Thursday, November 4, 2010


These are my boots.

I purchased them at Sears more than ten years ago, before the start of one of my first sugar beet harvest campaigns.

You have no idea how difficult it was to find steel-toe leather work boots in women's sizes, back then... comfortable ones, anyway.  I hit the jackpot.

This past decade, I've worn them more days than not, and if given the opportunity, they could tell quite a story...

These boots have worn out four sets of insoles and countless pairs of laces.

They have stood on concrete slabs out in the elements for twelve-hour shifts, in every sort of weather imaginable.

They've operated the control pedals of tractors, boom trucks, service vehicles, ATV's and quite a few farm pickups... with varying degrees of success.

These boots pushed my daughters' strollers, and escorted them to the school bus stop on their first days of Kindergarten and many days since.  They've fetched the mail a thousand times over.

I have worn these boots while bringing life into the world, and while escorting it out again... while imprinting foals, building fences, butchering, throwing hay bales, cleaning stalls and burying the dead.

They have been coated with mud, dust, chaff, grass clippings, barn lime, wood shavings; baptized with Jack Daniels, barn paint and tears.

These boots have been soaked in morning dew, April slush, manure, motor oil, and blood.  They still bear the the stains.

They have protected my feet from dropped hammers, heavy corral panels, scrap metal, grass fires, brush and more errant hooves than I can remember. Their heels have snuffed out spiders, mice, snakes and cigarette butts.

I've watched more sunrises, sunsets, frolicking foals, bonfires, wildlife and shooting stars while wearing these boots than some people take the time to notice over the course of an entire lifetime.

These boots have skimmed just inches over sun-baked asphalt at eighty miles an hour, serenaded by singing pipes, 600 miles in one perfect day... then worked to set up camp after that... a few times over.

They have leaped in joy, danced under the stars, slid into stirrups, shuffled in crushing sorrow, paced outside hospitals and scraped their toes on concrete while kneeling in desperate prayer.  My boots have gone to the landfill, the grocery store, the feed mill, the lumber yard, and to Sturgis... they've gone fishing, often, and sometimes a little crazy... occasionally they have stood  their ground in heated debate, though have run to the aid of others quite often.

Once, after an accident in which they were soaked in blood, I decided to never wear them again, thinking they were bad luck.  I didn't, for a long, long time... even going so far as to buy another pair of boots, though I could never bring myself to throw this pair away.  Those new boots just weren't made for my feet like these are, however; they rubbed until my feet were blistered and bleeding.  I suffered and doctored my feet for weeks afterward.  It made me think that maybe these old boots still had a purpose, even if they were stained and worn  and carried some bad memories.  Finally, I decided that the good in them, far outweighed the bad.

Why?  Because some of my greatest accomplishments were earned by walking countless miles and working countless hours in these boots, and sometimes just by putting them on and showing up.  I met some of my dearest friends while wearing them.  I've endured some of the most difficult, some of the most heartbreaking, and certainly the most exhausting days of my life with these boots on my feet... but also experienced the most joyful.

My boots are not fashionable, not trendy, certainly not pretty.  They are heavy, they collect and hoard mud like its Halloween candy.  It takes time to lace them in the morning, far longer than it would to just slip into  a lighter pair.  Some days, after wearing them for particularly hard work, they feel like anvils tied to my feet.

But, they are comfortable. Safe. Well-made. Dependable. Functional.  They have character. And every time I lace them up, the memories come flooding back, both good and bad.  My boots are a reminder to keep going, keep fighting, keep believing, to never give up; they are a daily reminder of who I am, where I've been... and where I intend to go.

Think I'll keep them around awhile longer.


Steve Schmitz said...

Amy, not many people understand hanging onto something like a comfortable pair of boots. For those of us that have that trusty set of footwear it's like an old friend you get to see everyday and shares in everything you do. My boots that I just took off for the day have been all over the world. They have seen fighting and blood in Afghanistan, and mourned friends in Arlington. They have climbed the Himalayas and flown over Canadian forests. They look and smell like an old hound that you once brought home from Cedar Lake. They have been resoled numerous times, soon for a third time and I can't recall how many sets of insoles they have eaten. They have saved my life, and helped me carry others to safety. For me, they have been as close to family as I have had for the last two years and I'm sure that they will carry me home before long, loving every step of the way.

Amy M. Dagen said...

Thank you Steve... and I'm now as thankful for your trusty boots as I am for mine. Looking forward to the day they carry you home, safe and sound.

I'm not sure if we were raised to "make-do", or were genetically programmed to appreciate, care for and respect those tools which serve us so well. In either case, we came by the trait honestly. Here's to well-worn boots that smell like Herbie the Hound. :)