Coming Home: Stories ride in on Pops’ old motorcycleI can’t talk about the ranch without talking about my dad. Pops is such a fixture on this landscape that it seems he’s woven into every story, every memory and every mishap I recall, like that oak tree in the yard.
By: Jessie Veeder, INFORUM
I can’t talk about the ranch without talking about my dad.
Pops is such a fixture on this landscape that it seems he’s woven into every story, every memory and every mishap I recall, like that oak tree in the yard.
Except my dad isn’t necessarily as inconspicuous.
No. The man knows every trail through the trees, every cut across, every gate, every spring and every missing tractor part and where he thought he might have lost it – but dang if he hasn’t gone back there to look.
Every story that may have bounced off of the landscape and landed in his memory, our dad is willing to tell. It spills out of him effortlessly and willingly while we’re riding through a pasture, fixing a water tank or having a cup of coffee at his mother’s old table I use as our own, as if the smell of cool coulees, the turning of the wrench, the feel of the smooth oak under his palm generates a memory he thinks would be unjust if untold.
See, our dad is a natural entertainer, a good conversationalist, a guy who likes to visit. I think of his stories as an instinct passed down to him from a long line of BSers.
I can’t remember a time any of his girls rolled their eyes at another recount of his childhood stories. When you have a dad with that sort of enthusiasm, a kid would be crazy stop it.
Truth is, I think we liked to picture our father as a little kid, getting bucked off his pony, Bugger, and then stomping back to the house after that pony ate his hat. Learning about his pet crow, his old dog, Jiggs, and the embarrassing plaid polyester suit his mom sewed for him transformed him into a character, made us laugh and helped us understand him.
Up until the past few weeks, we thought we’d heard it all from that man. We thought we knew about the buck-offs, the skinned knees, the horses he broke and the mayhem he and his little brother caused on that farmstead below the buttes.
Then a coworker showed up to his office with a ’75 Honda Trail 90, and it was like the pages flew out of an encyclopedia of missing facts, figures and stories from our dad’s childhood, as if all other tales he told us were just fillers between the parts where he rode wild, free and reckless on that old Trail 90.
For weeks, that little orange motorcycle was all dad could talk about: how he used to ride it to check the cows before school; how he raced it with the neighbor kid and ended up in a coulee with a concussion; how he used to ride it to the top of that hill and just sit there and think; how he always wished he had it back again.
And now there it was before him, almost an exact replica of his childhood memories. He offered to buy it, but it wasn’t for sale. He looked it up online. He showed us pictures. He told us more stories.
He wished he had one.
Well, what do you do with a man so impassioned by such an object of nostalgia, a man who would give you the shirt off of his back while telling you about the shirt, how it was a good one, the best one he owns really?
You find a way to buy him a Honda Trail 90.
So that’s what we did, the girls and our men. We pooled our money to buy him his bike, one that starts on the first try, one with the rack on the back just like he remembered, one that he can ride like the wind through the fields of his childhood home.
One that will bring back good memories.
We bought him the bike and a pink helmet just for laughs and surprised him one evening after dinner.
The look on his face was priceless, but we would have paid a million dollars for the new stories.
Come on over, I bet he’ll let you take it for a spin, and then, you know, tell you all about it.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.