Parting With My Past

This week I’m executing a project that has taken me deep down Memory Lane. I’m cleaning up my cowboy boots.

In a former life, as a rock’n’roll disk jockey, particularly one whose career took him to Texas for several year, I wore cowboy boots a lot.

Cowboy boots

My all-around best, “go-to” pair of cowboy boots (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

I’ve owned three pairs of good-quality cowboy boots as an adult, starting when we first moved to Texas (I think? My former life comment, while meant to be a joke, rings true—it all seems so long ago now, and has so little to do with who I am now). I believe I bought my first pair, of blue-gray sharkskin, at a place offering a closeout sale that we visited while taking a break during our move from California to Texas.

Not long after, I acquired a pair of black cowhide boots, which became my most-used pair, as it quietly stood in for dress shoes in Texas, and later California. My third pair, horse hide (sorry, equestrians!) gray and soft as butter, I got as payment for doing an appearance for a western wear store in Juneau, after the rock station I worked for switched to “hot country.”

All three pair are “quality” cowboy boots, meaning they are built to last and wear well: high quality hides, stacked leather heels, and soles attached with lemon wood pegs instead of cobbler nails. The wooden pegs swell up with the hide when wet, and shrink at about the same rate, so the shoe never falls apart. Supposedly, according to one source I read, with boots like these, a person could use them for anything rubber boots are used for, then clean them up, polish them, and wear them to a wedding. I never went that far, but I liked how they looked and felt, whether I was riding my motorcycle, or dancing.

When we moved to the homestead, we packed them in a box and stowed them. I honestly didn’t have much use for them here, and besides, they’re all in the U.S. 9-10 size range; not long after moving to the homestead, I discovered my feet are closer to size 11 or larger! They might still fit, I’ll figure that out after I get them cleaned.

Cowboy Boots

My collection: (l-r) shark, horse, cow. I wiped them with white vinegar against mold, rubbed them all well with saddle soap, and when dry, will polish them. After that, they’re ready to go . . . out the door? (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

I’d always intended to haul them out, clean them up, and sell them secondhand. That’s another mark of quality: conventional wisdom recommends not buying secondhand shoes. But cowboy boots are different. They say you can put on a secondhand pair, stand in water till they get wet (preferably inside and out) then wear them around. By the time they dry, they’ll have molded to your foot, with no “memory” of former owners.

Halloween prompted me to get started on this project. Aly’s going out with her boyfriend, and is dressing up in a costume that would benefit from some boots, so she asked about mine. They’re big for her, but with a pair of socks crammed in the sharp toe to buffer her, and a bit of practice to make sure she can walk safely, one of these pairs will work just fine.

So, I’m getting them ready for her, while cleaning up the other pairs so that come November, I can take them to the secondhand store. That will close a chapter of my past, but I think I’m ready to part with it.


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