I wear boots and jeans almost every day, but I wear boots every day, no matter what. Sometimes it’s only for a little while, but I do wear them every day. It’s my job to feed the horses each morning. Not a morning person, (barely a noon person), I pull my boots on over whatever I happened to sleep in the night before, add a coat or coveralls, scarf and gloves, depending on the weather and what my sleepy hands find, and schlep down to the barn. The county road that runs by our house has pretty constant truck traffic all day, both commercial and private, so my outfits have no doubt inspired many a conversation.
“Hey, Joe? Yeah, it’s Mike. Say, I just passed by the Chesnut place and you ought to see the get-up she’s sportin’ this morning! Yeah. I thought we’d seen the last of those red sweat pants, but sure enough, she’s got ‘em on again today. Yeah! And, you’re not gonna believe this, but I think I saw that same old flannel shirt tail peakin’ out underneath that coat of her husband’s that she tries to wear! Yeah, I swear! Told ya we’d see it again! Guess that means I win the pool, huh? Well, no, I couldn’t really figure out what was on top of her head…”
About eight or nine years ago my husband took me to Beck’s in Amarillo to have a pair of boots custom made. I got to decide the details right down to the decorative stitching, (yellow tulips). I love everything about the way they look, but what I love most is the way they feel both inside and out; their “step.”
They’ve gone everywhere with me. When it comes time for a ride through the x-ray belt at the airport, I can slip them off and send them through faster than the teenager next to me can peel her nasty flip flops past her badly painted toenails and off of bare feet that none of us really want to see.
When I put my boot through that iron oxbow stirrup and push my heel down, I AM HOME.
In my opinion, Mr. Beck is a boot builder and foot magician; someone who was actually able to provide me with a pair of footwear that didn’t make me want to cut off both little toes and pack in two sets of heel cushions in order to walk comfortably. So.
So imagine my hesitancy, no, my fear, of being without them for a week. I was forced to surrender to the holes in both soles and heels worn down so much in back that I was almost walking uphill. The leather was also rock hard. (I’m sure that being covered by mud at the ACL Festival last month didn’t help.) I dropped them off at the best boot shop around, was told to pick them up the next week and dragged myself out to my truck in socks. Since I had to improvise in the mornings that next week, the truck traffic probably got more than they bargained for.
Finally, it was time to pick them up. I rushed into the shop. There they were on the top shelf. New white sole stitching and a big drink of oil made them look like brand new old boots! I practically threw the money at the clerk and rushed outside to put them on. WOW. I forgot what it was like to walk on good soles and heels, complete, soles and heels.
It wasn’t good. I didn’t recognize my boots. Oh, they fit my feet as great as always, but the “step” was off. My husband assured me that they had stepped like that when they were new and that the stiff leather soles just needed to be broken in again. That made sense so I wore them all day, trudging around town running errands and then back at home. I wore them until I put on pajamas and got into bed.
That’s when the pain kicked in. Shooting pains up the inside of my leg kept me up most of the night and my hip joints started to whine. By the time I got up the next morning my shins were killing me and my hips’ whines had been replaced by screams. I was “cripping” up the stairs, wishing for a chair lift like the one in Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte, when it struck me that this was all because of my boots.
I’ve spent years getting them just right – making them one with me. Then I turn around and darn near reconstruct them. They may look the same (or even a little better); they may feel the same inside, but for all intents and purposes I’m on new legs, new feet. I HATE IT! I spent the better part of an hour in the tack barn after I fed, mulling over my problem and searching for a solution.
I could tell you that this ends with me resigning myself to the idea that I have to break in my beloved boots all over again.
But I won’t, because as soon as I finish this article, I’m headed out to the barn again. Because, Grasshopper, as it turns out, yesterday I found the rasp. I’ll be walking uphill in no time. Rasp on, rasp off.