His hands were tanned red-brown, like New Mexico dirt with the knuckles misshapen, cradling my little brown paw in his as we sneakily snuck through the house to drink coffee together before the mums woke up.
I played under the work tables and generally got in the way in the saddle shop as he laid ground seats, stamped skirts and sewed horn caps on.
He slowed his long strides to match my short ones, telling me about the different animal tracks we found in the mud by the creek, and just where did I think a good place to sleep would be if I got caught out over night? My four year old self thought he was crazy just to think about being in the dark without my daddy there to protect me.
He assured me as he stretched pelts over frames that they couldn’t feel a thing, as he cared for the spoils of his trap line.
I can see him knocking out two miners on the streets of Elko town, who after stumbling out of the Shoe made some inappropriate comments about my mum’s beauty, leaving me assured that daddy would always fight and defend us girls, no matter what.
I remember wrestling, running, punching, kicking him in our rough housing games when I was little, and thinking, my foot actually hurts he’s so strong!
The excitement of getting to go with him for the day, hat safely pulled down and snacks in my pockets…my old bridle horse Fritzie and me watching as he and the black horse bucked their way across headquarters, and trotting back to me with a smile.
I see him shaking my hand as a solemn eight year old as he left for a trip to train Mongolian soldiers how to be snipers, telling me to take care of mommy because no one loves her as much as me, except for you.
As a 15 year old, with the black colt roped and momentarily held still, the small group of people outside the round pen jostling each other, “I don’t want to get on him” I whispered and dad’s bright blue eyes smiling at me and saying “I know, but you have to”…quietly teaching me to never shy away from something just because you’re afraid.
I’ve watched him love, honor and play with us, his three girls, and every day that I spend with my dad makes me feel like I’m enrolled in a clinic he’s teaching me about life. You are my first love, my most honest advisor and my greatest role model daddy. Thank you for all that you’ve done, and continue to do.
xo xo Liz