These Boots Weren’t Made for Walking

When I was in my twenties, my favorite footwear was cowboy boots.  At that time in my life—such a long time ago now—I preferred Wrangler jeans and a pair of unadorned and scuffed Tony Lamas.  Just about any sort of shirt would do, but I was especially drawn to those with pearl snaps rather than buttons.  I didn’t wear a cowboy hat (ten-gallon or otherwise) because I’ve always thought I looked like a dork in hats.  And who wants to go to the trouble of getting all gussied up properly and then end up looking like a dweeb?

During the boot phase of my life, I was living in Lubbock, Texas, a smallish sort of metropolis and a place the locals rather grandiosely liked to call “The Hub City.”  Why they’ve named it that is beyond the understanding of most thinking people.  The city is located out in the middle of nowhere and there are no spokes radiating off of it and heading in any meaningful directions that I was ever able to ascertain.  In fact, there is no “hub” in The Hub City. 

That was a strange time in my life.  At the end of a series of events that to this day seem surreal, I found myself suddenly without work and on the public dole.  Being unemployed can cause a person to shift into survival mode.  It also encourages outside-the-box thinking.  As the old saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

I ended up joining the Peace Corps, going abroad, having many metaphysical experiences, and undergoing a complete metamorphosis.  Poland, in Eastern Europe, is where all this took place.  Losing that job ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me.

Because I was a creature of habit at the time I left to live in Poland, I took my boots.  They must have been very important because I was only allowed to carry two modestly sized suitcases with me to live abroad for two years.

I tromped about on the streets and sidewalks in Poland in my Tony Lamas.  The locals took one look at my exotic footwear and knew I was from someplace that could have been as far away as the moon. 

Bear with me.  We’re about to get to the juicy parts. 

My boots served me well right up until the snows began to fall and the sidewalks started getting icy and slippery.  Then those slick-bottomed things had me sliding around and falling on a regular basis.  I’d bust my shins, bloody my knees, and twist my ankles and knees as I fell to the hard, frozen ground on a nearly hourly basis.  My body was nothing but one big contusion at that time.

Still, I was stubborn.  I didn’t want to give up my boots.  I’d already had to give up my language, family, and everything that seemed familiar and therefore comforting.  I was a stranger in a strange land.  I needed my boots to keep grounded, both physically and metaphorically.

One day, after a particularly horrendous fall, I limped to the nearest shoe store and bought myself a pair of Polish-made brogans that had soles with the sort of tread that looked like it belonged on the tires of an all-terrain vehicle.  I then went home and put away my American-made boots, never to wear them again.

I guess it’s natural that we frantically hold on to objects and habits that seem familiar and connect us to our pasts.  Sometimes, though, if we find the courage and open ourselves to the possibility of change, we discover that that clinging is unhelpful and unhealthy.  We remain in an unfinished and infantile state if we can’t get rid of our security blankets.  When new conditions require new behavior, we have to jettison the old.  If we don’t eventually embrace the new, we can begin to look like relics.  Furthermore, unhealthy clinging to the old can leave us bruised and battered.    

In Poland, I held on the old as long as I could.  It was foolish and quite literally painful for me to do so. 

Today, I’m much quicker to recognize when I need to adapt.  I no longer find new ways and ideas scary.  This is a happy thing to report. 

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to hearing some of your stories about adaptation in the “comments” section.

26 thoughts on “These Boots Weren’t Made for Walking

  1. Love this post. Some boots just ain’t made for walkin’…the trick is to know when to hold em’ and when to fold em’ …. Sorry—I seem to be on some sort of a cliché roll here….just can’t see to help myself! 🙄

  2. You know someone’s a good writer when they have you alternating between smiling and feeling contemplative, all within a matter of seconds. And I was right there with you, from the “hub” to Poland and back. Thank you for this insightful, entertaining, and all-around delightful post!

  3. In my new role as care partner for my wife with Parkinson’s disease adaptation happens often, sometimes daily. Thanks for your inspirational – to me anyway – story about adapting to new situations.

    1. Hi, I can empathize. My father has Parkinson’s, but he’s managed to keep his disease from progressing very much. My thoughts are with you and your wife. I’m glad my story could serve some purpose. Thanks for reading.

  4. I have a pair of cowboy boots too. They are part of a cowboy costume. Boots, gun belt, neckerchief, and hat. Everything else is optional. 🙂

    Cowboy boots are what they are because they are perfect for riding. You want your foot to slide in and out of the stirrup smoothly. There is a shallow pocket for the stirrup to fit. The high heel keeps your foot from sliding all the way through the stirrup. That can be a catastrophe. The high tops are for avoiding snake bites when you are on foot. Walking in cowboy boots is not difficult but they are definitely not intended for hiking.

    And like you mentioned they are a horror on a slippery surface.

    1. Hi. I’m glad you used the word “costume” in your response. I’d say that my use of boots in Poland was somewhat costume-like, as I mentioned in my piece. Thanks for reading and responding!

  5. This piece conjured some feel-good memory lane moments for me. My dad gifted me with my first ever cowboy boots and I wore those babies to DEATH…had them resoled multiple times…and stupidly got rid of them years ago. They carried me all over Europe – why did I let them go? Foolishness on my part, despite how ‘slick bottomed’ they were. You got that right! 😉

    1. I’ve gotten rid of things too only to regret doing so years later. Oh, well, there’s no undoing what’s been done. What was your favorite place in Europe? Just curious. Thanks for reading and responding!

      1. I loved it all…but France stole my heart. So glad to know I’m not alone in my regret about ditching good stuff and then wondering WHY? I need to slow down! Again – loved your post! 😉

    1. Hi, Cheryl. Great to hear from you. We’ve all got our Achilles Heals, don’t we? In my case, I’ve many things that need updating. Thanks for reading and saying such nice things!

  6. Although I’ve never owned cowboy boots, I did once lose a music job I really liked. I was upset about it at first, but like you, it ended up being a great opportunity for me to expand myself, improve and try new things. Now, I cite it as the best thing that ever happened to me (at least as far as music stuff goes).

    1. Hey, Todd. I’m so happy I lost a job that was taking me nowhere. In its place, I ended up joining the Peace Corps which took me everywhere. Funny how these things work out. Thanks for sharing your story.

  7. Nice analogy, Troy. I went in reverse of your story when I went to Hungary for a few months. I typically only wear tennis shoes as they are easier on my bad knees. When we got to Hungary, the cold didn’t bother me so much as the snow. Tennis shoes weren’t going to work. I bought a cheap pair of boots to get me through my stay. I wore them most days while there, but they weren’t nearly as comfortable as tennis shoes. My feet stayed dry though. I left them in the apartment for the next group in case someone needed them like I had. Sometimes, we only need things for a season or so, but when we do, “My kingdom for a pair of boots…”

    1. Hey! Nice to hear from you and sorry about the delay in responding. i guess we’re all guilty of stubbornly holding on to things, especially if we associate those things very deeply with “who we are” in a deep and profound sense. Giving up my boots meant I had to become a new person. I had to jettison a bit of my “Texaness” which was traumatic for me at the time. By the way, Hungary is a beautiful country as is Bulgaria and Romania and all those in that neighborhood. I’m not sure about Orban though. (Actually, I am sure about him but I’m trying to be diplomatic.) But that’s another topic entirely.

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