2022.40 : Fathers, Daughters And Dogs

Wyoming, USA Circa 2021

Love is not happening for its own sake, but represents the discovery of shared sacredness (purposes served above the ego.)

— Joscha Bach

Allow me to start off with a presumption. You’re normal. Thus, likely to see a loyal dog, a good horse, a loving father, and a precious daughter sharing a moment of intimacy.

If you haven’t figured it by now, I’m not normal. Not better. Not worse. Different. Here’s what I see:

Four conscious beings in a harmonious protective order.

A dog that would lay down its life – without a second thought – for their cowboy, cowgirl, and even the horse it enjoys annoying by snapping at heels.

A horse would give its last full measure for his cowboy and cowgirl. He’d give second thought about the dog.

A cowgirl who will do all she can to keep her father’s heart protected and filled with love. She wouldn’t hesitate to defend the horse and dog from a predator.

A father who gives of all of himself for his daughter, horse and dog. Day-in. Day-out.

The scene in the photo reminds me of the scene in the companion video clip. For me, like a home movie from my childhood rather than a Hollywood made-up scene. I have shown it to multiple men, good men, most don’t resonate with it. That mystifies me.

It also reminded me of a childhood memory. I don’t recall telling anyone this story. I don’t even know if the girl, now a woman, at the center of the inciting incident knows it happened. If she reads this far, I might find out.

Sixth grade. Recess. Flag football. Boys and girls playing together.

A boy. While not a friend, not an enemy. Strong and big for his age. His early life filled with trauma. He was rightfully angry. He was unrighteous but for a moment. He knocked a girl to the ground, hard, with a standing block after the whistle on the last play of that recess.

No one said or did anything. Myself included, for the moment. We all got in line to return to class. Something strange was brewing inside me. A part of my personality was about to come to the surface.

The boy walks by me. I verbally dress him down. He resorted to his upbringing and verbally escalated the conflict. He squared up with me. His skills of violence, not to be trifled with.

Then it happened. With no forethought. No prior training. No re-enacting. It came out of no where. I was stunned to find my fingers holding his windpipe. Not his neck. To this day, I am not sure who was more shocked, him or I.

The boy resorted to a clever move. He attempted to punched me in the stomach to release my grip. His fist landed a little low. Instead of knocking the breath out of me, his fist smashed into my metal, junior – but over-sized – cowboy belt buckle. I mocked him. Let him go. Declared, “it ends here.” It did.

It would be reasonable to think this is about chivalry. Some part of it was. In the following decades there were other incidents not involving chivalry. Seems I can’t stomach those who use their physical – or otherwise – strength for any purpose other than to help others.

This photo made me think of all that, and more. I recalled a story of one of my favorite creatures, elephants. In northern sub-Sahara Africa there was a herd of elephants in utter chaos. Matriarchy shattered. Local people terrorized. Intra-herd violence out of control. All because the “teenage boy” elephants had turned into thugs.

The rangers at a loss. Decision made. Teenagers to be killed. They didn’t want to, but had no other choice. The teenagers had killed livestock and almost killed a human.

A ranger in southern sub-Sahara Africa got word of the pending execution. He made contact. Pleaded they hold off. He had an idea. He had two bull elephants in need of a new home. They all agreed to give the ranger’s idea a try.

The bull elephants transported a great distance north. Immediately upon introduction to the herd the teenagers attacked the two bulls. Over the next three hours the bulls and the teenagers waged war. The teenagers barely lived to tell about the life lesson they received that morning. Within three days the herd was in a harmonious protective order.

The cowboy, father, and husband in this photo creates a space for a loyal dog to be loyal, a good horse to be great and a loving daughter to love.

And now … know the photograph.

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