January 1, 2020, I didn’t take my walk before sunrise. I had a third cup of coffee and took it later, after the sun had risen. I also decided to take a different route.
It amazes me sometimes to see things during the daylight that I don’t see predawn. But this would be an new route altogether.
The morning sky looked different on the first day of the decade. The clouds created an interesting texture, but the warmth of the sun came through the filter just fine. It was a beautiful, crisp cool, bright day.
I met a large collection of border collies along the way. I say collection because that’s the word that fits. Border collies, in every conceivable size, shape and color barked at me from behind a fence. They seemed excited for company and eager to play. One even ran back inside and brought out a toy, shaking it vigorously at my corgi, Rudy, as if to say “wanna tug?” Later down the lane, some terrier mixes and a small three legged spaniel type yipped stranger danger until they could no longer see me.
The most interesting part of my walk, however, was the “boot fence.” I had never seen. Cowboy boots capping fence posts along a property containing miniature donkeys among other things. There was a trio of large doodle type dogs in the backyard, but no human in sight. I waited a while, wondering what the story might be here. Why boots on the fence? What purpose did they serve? Were they like the old Tonka trucks hanging on the fence along my normal path? The donkeys and doodle dogs, weren’t talking that day, but I promised myself, if I walked this way again and there were humans around, I would ask.
Well, as luck would have it, I walked that way again today, and there was a human in sight. He glanced my way and waved, I continued walking, but then stopped as he neared the house.
“Sir!” I hollered (hollering is what Oklahomans do to catch the attention of someone). The doodles started barking and he put his hand up to his ear to indicate he couldn’t hear me over their notice. I waved him over.
“Sorry,” he said, “Can’t hear you over the hounds.” (“Hounds” is what Oklahomans call dogs that are doing dog things that may or may not be getting on our nerves at the time).
If I was nervous at first, it became very obvious there was no need to be. He was dressed like a rodeo clown, hat, vest and multi-colored smiley face pajama pants tucked into ornate cowboy boots. He had a broad welcoming smile and a body language that said, “What can I do ya for, little lady?”
“I just wanted to ask you about the boots,” I said. “What is the story? What is the purpose?”
He chuckled and said “Oh, I don’t know that there is much of a story. I just like them.” Then he told me a story, anyway. “Usta be, in the old days, they’d put old boots over hollow fence posts to keep the rain out so they wouldn’t rust or rot. ‘Course, these aren’t the right kind of fence posts.”
“I see,” I said.
“Oh, I don’t know. I just like boots,” he said, looking down at the well worn but very pretty pair he had on. “I find it hard to throw them out, even when they are wore out. “
“It’s hard to throw away an old friend?” I asked?
“Exactly,” he smiled. “Sometimes people’ll put them sideways so the birds can nest inside, or other times, set them upright and put flowers or something in there.”
“They are works or art on their own.” I nodded. “Then to add functionality seems a great way to keep a working boot working.”
He said “Yeah, I just like boots.”
“I do too,” I said. “I always feel so powerful in a pair of boots. Like I can take on the world. “I’m Diane, by the way.”
He told me his name, then said “Most people around here call me the ‘boot guy.'”
I’m so glad I stopped. I enjoyed meeting the boot guy. To the unimaginative eye, or the person of more refined taste who finds herself accidentally driving through our small community of regular folks, the boot fence might seem odd or even tacky. But I like the boot fence, and I’m glad to have met the boot guy.
You never know who you will meet out herein this sleepy Eastern Oklahoma town. I love my little community of artists. They are just normal people who use fence posts for canvas. Friendly, open, regular folks with an eye toward the whimsical and unusual. Characters are colorful as a rodeo clown’s wardrobe. Yep, that’s how I like my neighbors.
Next time, I might just introduce myself to the Light Bulb Lady.