Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Putting My Boot Down

I was talking with my partner the other day about former department stores that once were part of the landscape in the area where we live.  My partner is quite a store history buff.  But what I remember wasn't really the stores, as much as it was my emergence as a "Bootman" at the expense of department store offerings of kids' shoes.

I remember during the week between Christmas and New Year's when I was 10 years old, my Mom took me to one of these department stores, insisting that I get a new pair of shoes for school.

She bought me a pair, and while I tried them on in the store, I didn't wear them so I didn't know that they really didn't fit well.  I remember later that week, Mom had me wear them to some family get-together, and by the time I got home, I pulled those suckers off and told Mom that I wasn't going to wear them.  They hurt!  They looked awful!  I hated them!

I told her that I was going to wear my cowboy boots.  I had a pair of cowboy boots that I wore every day in Oklahoma.  But that time of year (holidays), we were back home in Maryland.  Mom had left my boots back on the ranch in Oklahoma.  I was bootless....

But by the mighty age of 10, I had developed enough independence that I told Mom that I wanted a pair of boots, and I would wear them to school.  At the time, "hard shoes" were required and sneakers were only allowed to be worn during physical education classes.

Mom was incredulous.  "You want to wear boots?  Why?"

Well, "because.  Because I like them.  I think they look good.  I like how they feel."

Mom wasn't one to argue.  She let us make our own decisions and learn from our mistakes, if what we were doing wouldn't harm anyone.  So she took me to a store that sold boots.  I found a pair.  They were Dingos.  Not traditional cowboy boots, but I couldn't find that style "back east."  But Dingos with the broad square toe and clunky heels and tall shaft (for a 10-year old, anything over 6" was "tall") ... man, they fit the bill.

I put on those boots and wore them to school when it started in January.  Most of my friends noticed, and some made comments like, "howdy, pardner" or "where's your horse?"  But I could tell that some of my friends sorta envied my boots.  A couple friends got their own Dingos and began wearing them to school now and then.  I wore mine all the time, until I wore them out.

Mom thought I would find them uncomfortable, especially as the weather got warmer.  On the contrary, I was determined to LIKE the boots.  I must admit, now that I'm older, those boots hurt, too.  They weren't made well and the footbed felt like nails.  But it didn't matter.  They were boots, and this budding Bootman was born.

Since then, I've had hundreds of pairs of boots.  I never have reverted to wearing shoes again.  Even for weddings, formal occasions, or serving as the Best Man in my brother's and some other friends' weddings.  I'm your 100% Bootman.  Was 43 years ago, and still am today.

Life is short:  wear boots!

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