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Women of Wonder

By Billy Smith

To a father growing old nothing is dearer than a daughter.

For the last two years, the greatest cowgirls in the Western world show up at the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards. They are bright. Entrepreneurial. Vi- sionary. Wise. Many are young—millennials, if you’re into those kinds of labels. Their words and deeds as horsewomen fly in the face of conventional wisdom that calls those from that generation “enti- tled” and “lazy.” I’ve never believed that. Of course, there are entitled and lazy millennials, but there are also entitled and lazy baby boomers. No generation is without its slackers.

Perhaps most importantly, each is someone’s daughter.

But that’s not why I lose no sleep thinking about future leaders. One of those visionary and wise souls grew up in my house. I’ve seen vividly a brand of courage, alacrity and wisdom that’s unique to this 25-to-35-year-old generation and that’s not easily found in the rest of us. My daughter is one of these who will transform the sphere around her. She’s a curiosity and wonder to me, as much today as when she was a born. A lawyer, scholar, mother, wife, de- bater par excellence, this tale is about her and fish- ing and finding and discovering. It’s partly fact and partly fiction because I wasn’t there, but I know her well enough to envision a Tom Sawyeresque tramp through nature and a slow morphing into splendor.

She and her contra-patrician friends sloshed, often barefooted, near a branch of the Palo Duro Creek that meanders through the Texas Panhan- dle. This is not a pristine, Rocky Mountain-style flowing creek. It’s a murky thing, shallow and uncertain. It’s a place for occasional runoff, but mostly a place of both stagnation and, in the case of my daughter, an imagination-cultivating oasis. More importantly, it seemed like a step in the right direction for my daughter to learn to be somebody instead of somebody’s.

“Amazing that anything was living in that murky little sewer pond,” she reminisced to me.

But two-legged, four-legged and no-legged, life flourished.

With a Zebco 202 Mickey Mouse fishing rod in hand, she and two close friends tied on rubbery

semblances of fishing worms, not yet nervy enough to plunge their hands deep in the moist banks to extract the slimy real thing. Eventually they began dragging to shore dollar-sized Blue Gills from the black surface and planning for an ebony skillet din- ner, even though they’d been warned that nothing would be consumed from the fruit of their labors.

“It was sheer confusion about why Mom was adamant that we wouldn’t be eating any fish we caught,” she lamented.

Maybe the Hebrew teaching was right: “A daugh- ter is a treasure and a cause of sleeplessness.” I had spent many sleepless nights in wonderment of this one, but I never experienced the fear that many par- ents absorb for their children. My late nights were in anticipation of what splendid memory this one might create tomorrow.

And so they trudged, noticing, then blotting out signature toe prints of raccoon, feathered creatures, and slithering body prints of the few reptilian residents unimpressed by these bicrural interlopers. Their faux worms dragging across the tops of this shadowy ecosystem, nothing at all remarkable but something utterly amazing. Something transformative and truth-altering. The world is a place worth exploring, especially in its least likely corners.

She now tramps through the heart of New York City. She’s unique in its trappings—trudging like that little girl into the murky and unforgiving. Per- haps those millennials who were allowed to trudge into the blackness of stagnate ponds, pull hay bales all day into the flatbed, wait for the Mourning Dove to land and who scared up a rabbit or two along the way possess something salty and preservative in to- day’s world. These women who create wonderment don’t emerge in superhero dress from the antiquity of phone booths. Even fewer who exist today can march from bustling street corner to muddy creeks as easily as they speak and breathe. They make both worlds better.

I’ve become acquainted with two undeniable certainties: The ancient playwright Euripedis was correct and I am growing happily older.

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