Saturday, June 27, 2009

pee decree

The day Cowboy told me how to pee was the day I told him to curl his hair and dress in drag.

Seriously dude. Some places you just don’t go.

It all started like this:

I met up with Cowboy and some of his pals to do the traditional girl duty: Cheering on the small town softball-playing boys. Whoopie.

And when I say small town, I’m talking everyone stares because they can't figure out who I'm related to. And to add insult to injury, cell phones don’t work.

In such an awkward situation, it's customary to whip out a mobile and text.

The act of texting is like saying “Hey look, I have friends,” thereby giving the illusion of cool. But in a valley so cut off, my cell phone doesn’t even display the time of day. I’m pretty sure if I pretended to text, they’d ship me off to the dam where teens skinny dip and forbid I ever return.

And those are germs far worse than any swine flu.

Naturally, I attended the game more for the gossip and Budweiser than the game itself. But every now and then, however, I yelped helpful hints like “throw the ball” and “run faster."

Three games, 21 innings and one too many beers later, we were on the road to Cowboy’s family homestead: a lovely two-story with a big kitchen and toilets that flush. I hadn't drank that many beers, but I hadn't broken the seal either. The farm's oasis awaited me.

Full disclosure: the softball diamond had a porta potty. I admit it. But who wants to pee in a hole when a real toilet with tissue paper and anti-bacterial hand soap are just a hop, skip and 7 miles of gravel road away?

If you have to go so bad, I’ll just pull over, Cowboy said.

Do and I swear to god, these camo seat covers will need replacing, I said. If not from my urine, then from the stain of your blood.

It’s not that big of a deal. No one will come by, he said, steering towards the shoulder.

Drive this truck or I will drive it for you. And my feet don't reach the pedals, I said, wondering if public urination is an A misdemeanor or C felony and if either is worse than aggravated assault.

Yes, passing motorists would have, quite literally, scared the piss out of me. But it wasn’t even that. SO MANY MANY things are wrong with the tall-grass tinkle.

No. 1: I don’t want ANYONE to see me pee, much less someone like Cowboy who I hope sees me as pretty and attractive and super-duper suave. I don’t even let Samantha see such an act, and that girl poses for pictures with the deer she shot. And then she eats its meat. For breakfast. In fact, if I had it my way, I’d never let people know I peed at all. I’m a lady. Ladies don’t pee, or get stuck in snow or rip the crotch of their pants. Not if they expect boys in bars to buy them drinks.

No. 2: There’s an art to the woman’s wheat-field whizz, but I don’t know it. And since he’s not a girl, neither does Cowboy. Had I attempted, I’d have drenched my clothes in bodily fluids and no one likes a pants pee-er. If I’m going to be that humiliated, why don’t I just grab a church pew on Christmas morning, do my business and see if anyone mistakes the odor for frankincense and myrrh? At least then it'd be worth it.

No. 3: insects near my private areas are almost as horrifying as wearing black socks with brown shoes.

Seriously, he said, you’ve got to learn to compromise.

COMPROMISE. Seriously? You’re telling me, the girl who used to get her nails done every other week and hair highlighted every other month, to COMPROMISE?? Like I’m turning you all city without the care and decency to do one thing country? You're kidding...

Elaborate, he said.

Perhaps you've already forgotten but... Who TOUCHED a minnow last weekend? And who TORE A TICK off her own back? Who came FACE-TO-FACE WITH DEATH by the name of a .22 caliber rifle and lived to tell about it?

Let me ask you, I said, Where, in the manual of all things “this-is-how-dating-works,” does it say you are allowed to tell me when, where and how often to pee? Because I’ve read “Dating for Dummies” Vol. 1 and THAT wasn’t in there. I may have discarded enough of my city-ness to garden the country way, fish the country way and hell, you've got a farmer’s tan and I don't even make fun of you. To your face.

But I draw the line at plumbing fixtures.

The softball team lost it's game that night. But as for me, I marked a "V" in the victory column.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Company calls

I've lived here two years, but only twice have I hosted pre-Jamestown visitors. 

In July 2007, my mom stayed with me (for the opening of the new Harry Potter movie...) and my aunt and uncle (Hi Melen and Fred!!) stopped by in September that same year. This may come as a shock, but few people are willing to travel to the town that gets its bragging rights from a concrete buffalo.

So when I told my mom I was dating someone, the first word out of her mouth (after she stopped slamming her head on the wall singing "Go tell it on the Mountain") was  WhenDoYouHaveALongWeekendWeWantToComeVisit???????

See, where I come from, personal lives are private. 

So when I date people, I tend to keep it to myself. Maybe I'd tell my brother (only he truly understands) and a few friends. But people like moms, co-workers and strangers have really annoying tendencies of asking questions like "How did you meet him?" and "What does he do for a living?" I mean, Holy Peeping Tom dude! Walk in on me in the shower or something...

So when I told the mom about the Cowboy, that was the first time she'd heard me talk about dating. Ever. And I'm TWENTY-FOUR YEARS OLD. 

I guess I can understand her relief. 

Now she knows her only daughter isn't A). anti-social or B). gay (like I used to tell her to stop the incessant question asking) 

I'm still a little freaked out, however, by her sudden urge to travel north. 

So is my father. 

"You want to come to Colorado, Kate? I'll pay for your ticket. Is that what this is about?"

No dad, no. Mom's visit has NOTHING to do with me. It doesn't have much to do with you either. She just needs someone to drive so she can read and sleep in the back seat.

Good point, he said. 

I can't really feel sorry for him though. He chose her. 

Me? Let's just say if the genetically identical gap in our teeth didn't give me away, I'd tell people I'd never met the woman. And then I'd go home and eat her homemade peanut butter balls. 

I'm not sure how I'll survive the weekend my family comes to visit, but just in case, I bought a life jacket, baseball helmet and enough canned tuna to fill a fall-out shelter. North Dakota winters are bad, but this disaster could get nuclear. 

Cowboy doesn't seem to understand why I can't sleep or why I'm worried if my tetanus shots are up to date.

That's because in North Dakota, everyone already knows each other's parents. In fact, before you dated, your parents probably dated. Or if not dated, they at least went to prom together and necked in the backseat of a Bonneville or something. 

I think they'll like me, he said.

I have no doubt they'll like you, I said. My concern is whether you'll still like me.

Many a girlfriend/boyfriend/man toy has left the Ryan, Pfeiler and Pins households and NEVER RETURNED. Each disappearance can be traced back to my dad who at some point likely asked: What do you use to light your cocaine? or With which hand do you steal your whiskey?

And remember how I talk really loud and slur my words after two glasses of wine? Well, my mom gets the same way. AFTER ONE. Sometimes she gets so crazy, she whips out her camera and insists that we smile. Don't ruin the PERFECT FAMILY PHOTO, she says. 

I'm still not sure how I didn't end up with two years in jail and a GPS bracelet around my ankle. 

So today I had a serious chat with Ms. Ladyfish.  In two weeks, we may have to hoof it alone, I said, wondering if a fishing pole can both bait and unhook itself. 

She answered, but it wasn't clear. I think it was something along the lines of "Why don't you drown me in the river, I'd be happier" and "Suck one, city girl."

I may lose Cowboy in this ordeal, but Ladyfish and I, we're forever.

Friday, June 12, 2009

two years

I celebrate my second year here this month and for my anniversary, I'd like to share how I've changed. Some of it's good. Some of it's bad. Some of it it makes me want to run to the nearest metropolis and hide within its 70-story skyscrapers. 

May I present to you:

"You know you've lived in North Dakota for two years when..."

  • you own more pairs of mittens than pairs of shorts, swimwear and flip flops combined. 
  • you know what it means to "bake dirt."
  • people still stare and you and make fun of your "city girl" clothes, but now, you no longer care.
  • you can't buy groceries, drink at the bar or go for a walk without bumping into someone you know. You may have moved here knowing no one, but in two years you know EVERYONE.
  • you tell stories to people who aren't interested and who would rather not know (i.e. split-in-pants). You're justification is: everyone knows anyway, because here, everyone equals three people.
  • you've consumed and cooked kuchen, knoephla and lefse.
  • you've mastered the art of climbing through snow.... To plug your car in... In 3-inch heels.
  • you've forgotten what a Sonic Cherry Limeade tastes like.
  • subjects like native grass and animal behavior suddenly interest you.
  • you consider planting both flowers and vegetables, although you never actually do.
  • instead of calling the noon meal "lunch," you call it "dinner."
  • you begin questions with "say..." i.e. "Say Cowboy, how do you feel about allowing 12-year-olds to handle firearms?"
  • you know that North Dakota's hunting age is 14. And that they cancel school on the first day of deer season.
  • you know that Bobcats and Rhinos aren't just animals, they're also all-terrain humvees and you'd be CRAZY not to own one.
  • you don't own one. 
  • you pump your fists in excitement for the county fair.
  • leaving the windows open at night no longer scares you.
  • leaving your purse in your car no longer scares you.
  • leaving your apartment unlocked (although you'd never do it on purpose) no longer scares you

And last but not least, you know you've lived in North Dakota for two years when:

  • you launch You Tube and search "How to filet fish". 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ladyfish Shakespeare

Now that’s I’ve introduced you to Cowboy and Grandma D, I should probably introduce you to my new best friend and AWESOMEST ANGLER EVER Ladyfish Shakespeare. 

Ladyfish Shakespeare is my new fishing rod. She’s long. She’s lean. And she’s pink.

Together, we’ve caught nothing more than Lyme Disease from all the the TICKS up in our grills. 

It all started like this: 

I grew up, graduated college and moved to a cold, isolated state that celebrates winter six months a year. 

I never hated four walls until I was required to spend all my time within them. Had I stepped outside to RETRIEVE THE MAIL this winter, my toenails would catch gangrene and fall off, forcing me to feed them to Frosty, the Abominable Snowman. And his breath already reeks of funky.

So when Cowboy suggested I “so go fishing” with him and his dad, I so wanted to say, Sure, drop me at the nearest mall, please. But instead, I just said, “A’Ok.” 

Maybe it was all that refer talking.

A Twin Lake and over-flowing river (with flood water once so high, picnic tables still stick in the trees) later, me and Ladyfish have yet to catch anything more than sea salad. Although we are pretty good at that.

In fact, we took to that lake like a Northern Pike to water. The only problem was, the Northern Pike didn’t take to us. 

Northern Pike: a.k.a. “snot rocket” or literally “water wolf.” Basically, a bully of a fish that anglers rarely eat because the flesh is so boney. And while to me, not-eating-fish takes away from THE WHOLE POINT of catching them, the challenge in pike capture lies with sticking your finger in its EYEBALL. That way you don’t stick it near the fish’s fang-filled mouth.

And while I prefer to use marshmallows for bait,  Cowboy swears by minnows. With my fishing-record, however, What’s the dif? 

My 0-2 fishing record though, is not so much due to lack of skill as it is due to our natural kindness. 

See, as is Ladyfish's and my custom, we collect fish like compliments at the bar: too many to even remember.

But if we were to do that with Cowboy and his country companions, they’d surely accidentally-on-purpose back their pick ups over my 37 pairs of pink pointy-toed shoes. And WHAT WOULD I DO without them?

Ladyfish and I do other things to hide my angling agility too. Every single time and twice when no one was looking Sometimes, I even let Cowboy bait the hook. 

So while I've fished twice and caught nothing, I'm pretty sure country companions' luck runneth dry. Pretty soon the Game and Fish department will GPS-bracelet my ankle because Ladyfish and I over-exceeded the catch limit so many times. She's such a tease.

And to the moms, dads and all members of the Rodenburg family, I simply cannot fish without red Twizzlers, “3 Ninjas” and macaroni and cheese, no cheese. In fact, I almost put three different kinds of cereal in the same bowl this morning. And you wonder why my therapy bill is so high...

PS: If any of you still have the Minnesota potato recipe, I’ll gladly skeeze it from you. Should I ever CATCH a fish one day, I’ll need some greasy carbohydrates to go with it. 

Sunday, June 7, 2009

knot as they seam

Date: June 6, 2009

Location: Dally Up Bar, Montpelier, N.D.

Population: 103 (not the bar, the WHOLE town)

In the country, people know your next-door neighbor (five miles away), second cousin and first person you kissed. In some cases, those three are the same person. 

So the moment I stepped into the bar at Montpelier, I felt out of place. Not only did I not know anyone, but the size of my belt-buckle just didn’t compare to the stature and sparkle of the other ladies’. 

And instead of wearing a camo-colored hat, flannel shirt and denim overalls, I wore dark-wash trousers and a matching scarf-accessory.  Fewer eyes hath stared at a Green Bay Packer cheesehead with a neon sign flashing "live nudes." And this is Viking country.   

I was so out of place, I couldn’t even relate to the one woman wearing skinny jeans. Sure, skinny jeans were stylish once. But wearing a thong OVER them, as she did, just hasn’t hit the runways yet. 

I should have known to expect an unfortunate evening when the BAR’S OWNER approached me. 

You’re with Cowboy, right?, he said. I’ve heard a lot about you. 

Really? Awesome, because I have no idea who you are. This is so not awkward. PS: What have you heard and who told you, I said, finding a new affection for people deer rifles.

And later, I saw a familiar-looking gent and said, have we met before?

He said: Uh, HELLO, you interviewed MY NEPHEW! How could you forget me?

My bad, I said, kicking my heals, ready to barhop. 

In the city, bar-hopping is no problem. Another pub isn't far. 

Bar-hopping, in case you didn't know, is the solution to any uncomfortable situation. You see your boss shooting tequila... that's fine. Some creep-o starts hitting on you... no problem.  Just bar-hop. Even in Jamestown, all you gotta do is cross the street. 

But in the country, what you gotta do is CROSS COUNTY LINES. 

I was tense all night... nervous not to confide in Person A that Person B’s socks didn’t match as likely the two have an illegitimate child together and together, would kick my Banana-Republic-ed behind. 

And while I was nervous about insulting anyone, my anxiety over making a fool out of myself bordered on neurological. I would likely see (and forget the names of) all of them many, many times, if not with Cowboy then at the grocery store or out to dinner, at the gym or for a work interview. 

First impressions were of utmost importance. 

So you can imagine my reaction when I TORE THE SEAT OF MY PANTS OPEN and subsequently locked myself in a bathroom stall. 

Naturally, I swore, fainted and punched a hole in the wall the shape of Fruit of the Loom. 

Once my hand healed, I did what any independent, self-reliant woman would do. I sought the aid of the only girl in the pub I’d met PRIOR TO my voyage to Montpelier Bar. 

Steal me a stapler, I beg of you! I cried, wrapping my arms around her ankles, kissing her shoes and promising to stop telling country children their fathers are their uncles. 

The only problem was SHE WAS MY CO-WORKER. You know, like someone I work with. Someone who sees me as PROFESSIONAL. I’d rather moon Mother Theresa herself, than let a co-worker see my pink panties. 

That’s right. Pink. 

Like I couldn’t have at least worn BLACK underwear with BLACK pants and let the two blend. No. THAT WOULDN'T BE OBVIOUS ENOUGH.

And remember what I said about CROSSING COUNTY LINES... It wasn’t like I could just go home, change, and blame it on a spilt beer. THIS IS WHY PEOPLE LIVE IN CITIES. 

A few minutes later, co-worker returned armed with scissors and duct tape. Seriously.

They didn’t have a stapler, she said, but the bartender said this would work. 

The bartender? I asked. As in, you TOLD HER why you needed them. The bartender knows more names, faces and credit card numbers than Western Union. The whole township will know before I finish my next drink.

It’s OK, my co-worker said. She’s cool.

Great. I might as well grab a microphone and sing karaoke in these bloomers as that IS LESS EMBARRASSING.

Soon, my co-worker had me taped up and tucked in. 

You can’t even tell, she said, pretending not the notice the unease in my step and HUGE CREASE in my crotch.

I stepped out of the bathroom, sheepish, shady and willing to sing praises to Ted Kaczynski if only my shorts would stick.

Wanna dance, Cowboy asked?

I'd prefer pouring whiskey in my Cheerios.  

No, I do not, I said, giving him the eye that in girl language means: DO AS I SAY AND I WON'T TELL PEOPLE YOU CAN DO THE SPLITS BETTER THAN ME.

Be a man, ya pussy! my new friend the bar-owner said, slapping Cowboy’s behind. 

See!! We gotta dance now, he said.

And that’s how men are: 

Dude No. 1: You're a pussy. Let me touch your butt. 

Dude No. 2: I’m no pussy. Check out my two-step.

So while a slow dance may have been OK or maybe even a do-si-do, this was country dancing... with spins and dips and “turn your partners!”

Seriously, I don’t want to do this, I said, trying to pass it off as dance-floor jitters.

But you told me you like shaking that groove-thang, he said.

Fine. One song. 

Three George Straights and a Trisha Yearwood later, the tape was tearing at the skin of my inner thigh. It felt like someone took a tweezers to my legs in search of ingrown hairs or leftover meatloaf. 

Let’s get some fresh air, I said. 

I wasn’t going to tell him what was going on. I didn’t want the shame of it. Ladies don’t SPLIT THEIR TROUSERS. And even if they do, they don’t mend them with DUCT TAPE

I was going to wing it in hopes God loved me enough to let the adhesive stick. But it was 8 o’clock. And I haven't been to church since Christmas.  

Ok, I really like dancing with you and everything, I said to the Cowboy, wondering if I should save face and conjure up the “I-have-a headache” excuse, but in a town that small, he'd likely find out anyway.

I can’t dance with you anymore, I said, telling him the whole story and willing him NOT TO JUDGE.

He laughed. But not in the mocking way, in the disbelief kind of way. 

Why didn’t you say something? he asked.

Because! I said. I’M A LADY. Besides, I told co-worker and she helped me already.

What? You told her and you didn’t tell me?? he said like I'd broken a pinkie swear or John Deere Code of Ethics. You could have told me. We’re allies here.

Yeah, sure, whatever. Next time I need help, you walk into the ladies restroom with a roll full of duct tape... no one will notice, I'm sure.

PS, Cowboy, I said, If you could just keep this between us... and co-worker... and the bartender AND THE INTERNET, I'd appreciate it.

No other bar-hoppers seemed to notice my posterior the rest of the night. Not even when I oh so subtly yelped CO-WORKER! CO-WORKER! Check out my bum!

But if they did, the bar-hoppers were courteous enough to cork their gourds. Maybe that's because they found extras after all the wine they drank.

But for the future, I'll make you all a deal. If anyone feels like teaching me to mend, I'll send some of North Dakota's June snow in exchange. 

Merry Christmas. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

true creeps

Sorry to lead you here under false pretense, but it turns out city people are nosier than I remembered. And I thought that was just small towns, yo.

Anyways, no. I am NOT posting pictures of the Cowboy. But in an effort to compromise, here's photos of the country cruise.

I don't know if my camera captured it, but the sunset that evening looked like Crayola's 96-pack. After seven months of winter, North Dakota isn't used to blues, oranges and greens. I've always wondered why people would want to live so far from civilization but this cruise seemed to highlight the benefits. Then a tick crawled in my hair. And down my shirt.

Had I known we'd be train riding on this country cruise, I'd have packed my map, passport and a much needed Samantha P. She and I toured Europe by Rail together in 2006. If not for her, I'd still be there, holding a jar of Nutella in one hand and a sign saying "Will drug traffic for Irish tea" in the other.

Some people see photos like these and remember the days when milk came from cows and shopping malls closed on Sundays. 

Me? I see them and think "How on Earth do they get out in winter?" 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

greenhorn to green thumb

While city people flocked to pubs with patio seating for the Memorial Day holiday, I headed south for off-patio SEEDing.

Here, Memorial Day is first about fallen soldiers. But second, it's about planting lettuce, radishes and pretty maids all in a row. 

Since I hail from the land of canned corn and mashed potatoes in a box, I thought I'd give this homegrown produce a try. 

Every year, Cowboy's grandmother, Grandma D, tills a garden with more square footage than my one-bedroom apartment. The garden is so big, all the deer in LaMoure AND Dickey counties die of obesity, rather than starvation. And she still feeds the neighboring Army and half the homeless population in China.

One thing my mom never taught me about gardens was HOW MUCH FUN THEY ARE.

We used to un-pot plants into the backyard and transplant them into my former swingset/sandbox play area.

I, surely still mourning the loss of my monkey bars, would get so upset when mom asked me to water, she may have well crumbled my first published newspaper article and used it to smear dog poo on my pillow. THAT'S HOW MUCH I HATED IT.

So when Cowboy summoned me to off my shoes and stick my toes in dirt, I looked at him like he'd asked to borrow a Britney Spears CD. 

Hop in, he said.

So I did, but not before waving goodbye to my professionally polished nails.

And P.S., loosened dirt soils your feet like the attire of your local goth... dark and greasy. And it chips the paint off your toes and snuggles deep into your cuticles too.

But I didn't care.

In fact, I didn't care so much that I hopped on all fours and stuck my FINGERS in the dirt too. Pretty soon I'd muddied my feet, hands, jeans and even wound up with soot on my face and IN MY HAIR. 

My garden tasks ranged from watering to hoeing (of the cultivator sort) but I liked earth-moving the best. Grandma D dropped the seeds, while I manufactured a quaint little townhouse for them... albeit dark, damp and dirty.

Gardening was so much fun, I even saw a CRICKET once and I didn't even scream (very loud.)

So even though I took to the gardening like a dandelion in a front lawn, I still had some learning to do.

For example, when Grandma D told me to bury cabbage a quarter-inch deep, I asked where she kept her ruler.

And when Cowboy told me to find loose bark so he could break wind, I just thought he had bad gas.

So while that may have been true, IT WASN'T WHAT HE MEANT.

Mortified, I drafted a letter to Marian High School demanding it TRADE IN all my knowledge of the meteor's significance in "The Scarlet Letter" and REFUND ME for any memories of chemical compound nomenclature. Instead, I insist it teach me something relevant... like how to use chicken wire for something BESIDES a kangaroo float for the Marian High School Field Day Parade. 

I make no guarantees about the quality of the produce germinating in that garden, but I will tell you this:

The neighboring gophers, hedgehogs and prairie dogs admired my handiwork so much, I caught them taking notes and preparing questions for the final exam in TILLING 101. 

Most country people would take their guns and shoot 'em. And while they may have deserved it, firearms aren't my style.

Me, I grabbed a guitar, a fire and sang kum-ba-yah... a practice which, when used effectively, is almost as deadly.


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