ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Something about those boots
© Another Day in the Country
When my father left Ramona, in his early twenties, he left behind his boots. In some ways this was a symbolic gesture. He was going away to college — the first in his family. Even though he loved the farm and the countryside, he purposed a new and different future for his family — which consisted then of Mom and me.
He left behind his overalls, too. I don’t believe he ever put on another pair. His “working” uniform became a white shirt. A suit became his attire, and on his day off he wore a light blue short-sleeved shirt. His footwear became Florsheims. In messy weather he wore galoshes over those dress shoes. All through his life, he maintained this dress code, even when in later years he retired to a small farm in southern Oregon.
My mother carefully kept my father’s wardrobe. She altered, pressed and brushed his suits, straightened his ties and carefully ironed his stable of white shirts, neatly hung, pristine in their starched glory as a few blue shirts hung to the side. Mom loved to see my father dressed up for the day. His attire symbolized a carefully considered way of life that left behind the country with constant mud.
One day I snapped a picture of my parents as we were leaving Oregon to go back home to California. They were standing by the driveway, waiting to wave us on our way — Mom in her omnipresent pink polyester every-day dress with the ribbon belt, Dad in his light blue shirt. They were in their early eighties. They looked good, even though Dad was already dealing with heart disease. Mom smiled and put her head on Dad’s shoulder and I snapped the picture. I loved that view of my parents.
Several years later, when I was choosing photographs for the book, “Another Day in the Country,” I pulled out that picture of my parents. “Oh, don’t use that one,” my mother said, “I don’t like it.”
“What?” I asked. “That’s the sweetest picture. It’s my favorite! Why wouldn’t you like it?”
“Oh,” she said, “Your dad doesn’t have his good shirt on — I always liked him best in his white shirt and suit.”
As Dad left his boots behind, wouldn’t you know that his oldest daughter longed for boots. Dad loved tractors. I loved horses. Dad loved white shirts. I loved anything red. Dad loved highly polished square-toed dress shoes. I loved boots, and cowboy boots were a frivolous thing in our family. For one thing, city kids didn’t need them. For another, we couldn’t afford them. I got a pair of shoes, usually when school began. Most often the shoes were saddle oxfords (at least a size too big). “You’ll grow into them,” Mom said.
It was 1950, the year of the big flood in Kansas City, and we were living there. My Dad was a preacher and the basement of the parsonage became the repository for “relief” going to local flood victims. I was a teenager who sometimes helped sort the barrels of clothes and bedding that arrived for distribution. One day I found a pair of white majorette boots in one of those barrels. “Could I please have them?” I begged. Mom didn’t figure that majorette boots were imperative for flood victims, so she relented. They were my first pair of boots. They weren’t cowboy boots, they were white and a size too big but they’d do. I removed the tassels, polished them and put them on. Those boots made my heart smile. I was ecstatic!
I was a mother myself with two kids before I got a real pair of cowboy boots. By that time I actually owned a horse. The years went by in a flash and here I am back in Ramona. I no longer have horses, seldom ride, but the love affair with boots continues. In fact, last week, I bought a pair of tall gorgeous riding boots that touch my knees.
I came home, put them on, stood in front of the full-length mirror, and had second thoughts. “Dad would shake his head in dismay,” I thought to myself — ever my father’s daughter. “Should I keep these?” I wondered. “Do I look like some silly grandma in “go-go” boots? Maybe a more standard shoe would be better?” I equivocated; but not for long.
It’s another day in the country and I kept those boots. They make my heart smile!
Last modified Nov. 5, 2014