November 2010
Happy Hunting Ground

Happy Hunting Ground

Last year, I was trapped into watching a television show I don’t particularly enjoy. It is a show featuring a crew who travels the country building new homes for deserving families.

Now, I don’t have a problem with the concept of the show itself, as a matter of fact I do enjoy the part where a family in dire straights get the help they not only need, but, in all likely-hood, they deserve. It’s the process of the premise I’m not crazy about.

We get to watch these folks tear down and rebuild a home in just a week. I am a person who is not really handy when it comes to home repairs, nor am I a builder. This show reminds me of that fact and makes me uncomfortable. I would prefer they show me the original house and fast-forward to the completed model and be done with it.

But, as they say, I digress.

This particular episode was a family who had lost the father and he just happened to be a farmer. While they were dressing the completed house, they memorialized the dad by placing a pair of his worn out boots on the hearth of the brand new fireplace. These boots just dripped with character and I have thought about that a lot since then. I think that’s how I want to be memorialized, by my boots.

A person’s boots are unique to that person only, even more so when they are worn almost out. They fit no other like their owner. They tell a story. Every crease, scratch, scuff and stain has a reason for being there. When you look at the soles of the boots, you can tell how their owner walked and how he/she held their feet. If they are covered with soil, you know the owner spent many hours in the dirt, either a farm field or a food plot…you get my drift.

To me, a good-wearing pair of boots is like an old friend—they fit just right, your feet have adjusted to them and they have molded themselves to fit you. When you slip them on, everything just slips into just the right spots and they feel comfortable and dependable.

I think back on memorable people I have known in my life and I can picture their boots. Dad loved his old military brogans and he wore them fishing, gardening, messing around in the yard, even helping me put out fires after the gasoline/pine straw incident of 1973.

Other people are folks I have hunted with, worked with, gone to school with and been friends with over the years.

My good friend Phil always wore them snakeskin boots, no matter what the weather.

My old roommate wore a set of regular leather boots he said we made fit either a stirrup or an accelerator which is why his leather soles wore out from walking a lot.

My brother takes excellent care of his footwear and so all of his boots are clean and tidy, and will last him for years, he can even find them, except when he throws them at me at night when in hunting camp to try (in vain) to stop my snoring.

If a pair of my boots is going to be placed on the hearth to memorialize me, I would have a hard time deciding which pair to use, which is why they do such things after you are gone from this life.

Would I choose the boots I got the day I found out I was going to be a father? We had just come from the doctor and were still in shock and boot buying was part of the plan for that day. As it turned out, the place was having a Father’s Day Sale and when they asked if I was a dad, I said almost, told them the story and they sold me my boots with the discount. I ended up having them on when my daughter was born as well.

Would I choose my boots I bought right after dad passed away and wore on a Texas deer-hunting trip with my brother?

Would I choose the boots I wore most of my time at Auburn?

Would I choose the boots I wore at work on any one of the farms I managed?

Would I choose my good old-faithful boots that have seen me through seven or eight deer seasons?

I guess that is a decision I’ll leave up to my family, but, I can promise you one thing, there is one pair of boots neither I nor my wife will choose, even if they did still exist. That’s the pair I wore when we got married and she didn’t discover it until the photographs came back weeks after the wedding!

(I’m still paying for that one guys.)

Ralph Ricks is the manager of Quality Cooperative, Inc. in Greenville.