They are sitting in the back of my closet. Dusty on top, with some dirt still on the sole. His dirt.
They are worn a bit on the edges and run down at the heel.
I thought I could wear them. I wanted to. I couldn’t.
The day I tried, I could not sit down and pull them on. The size was right. But, they were his. I knew they would not fit.
My Dad’s last pair of cowboy boots.
My Dad wore out a hundred pair of work boots. He wore boots every day. Usually, he kept at least two pair of work boots. One pair on the job and another in his car. His dress boots were in the house.
He liked the leather Red Wings and Uniroyal steel toe slip-ons. He had a friend with Halliburton who got him some insulated boots he wore in the winter.
He worked in the mud, the grease and the oil around a drilling rig. He was up stairs, down stairs, walking on grating, kicking the corners of 3×12 oak boards when he was mad. Rig floors are always wet and dirty.
Sometimes he would put a boot on someone’s butt to get them to work or quit. Lamar and his boots would make them do one or the other.
But, when he came home, he walked around in a different boot. He always had a pair or two of dressy boots in his closet. Always.
He liked a good cowboy boot. A fancy boot. The kind with a lot of stitching on the side and across the toe. He liked the pointed toe boots. Not the squared toe people wear today. He wanted a toe sharp enough to chase a cock roach into the corner.
He had lizard boots, eel boots, horse hide boots and regular dress boots. He was a sharp-dressed man.
Suddenly, he was eighty years old.
His days of working men and machinery long past. Age broke him down. He leaned, his head heavier than ever before. He shuffled along, sliding one foot ahead of another. He started carrying a cane.
But he still had that one pair of Sunday- best cowboy boots.
He kept them in a closet for the big days left in his life. Sundays, Funerals, Family Reunions and visits with his relatives.
Those days were important enough for him to pull on his boots. Even with bad knees and a bad shoulder, he stood proud in those boots. Maybe they helped him hold on to who he was, when he was someone.
There came a time when I had to help him remove his boots.
A year after he died and we buried him in his sock feet, my Mom gave them to me. I’m the oldest, maybe there was a message there.
I took them home. Really, I planned to wear them.
Never could. Never will. They were his.
And, always will be.
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