Downwind by Bob Rohrer, CAE, FBCM, Manager

“Give me the boot”

When I was in high school, many years ago, hog prices were ridiculously low. For every hog we sold, we lost money on it. The price of hogs had a direct and lasting impact on my family’s standard of living during that period.  There was no money floating around for new clothes (my Mom actually made my prom suit for me), trinkets, frills and trappings. I can recall my work boots were so beat up, with ripped seams, that my most of my foot was exposed. The Farmer (Dad) handed me a roll of duct tape. Every few weeks, I would re-wrap my boots with a fresh layer duct of tape to keep my foot in and the mud out.

Which boot does not fit?

Bonus: I did not realize at the time that duct tape footwear was quite stylish and becoming!

It was on the farm that I learned about boots. Boots are made of leather with lots of eyelets and steel toes. They are scuffed, stained, used and sometimes abused. They’re made of cowhide or, on those special occasions, ostrich or gator. In farm and ranch country, boots are a tool. An important of a tool as a hammer, saw, or even pliers.

Boots that are NOT made of leather are made of rubber.  Rubber that is thick and tough as a car tire. Rubber boots are essential in preventing water, snow, mud, muck, concrete, manure, and other semi liquids from penetrating the footgear.  In farm and ranch country, boots are a tool. As important of the tool as a hammer, saw, or even pliers (did I mention this before?).

So last month, during my wife’s spring break, we decided to go north (yes, it was still winter there) to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We were on the hunt for waterfalls… how romantic! We were having a dandy time hiking throughout the region, following icy tails to various scenic vistas.

After seeing the glory of Bond Falls near Paulding, Michigan, I was scaling an icy bluff to exit the canyon. Unfortunately, I was wearing my insulated rubber boots, having no traction and less arch support. When my foot slipped on a patch of ice, I found myself going over the ledge and free falling. (My wife swears she did not push me)  It felt like 30 feet (was it even 8 feet?). I landed left foot first on a rather hard and certainly pointy rock (are there soft rocks?). A burning pain blossomed throughout my foot.

I limped back to the car muttering about my stupidity under my breath, my pride damaged almost as much as my foot.  As the pain did not leave me, I was also appalled that I might have ruined our vacation. What would the Farmer have said to me? He would have shook his head with a sour expression and walked away (which meant “Suck it up, son…you should have been wearing the proper tools. I should be giving you the boot!”).

Why wasn’t I smart enough to wear my quality, rugged hiking boots that would make the Farmer proud (I confess, I did not want to get my hiking boots muddy - I must be all city-fied)

Four days later, after properly “sucking it up,” I went to the foot doctor.  “That’s no boot,” I thought as the doctor handed me this black, bulky, plastic contraption with Velcro straps and pads hanging from it. I was supposed to put that on my foot and wear it? It looked more like a boot for an astronaut…or a torture device.

I’ve been wearing that fancy astro-boot ever since as my foot heals. Clomp – step – Clomp – step. I’m finding it quite inconvenient…no water, no mud, no steel toe, no traction, no laboring and certainly no style.  

Oh how I long for a real farm boot.