In the back, the coffee had been poured, the sugar cookies placed neatly on colorful napkins, and now it was show time. So the mothers clutched their cameras, the dads shushed the children and the grandmothers with purses on their laps clapped their hands as their granddaughters dressed in tutus and nervous smiles took their place on the stage.

My big sister has always dreamed of opening a dance studio. She’s lived in Grand Forks and Olympia and Seattle. She taught dance in some of these places. She worked in jobs she liked just fine. She went to concerts and sipped coffee at coffee shops and strolled along sidewalks in her perfectly polished vintage thrift-store dress and size-tiny Mary Janes.

My big sister is tiny. Elegant. Graceful. A dancer.

Six years ago she moved back home to Watford City. Sometimes home is the best place to move forward. Or start over.   

And there are plenty of people in our hometown who have come here to move forward. To start over. We look around and we can relate to some of it, only we’re the lucky ones because we have each other here. When my big sister moved back, she had her dad behind the wheel of his ranch pickup pulling a rented U-Haul, and she had me helping figure out how you make a cat relieve himself on a lawn outside a Holiday Inn in the middle of America with hundreds more miles to go.

When she made it back to North Dakota after all those years being gone, she had Mom, who was worried, so she made a couple pans of brownies, and she had a baby sister on the cusp of graduating from high school, so there were plenty of basketball games, dances requiring new dresses and ceremonious occasions to fuss over.

Never in my life did I think we would all be here in our hometown together, our little sister wrangling and shushing the tiny ballet dancers in the back room while they wait for their turn to go on, our mother selling tickets and handing out programs at the door, our dad playing Spider-Man with his grandson in the corner and me pushing play on “Twinkle, Twinkle” at the cue of my big sister, who just announced her first group of tiny dancers.

Because my big sister has always wanted to open a dance studio, and there we all were on a Saturday afternoon, cheering her on at her big recital. And it didn’t matter that in this boomtown there wasn’t one available or an affordable building for something like this.

It didn’t matter because there were others who wanted little girls and boys to learn how to dance as much as my big sister wanted to teach them, so after months of talking and spreading the word, a local organization offered up a space where the twirling ballerinas could learn, and my big sister went to work.

This is the Boomtown I know. Dozens of buildings under construction – schools, the courthouse, city hall, hospitals, housing and roads to get us in and out of this place, projects piling up and dust flying based on needs voiced and negotiated around boardroom tables, kitchen tables and branding fires.

And then, along the sidewalks and between these busy city streets, there are the dads who want to teach their kids to play soccer, so they call up the neighbors and gather in an empty lot to practice. The librarian who helps guests look for jobs. The church that hosts weekly free food and clothing drives in the parking lot.

The women who coordinated an entire community to come out on Saturday and clean the ditches.

The ballerinas, twirling and clapping under a makeshift spotlight while the world outside works on coming home or starting over, fixing something old and building something new.

And then there she is, in her perfectly polished vintage thrift-store dress and size-tiny Mary Janes, an elegant woman standing on the edge of the stage dancing along in case they forget, showing us all that when it’s time to dance, there’s always a way.

Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at