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8-year-old Victoria girl lives for everything tomboy

By Kathleen Duncan
June 12, 2014 at 1:12 a.m.
Updated June 14, 2014 at 1:14 a.m.

Tess Smitherman, 8, gets ready to swing at softball practice at Vickers Elementary School. She often wears her Cubs jersey to practice; it's one of her favorites.

"I'm a tomboy," Tess Smitherman, 8, says confidently with a shrug of her shoulders and a smile.

Seemingly born with a love of outdoor activities and a passionate aversion to all things pink, Tess says tomboys are just girls who don't like all things "girlie girl."

Tess has disliked anything flowery or pink as long as she can remember. When Tess was just 3 years old, she asked Santa for a four-wheeler.

"I was expecting it to be a different color, but it just had to be pink," Tess said in exasperation. "I thought 'Yay' and 'No' at the same time. There were butterfly stickers on it. I tried to rip 'em off."

Her mother, Tracy Smitherman, 53, had two strapping young sons already when she decided she wanted a little girl to dress up and adore.

Because of complications in her last birth, Tracy was unable to have another child, so she and her husband, Gary, 50, decided to adopt.

"Before we even got a reference for a baby, I probably already had a hundred bows for her," Tracy said, laughing as she remembered the long process of hoping for, applying and finally adopting her baby girl.

After a lot of research, applications, money and time, Tracy and Gary brought home a 8 1/2-month-old infant girl from the Aleksandrov Baby House in Vladimir, Russia.

"The first time I met Tess, she was all bundled up with three layers of clothes and this crochet hat on her, but you could see her big ol' brown eyes; they were sparkling," Tracy said. "We fell instantly in love with her."

Once she got Tess back home to Victoria, Tracy immediately introduced her to all the things she thought she'd love.

She made her dresses by hand, put bows in her hair and enrolled her in dance, tap and ballet.

"All she wanted to do was play sports, and, by God, I was gonna make her into a girly girl - but nope. She wanted basketball, soccer," Tracy said with a sigh.

On the first day of kindergarten, Tess arrived thinking all the young ladies in her class would be wearing dresses like she was.

"When she got home, she said, 'They do not wear dresses to school,'" Tracy said, shaking her head. "After that, we compromised, it was a dress or skirt once a week; then, it just became too much of a fight."

Tess seemed destined to reject all young female social conventions. When they went shopping at Dillard's, she looked askance at the clothing section for young ladies and asked her mom where the "tomboy section" was.

She loves to play video games with her brothers and wanted to join baseball with the little boys who were her friends. She was active and energetic from the beginning.

"Once she was walking, she was running, and once she was running, she never stopped," her mom said.

One day, Tracy and Tess went to watch one of Tess' best friends, Kooper Wilkerson, play Little League.

"I told her girls can't play Little League, and then, we went to Kooper's game. She was like, "Mom, there's a girl on the team,' and I was like, 'oh dang, busted!' So she signed up for Little League the next year in first grade."

This year, as a second-grader, Tess began playing softball instead of baseball. When she was assigned to her team, The Knockouts, she was also told their team color. Tess was extremely disappointed.

"Hot pink! I thought, 'I don't want to play softball anymore. I wanted to wait a year,' exclaimed Tess. "But I'm going to play softball in high school, so I need to get good," she added, already determined to make the team when she's older. Though she loathed the color they had to wear, Tess gave her all at every game with her teammates.

"Girly stuff is boring to me, I like softball because you get to be outside, meet new friends, and it's fun," she said. Tess worked hard at practice, in games and even fit in extra practices with her dad at home after school. The Knockouts won most of their games and came in second place overall.

"We're good at hitting, catching, making runs. But coach always says defense wins the game," Tess said.

Though she is only in second grade, she already considers many versions of her future. Sometimes she wants to be an engineer, other times, a professional athlete. She'd love to try playing football, but knows her mom doesn't want her to get hurt.

"I think I'd be a good runner, kicker or quarterback," Tess said. She admires football players because she said they're serious about the game, which is the way it should be. She think it's unfair girls can't play football and hopes when she's older she might be allowed on a team.

Until then she continues to shun pink, play sports and run around at school with her three closest friends - Trenton Donoho, Dominick Fuentes and Kooper Wilkerson, all 8 years old - playing "Nuke 'em" ball and talking about "Minecraft."

Her favorite colors are camouflage or blue, and she relishes the taste of deer after hunting and skinning it with her dad.

"It tastes really good, and I like to keep the horns. If you dip it in gravy, it's really good, too," she said, grinning.

Though her mom isn't sure where Tess got her love of being a tomboy, she said it's just always been a part of her.

"She's always wanted to go and do. She wants to try everything. She'd be playing three sports now if I let her," her mother. "It's just who she is."

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