About a Pair of Boots
At a Fred Meyer Supermarket in Wasilla, Alaska I bought a pair of Nike ACG hiking boots for about fifty dollars. They were to be hold overs just until I finished the summer season working for the Bureau of Land Management in Glennallen. They were brown, lightweight, a half-size too small but, most importantly they were cheap. This was May, 2002. I returned from Alaska that fall and began graduates school. I worked part-time as a field archaeologist for a local firm. I was broke, living in a one room apartment in a split level yellow house near the railroad tracks. It was the best I could afford. Needless to say that as I spent that school year trudging through dank creeks and buggy drainages of southern Oklahoma, the furthest consideration from my mind or my pocketbook was boots. The pair I had worked just fine and although they were frequently wet, impaled by branches or covered in red clay mud that would harden to a ceramic like shell, they held up.
Over the next five years they were my go-to boot. They had trekked the sands of the Sonora and the Mojave. Hopped over boulders and ravines in the Rockies and Ozarks. They had touched the shores of the Pacific, the Sea of California and the Gulf of Mexico. All these places and many more were logged as miles in my boots. Yet, I never thought about them because they were rugged and reliable.
Then one day last year, I noticed a split in sole. Then a few cracks in the heel and toe. I patched them as well as I could. Over the past couple of weeks they had become shadows of their former selves. The "shoe-goo" was drying and cracking. The laces were frayed and split. A hole peeked through the sole to the insole above. I was sad. I felt like they were not boots anymore at all but more like an old companion, a dog perhaps, who had reached the end of its time. I kept wearing the boots until last weekend, when the sole all but separated when I was crossing a rocky stream. I cursed the boots. They had left me nearly a mile or more away from my car, with thicket and scrub to cross on the way. I hobbled and "flip-flopped" my way out of the bush. I decided it was time to put the old boots out of their misery and buy a new pair.
I spent a bit of time this week looking at boots on the internet. Boots with Vibram soles. Boots with Gore-Tex. Boots with Oil proof bottoms and scratch proof uppers. I didn't want a new boot, I wanted my old boots to be new. I looked on the Nike website, but they no longer make the boot or a variant there of. "It should not be this big of a deal" I said to myself. Resigned to the fact that I was slated to go into the field my Saturday, and I needed a replacement pair, I bought the bullet. I went to the mall (a nightmare of a mall to be sure) and bought the lightest, roughest and perhaps ugliest pair of boots I could find.
Will they stand the test of time? Will then end up getting sent back to the store in search of a refund? Only time can tell.
As for my old pair, the Nike ACG's, they get a place in the gear loft next to the tents and backpacks.
Posted by R. Doyle Bowman at Friday, June 27, 2008