Yesterday I wrote about Dora; today I’m thinking about Boots. But not Dora’s blue monkey with the red boots.
One night last week, we limped back to the apartment after walking around New York all day. My sister flopped down on the couch. She propped her elegant black leather boots up on the Ikea coffee table. “Hey, Vivi–come over here for a second.”
Vivi looked up at her from the plastic safari animals that she was arranging on the carpet. “Why?”
Gay laughed. “I need you to do me a favor. Help me get these boots off.” Vivi gave her a quizzical look and went back to the safari.
My sister managed to tug one boot but it was a struggle. I stepped up. I cupped one hand around the heel, braced my other hand across the arch then gave a gentle tug. The boot slipped right off. It’s been 35 years since I helped someone take off a boot, but I didn’t have to think. It’s all about coming at it from the right angle.
I told Vivi, “You have to learn how to pull boots off if you’re the shortest person in the family. I used to help Papa pull off his boots when he came home from working all day.”
My dad wore real cowboy boots, boots for working around actual cows. Heavy cows, skittish cows, cows with sharp hooves, cows that manufacture manure. Boots that spent some nights out on the porch, airing out. About once a year, he’d bring home a new pair of boots in a sharp-sided square box with the Dingo label on the outside. Or Justin. Not Luchesse or Tony Lama, no ostrich skin or Lone Star cutouts. Brown leather with a squarish heel. These were boots you could pick up at the feed store.
That reminds me of a joke: How can you tell the difference between a real cowboy and a fake cowboy? With a real cowboy, the shit’s on the outside of his boots.
Hey, that reminds me of another joke: He’s so stupid he couldn’t pour shit out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel.
That goes to show you: I associate boots with manure. Cow shit is just part of growing up around cows. No big deal. Nothing personal. But here’s the funny part. A little whiff of cow manure, mixed with some hay and sunshine–that’s one of my favorite smells. It takes me back to hanging on the side of a cow pen fence or climbing out of the truck to open a gate.
Helping my sister with her boots made me happy. It took me back to a time when I was small but useful. I had a job to do in our family and it gave my dad some relief at the end of a long day.
What’s the smell that takes your right back to being a kid?