Amy Rees Anderson

Shovels are cheap and that’s a really big mountain

One of the most difficult experiences for any father to go through is watching his daughter date. When our daughter Ashley, who is now 21 years old, was going out on her first double date at the age of 16, my husband greeted her date at the front door of our home. He then put one hand firmly on the young man’s shoulder, and with his other hand he pointed at the mountain behind our house, then looked the young man straight in the eye and very seriously said, “Shovels are cheap, and that’s a really big mountain.” The look on that poor young man’s face was one of absolute and total terror, which apparently was exactly what my husband had intended. Of course our daughter was completely embarrassed, and I, well honestly it was all I could do to keep from bursting out laughing.

After the kids left to the dance I told my husband that might have been just a little over the top as chances would be that the poor young man would go out and tell all of his friends and before you knew it every kid in the school would end up hearing that story and be terrified to ask our daughter out on a date. My husband sat down on our couch, propped his feet up, clasped his hands behind his head, leaned back and said “Exactly”…then he just sat smiling at that thought for a while…

As I had predicted the story quickly spread through the High Schools and the boys definitely knew that Ashley’s Dad meant business. Of course it only contributed to their terror when my husband made sure to let them know that his own family’s motto growing up on a dairy farm in Idaho was “Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up”, or “The Triple S” as they call it. Again, he would sit back on the couch with his feet up and smile….

Our daughter is now 21 years old and away at college but the legend of her father’s words “Shovels are cheap and that’s a really big mountain” live on. And as a Mother I have learned to appreciate my husband instilling a healthy dose of fear into every boy who dares to take out our daughter. There is something to be said for putting young men on notice that this is, in fact, another man’s daughter. And that she is to be treasured and treated like the precious cargo she is.

Too often today we see young men mistreat young women, taking for granted the fact that these young women are someone’s beloved daughter. And too often we see Father’s wanting to be seen as the “cool” Dad to the boys that date their daughter, rather than being the “protective Father” that their daughters truly need. So Father’s out there with daughters, remember to put your hand on each young man’s shoulder who plans to date your daughter, look him straight in the eye, and remind him that he best treat your daughter like the princess that she is because whoever ends up being the prince she chooses, you are always her King, and if he mistreats your daughter in any way you’ve got a brand new shovel just waiting to get used….

~Amy Rees Anderson

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