Way back in the halcyon days of Hawkwood in 1997, a merchant set up a tent booth not too far from the arena where the Scottish Caledonian Gamers (a highland games troop I was part of) performed. His name was Steffon and his shop was Earthwalkers and it turns out he was just working his way through the area heading back to Idaho, where he was based. I'd seen some of the prices for Bald Mountain Boots and their competitors at Scarborough and, though they were nice enough boots, the price was too much for me to stomach to have boots that looked much like everyone else's. I struck up a conversation with Steffon and found out he was going to be at the West Texas Ren Faire right after Hawkwood, just as the Caledonians were, so I made a deal with him where I would come up with a rough design of what I wanted my boots to look like over the festival and I'd meet him in Abilene where he'd get my foot/calf measurements for my custom boots. A couple of weeks later in Abilene, I dropped $500 on the table to him and he took my money and drove off to Idaho... never to be seen again.
OK, that last part is misleading as, although I never saw him face-to-face again, I did have a great pair of buffalo hide boots arrive in the mail a couple of months later that I immediately tried on, ditching the moccasin boots I'd been wearing since I'd started character acting in faires. They fit like a glove and I've been wearing them as part of my faire costumes ever since.
That's 19 years of the same boots for those that are arithmetically challenged. 19 years of the same... pair... of... boots. These things are as much a part of the Maroon character as I am. Sure, I've worn the soles down to nubs four times and had them replaced. Sure, these boots are made in such a way that every time the sole is replaced, the leather stretches tighter and I lose a boot size until they're stretched out again. Sure, there are only so many times I can do that before the laws of physics catch up and the damned things just rip open. Sure, there are cracks in the buffalo hide so deep you can stand dimes up in them. Does it matter to me? Nuh-uh. These boots have been through massive floods (see TRF last year, KC in 2003, TRF in 2002) and searing heat (see Wichita in 2006 and Ft Worth in 2005) and they keep on ticking. These are my lucky boots.
I've only had to perform twice as a Bilge Pump without these boots since the band's been in existence. Once in 2001 in Louisiana where I flat out forgot to bring them and was forced to wear some $20 zipper boots found at the Hammond Wal-Mart, and then again this year at Pirates on the Prairie V as I hadn't received them back yet in from the latest sole replacement and overall repair. I wore my old Black Bart cowboy boots instead and never did feel quite right on stage. They may not be at the level of Linus' security blanket, but they're definitely a creature comfort for me.
This last sole replacement ended up getting a heavy-duty break in as the new (size smaller) boots arrive in time for Mardi Gras where I proceeded to walk many, many miles in two parades to get them re-stretched to my size again. They did really well, one blister notwithstanding. This time they even got some TLC from Steffon in the form of new stitching to replace blown out ones, new lining upgrades, and a solid coat of waterproofing. Though he did mention that he was torn between repairing them or just putting them up in some kind of boot hall of fame.
All-in-all, I'm proud of these boots that are way older then both my kids put together. Here's to the next 19 years, boys.
P.S. If anyone's interested in Earthwalkers Boots, you can check out their site at Earthwalkers.biz. They still do the custom boots, but they also have sized boots available for those wanting cheaper alternatives.
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