My friends Dave and Nichole, over at Horsewright Clothing and Tack, have three exceptionally nice children from their combined marriages. The boys are out on their own, one cowboying on a three hundred and fifty thousand acre ranch in the rugged high desert of eastern Oregon, the other in college up in Fresno. Their daughter, Alyssa, is fifteen. She is drop-dead gorgeous, inside and out, smart, funny, good-natured and good-humored, a gifted basketball player, and a good hand on Dave and Nichole’s ranch. She’s not afraid to get in there to do the job and get dirty.
To have a beautiful fifteen year old daughter, even one as level-headed and intelligent as Alyssa, presents certain challenges. Another word for these challenges is “boys.” All parents of daughters have to face this sooner or later, and all parents have their own particular methods. When the loathsome young coyotes started clustering around my house many years ago, my method was to open the garage door where I had my heavy bag hanging. When I knew one of these miserable cretins was coming I would wrap my hands, put on the bag gloves, and wait until I saw his car slowing to make the turn into the driveway. I was only good for about three minutes of uncontrolled fury on the bag, but that was all I needed. It didn’t work. The boys were very polite, but they kept coming.
Nichole had a much more intelligent solution. When Alyssa got asked out on her first-ever date, Nichole took a bunch of photographs of her daughter in ranch-hand mode at a spring branding, kneeling in mud and cow shit, castrating a young bull, knife in hand, chinks covered in blood, smiling up at the camera. She had them printed. When that first boy (a senior, no less) arrived to pick up Alyssa, Nichole sat him down at the kitchen table and spread the photos out in front of him. He gazed at them solemnly, his mouth slightly open.
“Do you know what she’s doing?” Nichole asked.
The boy nodded slowly. “Um, it looks like she’s, uh, cutting the testicles off of something.”
“That’s it precisely,” Nichole swept the photographs into a pile and lined them up, tapping the edges on the table. “Just keep that in mind.”
Alyssa and her young man are still dating, but he always brings her home five minutes early.