Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's Never Too Late

Several times since I arrived to this bright new place I've been told by chatty Little Red that I missed my opportunity for a grand introduction to the rest of the whole entire world.

Well, let me tell you something. I've never been one to show off, but between you and me, some of my best performances have been in front of big crowds at horse pulling contests and state fairs. In my younger days, it came real natural to me. 
Let me tell you....there was a time in my life when I knew what it meant to shine. 

Suppose that’s because I had some help.

Maybe before you and I travel any further down this Reminisce Road I should probably let you know: I'm the Original Jean's Boots; that dear Jean wore me to every horse pulling contest and steer show she competed in growing up in the 1940's.

It takes good leather to survive the work and hell that gal put me through. It also takes some real nice care to last this long. I understand you all read this blog about “talking boots”. Well let me tell you something. I’ve never said a whole lot in my years, but I sure speak volumes...

A little braggin’ point - she wore me when her Daddy won the World’s title for Pulling Horses multiple times in the 1940's. 

It wasn’t until recently that I was found in the back of an old closet at Jean’s homestead. And I’ll be real honest, a new life was breathed into me that day. Since Shafers bought that house in 1959, I've been slowly pushed to the back by Asgrow jackets, muddy boots, Hoard's Dairyman magazines and about 100 seed corn thermoses. It was pretty disappointing to realize I was old news as time passed and Jean's life changed. No longer was I her prized possession she packed from show to show; I was replaced by little boys’ cowboy boots, farm toys and rubber boots to be worn in the milking parlor. 

Guess time changes priorities. Doesn’t mean it changes adoration, though.
For decades I sat in a dark corner of that closet wondering if she even remembered I existed. What a feeling to haunt an old sole. When she found me in June 2011, her eyes welled with tears and her fragile hands ran over my tops, then my soles. 

Tell you right now it felt like my soul dropped to the floor when I realized how soft her once-strong hands had become over the years.  But it was so good to see her again. Almost seventy years ago she wore me as a teenager and wouldn’t you know, that Jean is still a pretty blonde.
My goodness the things I've seen in Jean’s lifetime. The things I remember. The things I'd like to forget. 

Me and that Jean - we traveled ‘cross state lines loading pulling horses and competing with some of the best in the world. She’d clean up the show gear, pin her blonde curls back and throw me on. She’d look like a hundred bucks but her Daddy would still always drive the reigns. I always appreciated how she’d take the rag she used to clean up the harnesses and give me a quick run-over before she started on her way. Always thoughtful like that and always took good care of me. We were quite the team back in ‘44.

I remember the night Jean wore me as she beat her older brother Marvin for Grand Champion Steer at the Wayne County 4-H fair in 1943; what a night! It was hot....and humid. And competitive. She knew how bad he wanted to win, and I truly believe that is why she wanted it more. Odd that I remember this, but she kept curling her toes under that night in the show ring....she was so anxious. What a fighter. 

But while time passes, as it has a way of doing, you find out your biggest rival just may be your best friend, after all. You learn their passion for livestock burns as strongly as yours. You realize their roots run just as deep. You figure out that you’re both fighting the same battles at home, so why not stay on the same team? You learn that spending early mornings at the barn are better with a friend, rather than en enemy. 
And, as the years grow up. 
But just as the years pass with out regard to one’s preference, so does life. 

But let me tell you, I will never forget the way she drug me along the dirt path to the barn the morning after they laid Marvin in the ground. Officially the first time Jean went to the barn with out her feeding buddy, her best friend and her big brother. I remember the great hesitation in her step and how it felt like she weighed 500 pounds that morning, as the sun rose along the banks of the Greens Fork River.  Her heart was heavy as a ton of bricks. Her mind certainly wasn't in the work that day. In fact, it wasn't for a long while after that.
In 1945, with Jean I learned that nothing like that ever gets easier, but one learns to adjust. 
I’m not perfect. You show me a 65 year old that is flawless and I’ll show you a real fake. Joan Rivers type of deal.

I have a hole in the top of me because of the way Jean used to turn her right foot in while she rode in the stirrup. 

I have two different soles on me. Her right sole got replaced long before the left did. I’m not real sure why. 

But I'm Wrangler boots, so I can withstand more than most. 

I knew when Jean set me by the door the day she cleaned out that closest this past June that one of two things was going to happen:
1. I was going to the burn pile
2. She was going to give me to her granddaughter who collects and restores boots that tell a story. I remember when my dear love, Ralph, had his boots given to that gal just after he was buried. It was emotional, sad and quite frankly - gut wrenching. Did you know, by the way, that Jean was wearing me the day she realized she was going to marry Ralph Shafer? Sure was a special man. Sure miss him.
But let me tell you, I’m sure glad it turned out this way. Lindsay Jean took me to the boot repair man and had me polished, re-soled and restored. 

I don't mean to brag, but I look like the Original Jean could throw me on at any minute and go show a steer for another seventy years. And the best part: I’m a size 8 1/2; I fit Lindsay Jean perfectly. 
I sit in this old quiet house in Greens Fork and reflect about how life happens. Just when you think your life is drained, someone brings new purpose to you. Truth is, you need not seek it out. And honestly, Jean (the younger one) may wear me very little; that is alright. But the peace in my sole comes in knowing that she will grant the Original Jean’s final ask of me....
“Lindsay?” the Original Jean hollered as young Jean carried me to her car. 
“Yeah Grandma?”
“My only you wear those stupid old that one day, you retire them with Ralph’s. I’d sure like to sit next to him.”

Young Jean didn’t answer. She couldn’t, and she need not. The only thing from Lindsay Jean that July 4th evening was a simple nod and a tear down her face. 
But the Original Jean knew - one day, long ways down the road, she will be right where she needs to be. 

I'll tell you right now, there were years when I assumed my purpose was done and over. I thought I was used up and retired. Funny how life can bring you someone and just like that they dust you off, clean you up and give you something worth looking forward to. 

Guess it's true what they say: 
It's never too late to become what you could have been.

1 comment:

  1. That is awesome that Original Jean's boots fit you! Thanks for sharing GREAT story!