From a young age, singer-songwriter Jessie Veeder dreamed of settling down in her hometown of Watford City – she just wasn’t sure how to make that happen. But she knew she belonged in the Badlands, and thanks to a lot of hard work and a little luck, she’s living her dream today.
“I’ve always had a love for the place where I grew up and music and writing,” Jessie says. “I spent a lot of time trying to merge those things so I could build a career and live where I wanted to live. My husband grew up in Watford City, too, and we knew we wanted to come back here and raise a family in the place we love so much.”
From Here to There and Back Again
Jessie grew up on Veeder Ranch, a small cattle ranch her great-grandfather founded 100 years ago. Her father, Gene Veeder, was also raised on the ranch, and he eventually took over the operation while working “in town” and pursuing his own musical interests. Because Jessie spent so much time with her father as a child, it’s no surprise she fell in love with the same things he held dear.
“I grew up helping my dad on the ranch and singing alongside him,” Jessie says. “He encouraged me to play the guitar and write, and that’s when I started writing music.”
Jessie’s first original album debuted when she was 16 years old, and while attending the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, she was hired by a Nashville agency to perform in cities across the Midwest. Most of her songs were about life on the ranch, something she says she’s always been proud of, which – like so many other things in her life – stems from her father.
“My dad taught me and my sisters that being raised in a place like this is something to be proud of,” Jessie says. “It’s unique – there aren’t a lot of people who get to experience this kind of rural living. It’s something my dad was so proud to have kept in the family.”
After graduating with a degree in communications, Jessie married her childhood sweetheart, Chad Scofield, in 2006. Shortly after, the couple moved to Missoula in Montana, and in 2008, they relocated to Dickinson so Chad could pursue a career in the oil industry. However, when Chad got a job offer closer to the ranch in 2010, they jumped at the chance to return to their roots.
Jessie and Chad are now living the life they once dreamed of. The couple built a house on the ranch, and in November 2015, they welcomed daughter Edie to the family.
Life in Watford City Today
While both Jessie and Chad work on the ranch regularly, serving as the fourth-generation stewards of the land, they both have off-the-ranch jobs. Chad still works in the oil industry, and Jessie is growing her career as a writer, public relations specialist, photographer and musician.
Jessie says it would have been difficult to move back to the ranch without the oil industry creating so many opportunities, and although she’s grateful, she describes it as bittersweet. After all, her once-small town is now a bustling community, thanks to the influx of people who have arrived to fill the many available jobs.
But Jessie has drawn inspiration from the changes, creating new music, performing and starting a successful blog, and she now writes a weekly column chronicling her experiences on the ranch for newspapers distributed across the state – all while mothering Edie, herding cattle and bottle-feeding one of the ranch’s newest calves.
“Every teenager wants to get out of their hometown, and I was no exception,” Jessie says, adding that she knew she wanted to return someday. “But my dad had an unwavering love for the ranch and the community, so it was hard for it not to rub off on me, and I’m still in awe that I get to live here.”
To find out more about life on the ranch, visit veederranch.com.