Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cowgirl Sass & Savvy

Daddy’s tough cowgirl
 by Julie Carter

He didn’t use a whole lot of words, but I was blessed with a daddy who taught me some very important lessons in life.

Many of those lessons were learned in the dust of a corral or a very long day in the saddle that didn’t end until long after dark. 

Daughters and their daddies have a special relationship that is an unpredictable mixture of tenderness and toughness. 

In general, most dads have a soft heart that causes him to give in to her natural wiles while she turns him to putty with the sound of her voice and the batting of her eyelashes. 

With an iron-tough determination, he will go beyond the bounds of good sense to protect her, even when it means evoking her anger and forcing a daughterly pout directed at his resolve.
With a quiet voice reserved only for her, he will tell her that life will let her down and like the falls she has taken from her saddle horse, it'll hurt, but only for a little while.

“Be tough,” he’d say, "Cowgirls don't cry."

In his guidance, he’d advise her, "When you fall off, you get right back on and ride. Don't wait, don't think about. Just do it.”

Those life lessons have always served me well. 

The taste of dirt in my mouth, the pain of a hard-ground landing and the sting of the tears as I fought them back are physical memories that translate to that "grown-up living" everybody talked about.

True to my training, I never let the world see my heart break or show evidence of a "fall apart." In the recesses of my mind, his words continue to echo like they were spoken down a long canyon.

Life gives no quarter to those in boots and jeans. It batters and buffets, tosses and slams. Whether natural or man-made, the storms in life keep coming. 

There have been times in my life when, in spite of that stainless-steel badge of courage I was handed as a very young girl, I cried.

I cried when my first horse, Ranger, died. I was 5 years old, he was 20-something. In a running fit during his last breaths of life, he raced the length of a meadow and then lay down as his heart stopped beating. 

I cried when my other best buddy, a blue-eyed Australian shepherd named Sally, was no longer at my bedroom window every night wanting to be let back into the house after my dad had put her out. That loss surpassed all the usual teenage heartbreak brought by peers, boys and the drama of growing up.

I cried when my dad sat before me and told me that we were moving from the ranch that I'd known as home all my life. I was 16 and still today recall the moment with a sharp stab in my heart. 

The pain was not just for his words but for him, as they made him cry too. Until that moment, I'd never seen my dad with tears.

Through the years, there have been other occasions for tears. Happy tears and heart break tears. Sometimes I let them fall, but more often, I do not. 

 When my dad lay dying at the age of 50, cheated of the life he worked to create, I cried every tear I hadn't cried up to that point. It seemed as if they'd been stored for that moment when the pain of the loss far surpassed the indoctrination of "cowgirls don't cry."

And when it was over, so were the tears of that magnitude. I knew the lesson wasn’t in the "not crying." It possessing the determination to get back on and ride again that mattered. 

I finally understood that he wasn't telling me not to cry, not really. He was telling me not to quit and never stop trying.

What he was really saying was, "Cowgirls never give up."

Julie can be reach for comment at

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