FARMER’S FATE: Good old boots can be too hard to replace

(Enterprise file photo)

For several weeks now, I’ve had the sense of something coming to an end—that old September feeling of summer passing, another fall, another page turning, only it seemed somehow more melancholy.

It wasn’t until the last farmers market that I was able to put my finger on that feeling. Men began commenting on my boots.

When wearing a super cute pair of bright heels or strappy sandals, its pleasant and not surprising when women comment on your shoes—but men? I could wear plastic bread bags on my feet and I wouldn’t expect my husband to notice unless I complained while walking through a patch of puncture vine.

So it was a bit surprising to me that several men were beginning to notice and comment on my well worn, well loved leather boots.

As I moved through the market I heard comments like: “Do your boots know it’s bananas that are supposed to split?” Or “Looks like you need to do some sole searching.” And “Looks like you and Achilles both have weak heels in common.”

The boots were tan, faded from a dark brown, and had served me well for many years. They had lived their lives with me, in times full of travel, joy and love.

Unfortunately the signs of aging, could no longer be hidden by polish, patches or willpower. The seams had been strained to the breaking point, and now left the frayed leather buckled and “air-conditioned.”

They were good, comfortable boots — but far beyond their intended life span. The toes were scuffed to the point of holes and the lining had been torn away years ago, but they were still my boots. I had worn them with everything from denim to diamonds, and always with pride.

I hopped onto the tailgate and kicked my legs up and crossed my boots. I thought about all the places they had taken me: to concerts, to church, to fairs and to funerals. They have dressed up for dinners on far away islands, and dressed down for working animals in the barn. I’ve worn them when making new friends, and I’ve worn them when saying goodbye loved pets.

The streets and cities and countries these boots have seen makes me wish they could speak—for they have been there to witness some of the greatest and also some of the most devastating moments of my life. They never spoke a word though, they just held me up and gave me support to continue on.

I touched the worn hide of the boots softly. The merciful thing to do would be to retire the boots before they had lost all their charm and grace. Still, it was hard to say goodbye.

Marilyn Monroe once said “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” Well, these were my shoes. And we had done a lot of conquering together.

While I was sadly lamenting my boots, my husband walked over to the tailgate and whispered in my ear some of the most beautiful words in the English language: “Let’s take you shoe shopping.”

It was a busy week, but we managed to squeeze in a date to the farm store in between picking melons and swathing.

Long walks on the beach are nice—but I enjoy long romantic walks down the boot aisle almost as much. The pungent aroma of new leather and new laces was better than the most expensive perfume.

I felt like the farm version of Cinderella, walking in one boot up the aisle and another boot down the next. Some were cute and pinched; some were ugly and comfortable; some were neither; and the ones that were both had a royal price tag.

I know good boots aren’t cheap, and cheap boots aren’t good—but if the price tag goes much higher, I’ll be buying a pair of boots, one boot at a time.

After my husband felt like I’d tried on every boot in the store, I finally found my next pair. I sat silently with my new boots on one side and my old boots on the other. My socks still showing the marks where the old leather and seams pressed into my foot. The sadness seemed palpable as we walked out of the store.

Later that night, my feet were aching from the new boots. I longed for the familiar indentations of my old boots.

Brianna Walker is an eastern Oregon farmer, mom and author whose Farmer’s Fate columns run in the Malheur Enterprise.