No bond stronger than man, boots

By Glenda Price: CNJ columnist

Every real cowboy I’ve ever known hated wearing what they call “hand-me-down” boots — the ones purchased in a western wear store “off the shelf.”

My dad’s bootmaker lived in Tucumcari. Whenever Dad needed a new pair he called his bootmaker, and in a month or so they came in the mail. All the decisions — toe style (pointy or round), heel height, stitching style, kind of leather — had been decided long ago and seldom changed.

The boots always fit perfectly because the foot measurements had been taken long ago as well.

Those of us who grew up with cowboys know their feet have an interesting anomaly. They have been encased in boots since their first walking days — a bit past age 1 probably — so the bones grew “differently.”

If my husband tried to wear tennis shoes, the bones in his feet cracked loudly with every step and his feet actually hurt after a little while. My dad spent an inordinate amount of time soaking his feet in Epsom salt water to make up for the years before he could afford a bootmaker.

As they mature, cowboys stop fretting about such things as “fitting in” at events, meetings, etc. They — by golly — wear their boots.

My dad’s boots always had fancy inlaid designs on the tops, and he spent a great deal of time using saddle soap and polish to make them look good. But then he pulled his pants legs down over them. He did not subscribe to the new-fangled britches-tucked-into-boot-tops look.

My husband wore those hated black patent leather shoes during our daughter’s wedding ceremony, but his boots evidently were stashed in the car because the shoes were gone by the time he arrived at the reception.

His snazziest non-conformist look was when we rented a boat for deep sea fishing — complete with outriggers, captain, bait boy. When he appeared at the dock wearing his boots along with some swimming trunks, the boat people stared at him. He laughed and said, “I’ll put on my long britches after we get going,” ignoring their stares at his boots.

I have a friend, Oliver, who raises race horses. A few years ago when he had a horse qualify for a big race at the track, he decided to sleep with the horse the night before. He and his trainer put up cots in front of the horse’s stall and set their boots outside the curtain. His boots were brand new. About 4 in the morning he woke up and they were gone.

His wife got a frantic call to bring him some more boots because, barefoot, he was useless. His horse won the race, but Oliver spent the day walking around the race track looking at every pair of feet he met, searching for his boots.

He didn’t find them, but somebody finally pointed out that since his horse won and paid great he could easily afford another pair of boots. Still, it wasn’t the same.

Glenda Price has been a contributing editor to New Mexico Stockman magazine since 1982. Contact her at: glendaprice00@comcast.net