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  • The saloon gal in the picture above is my youngest daughter, Brittni. I took the picture while we were heading back from a family vacation to the Black Hills of South Dakota to see Mt. Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial, and the Badlands. At the time, Brittni was 15, and so far we had done a lot of nice family things. But all the while, she was asking me to stop at one of the several 'abandoned' towns along the way, the old west towns that have been preserved or rebuild as tourist attractions. Since we had plenty of time, I decided to stop at one just at the beginning of the Badlands, before we entered the Badlands National Park.

    Now you have to understand, this was the youngest of three very different daughters. Crystal Anne was the talker of the three (still is today), Michelle was the cheerleader, and Brittni, while certainly not a wallflower, was the more reserved sister. She had excellent grades in school, played violin and trumpet, was as content reading a book or drawing as she was running around with friends at the park or the public pool. She knew several cute boys, but she wasn't particularly attached to any one, and overall she was my 'daddy's girl'.

    We wandered around the old town, walked through the various shops and stores, bought a bag of Horehound candy and a few postcards, and were back near the entrance when we came to the saloon. Inside, Brittni discovered for a few dollars, you could rent costumes and dress up for old time photos or just take your own photos in old time clothing. Being her father and knowing Brittni (well, at least I thought I did), I thought she would opt for the School Marm or the Seamstress. Nope. She decided she wanted to be the Saloon Girl.

    [Okay, dad. Take a breath. Take several breaths.]

    Now I'd always encouraged Brittni to be her own person. When she was in grade school, she went through a period of Goth clothing (you should have heard her mother yell about that one) and had to agree with mom when she wanted to dye her hair black. When the opportunity arose for her to travel to New York with the local Jazz band she played with, I was the supporter. She has always been the most trustworthy and level headed of the girls, so I knew she could handle the responsibility.

    So here I am taking pictures of my little girl dressed up as a saloon gal. And somewhere in the middle of these photos, it dawned on me I wasn't taking pictures of my little girl. I was taking pictures of the young lady my little girl had grown into.

    Brittni is twenty now. She is still living at home and works doing data entry while she is trying to decide what she wants to do with her life. In some ways, she is typical of many young adults. She has tattoos, piercings, and changes her hair color frequently. She is at home with a Wii or a video console and posts on Facebook with her friends. Sometimes we don't agree. Sometimes we do. I'd say that's par for the course of most families.

    She thinks she is all grown up. But I don't think she realizes when I look at her, I see my little girl.

    Sometimes, they surprise you.

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