Little girls are not all born "cowgirl" tough. They also don't have to be a
cowgirl to have the trait. Many of those lessons, though, are taught in the
dust of a corral or at the end of a day so long that her saddle becomes a
torture chamber and the dark has overtaken everything.

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

With a soft heart, he will give in to her natural wiles that turn 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 soft 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.

"Honey," he will say, "cowgirls don't cry."

In his guidance, he'll tell her, "When you fall off, you get right back on
and ride. Don't wait, don't think about. Just do it. And honey, cowgirls
don't cry."

Those life lessons will always serve her well.

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

True to her training, she never let the world see her heart break; she was
determined there would be no evidence of a "fall apart." In the recesses of
her mind, those words echoed like down a long canyon, "Honey, cowgirls don't
cry."

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 and in a running fit of his last breaths of life, he raced the
length of a meadow and then lay down as his heart stopped beating. I lost my
first best friend that day.

I cried when my best buddy, our blue-eyed Australian shepherd, Sally, was no
longer at my bedroom window every night to be let back into the house after
my dad had put her out.

The 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 I'd known as home all my life.

I was 16 years old and recall the moment still with a sharp pain in my heart
and tears waiting to fall, not because of his words, but because it made him
cry too.

Until that moment, I'd never seen my dad cry.

Through the years, there have been other occasions for tears. Happy tears
and heartbreak tears. Sometimes I let them fall, but more often, I did not.
"Honey, cowgirls don't cry."

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 until then.

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
was not in the "not crying." It was in the determination to get back on and
ride again.

I finally understood that he wasn't telling me not to cry, not really. He
was telling me to not quit and not stop trying. What he was really saying
was, "Cowgirls never give up."