COMING HOME: Irresponsible girl shouldn’t be running on fumes

WATFORD CITY, N.D. -- When you live 30 miles (give or take) from the nearest gas station, a girl finds that she spends a great deal of time in her car.


WATFORD CITY, N.D. -- When you live 30 miles (give or take) from the nearest gas station, a girl finds that she spends a great deal of time in her car.

I think we’ve been over this before, but in my car at any given time, rain, snow or shine, you will find hairspray cans, pretzels, 47 half-full water bottles, 13 pairs of sunglasses, a bag of sunflower seeds, a lawn chair, a blanket, an extra pair of shoes, an extra pair of boots, an extra coat, a scarf, work gloves, three beanies, sunscreen, can cozies, a towel, 30 empty grocery bags, a Glamour magazine, chargers for every phone ever invented, piles of napkins, a horse halter and a partridge in a pear tree.

With all of the traveling I do, some weeks it seems I live in my car. Some days I might even have all three meals and every snack in between, in that car. It’s my office on wheels and my ticket to the big, wide world.

So with all I have riding on my ability to get from Point A to Point B safely and efficiently, with all the experience I have keeping it between the lines, in rain, snow or shine, you’d think I’d be an expert in my machine. You’d think I would feel every weird pull, know its clunks and quirks, keep it well-oiled and well-tuned and, at the very least, gassed up.

You’d think.


But here’s the other thing about living 30 miles (give or take) from the nearest gas station: you always have to plan 30 miles (give or take) ahead.

And I’ve never been an expert at planning ahead.

But I know better. Out here, you should always have at least a half a tank. It’s just logical.

In my defense, however, there used to be a backup tank in the farmyard until that time in high school when I hooked the hose on the back bumper of my 1983 Ford LTD and drove away with it, nozzle and all, bouncing along behind me on the gravel roads.

And that was the end of that.

So even though I like to hang on to the memories of the past, no matter how long gone, I am aware we don’t have a barnyard tank anymore.

So I shouldn’t have driven home from Killdeer the other night without gassing up. But it was cold, I was tired, and the technology we have on this newfangled car gave me confidence. It whispered, “Don’t worry, Jessie, you have a good 90 miles left on this tank,” and so I drove on, calculating the miles to the ranch from my current location and the miles to the Keene gas station that would have to follow.

But I’ve never been really good at math.


And I never made the necessary trip to Keene.

And, as it turns out, I wasn’t successful at “Plan B,” which was maneuvering the gas can in the garage well enough to actually get a drip of gas in the tank of the car.


I just dumped a bunch of gas down my leg before cussing the clock and this boondock living, running inside to change pants and declaring: “Forget it. I can make it back to Killdeer.”

And I did. I did make it to Killdeer. I’ll tell you that right now. But I’ve never held my breath so long as I watched the gas gauge drop well below “E” and the miles on that newfangled dashboard monitor count down two, then three miles at a time, until it was blinking, “RUNNING ON FUMES! STUPID, IRRESPONSIBLE GIRL, YOU’RE RUNNING ON FUMES,” when I was still 10 miles out of Killdeer.

Good thing the town’s sort of on a hill, because I’m pretty sure I rolled on up to that pump before I released my breath and thanked the gas gods for a second chance.

But I knew I would make it. I mean, I never haven’t before.

But if I didn’t, at least I carry around 47 half-full water bottles, a Glamour magazine and a can of Big Sexy Hairspray. At least I’m stocked up for any sort of disaster, including my own stupidity.


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

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