Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Give 'em The Boot

When I was in my early 20's I did a fair amount of backpacking and mountain climbing. I remember seeing a pair of Italian Leather Hiking Boots at Alpine Outfitters (when their location was in the Downtown Mall). I thought that they were the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I got talking to the proprietor about them and he said that $200.00 was a lot to pay. He then told me he knew a guy who was a Boot Maker who could build me a custom pair of boots for about $150.00. I contacted the man and he said to come out to his workshop for sizing and material selection. The guy measured my feet and noted that the left foot was 2MM shorter than the right from the heel to the tip of the big toe. I was very impressed by this and when he said he would like to recommend the Full Grain Elk Hide, I told him he was the boss! He said he was a little booked up but should be able to get my boots to me by the summer. I gave him a one hundred dollar bill and said call me when they were done. That was in May of 1976. Around July 15th I called him to see what was going on with my boots. A group of friends and I were going to climb Mt. Shasta on August First and I wanted to get them broken in. "Oh yeah Jim," Began the voice on the other end. "I've been meaning to call you. What kind of welt do you want on those boots?" I was perplexed and basically asked him what the Hell a welt was. "A welt is the stitch which connects the upper sole. A Norwegian welt is double-stitched, strong and stiff. Other welts (Good-year, McKay, etc.) are not as strong but allow more flexibility." He explained. "I really don't care what welt you use, just get me my boots!" I almost screamed. I heard nothing for another 3 weeks so I drove back out there and popped in to his shop. The S.O.B. saw me enter the shop and he immediately yelled out, "Jim, I was just trying to call you! What kind of Rand do you want me to use?" I was young and thought that everybody but myself must know what a Rand was so I calmed down and asked him about it. "A rand is a wide rubber strip protecting the stitching that holds the upper to the sole." He kindly explained, then he discussed my options. He then informed my that another hundred dollar bill would really help him to finish up. I was pissed but then in true 70's style, he invited me out back of the shop for a fat doobie and I was putty in his hands.
September rolled around and I still had no boots. Occasionally I would start thinking that by now I should have had a couple of hundred miles and a hand full of Pacific Northwest summits on those boots and I would start to get angry. But then I would burn a fatty and everything was groovy! Climbing season was rapidly coming to an end and I was at school (Art Major) so things just kind of got put on hold. I heard that a friend was going to be out near the boot shop and I asked him if he would just kind of spy on my boot status. My buddy returned like some kind of boot aficionado and began explaining how the Vibram Sole Company was going through a whole new re-tooling and that getting them was almost impossible. "It would have been nice to hear it from the Fargin' Boot Guy!" I yelled. I immediately drove out and asked what the Hell was up. "The darned soles have gone from $25 a pair to $60. Also, I took the liberty of using a bellows tongue which uses wide gussets. It's a little spendy but well worth it!" He smiled. I remember going out back with him again and I remember peeling off another hundred dollar bill too! Around Thanksgiving time I happened to hear on the local news that the boot dude had been busted for growing marijuana. Since it was his second offense he was going to prison for a while. "Not to worry Dude!" A young voice was heard to say upon calling out to the boot shop for information. "I am the boot shop man's son. I will finish up your boots!"
Well, to make a long story short, after the fire, the burglary and another $500, I finally got my boots in 1986. By then I was no longer into climbing unless I had a bicycle under me. Upon getting home with them I pulled them out of the box, but when I went to put them on I discovered that they did not fit, too tight! I'll be darned if I hadn't grown a whole shoe size and an inch and a half in height somewhere around my 30th birthday!

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