Keys Disease

Keys Disease
Battling Keys Disease at the Futura Yacht Club in Islamorada, Fla. three years ago.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

To Some They May Just Be Boots, But to Me, They Are Old Friends

Other than a few members of my family – and when I say my family, I really mean my sister's family – and a few close friends and fraternity brothers, I have had no relationship with anyone or anything that has endured as long as my love affair with my first pair of Tony Lama boots.

My first pair of cowboy boots, purchased in El Paso some 37 years ago. They take a lickin' and keep on kickin'.
I was 25 years old when I relocated from Louisville to Las Cruces, New Mexico to manage the candy store my sister and her husband were launching. “Relocate” may be too strong a word. I owned and maintained my house back in Kentucky during my eight or so months toiling away behind the counter of that small confectionery startup. I wasn't so much the manager as the entire staff. My sister and brother-in-law both worked full-time jobs; I was the guy working the business day to day. I really didn't make any executive decisions beyond when the staff – namely me – could go to lunch. 

My first experience as a homeowner was this two-story at 315 Belvar Avenue in Louisville.
It was an adventure, though. I had wanted to live in the Southwest as long as I could remember. And, here I was living the dream.

I lived at my sister's for those several months. As it turned out, this would be good training for all of us when I moved back in 10 years later during a little downturn in my life. Living in what was probably a house of no more than 1,200 square feet were four school-age girls plus my sister and her husband. I swelled the ranks to seven. 

My sister's house where seven of us struggled with one tiny bathroom.
There was one tiny bathroom. Getting everyone ready and off to their schools or jobs every week-day morning was a logistical endeavor of monumental proportions. I don't recall a lot of arguments revolving around bathroom usage, though. It was a fairly smooth-running operation as I recall it. But I don't think I ever sat down to deliver the mail without someone knocking on the door. You really learn how to perform under pressure in such an environment.

That's me seated in front of the Santa Fe Brewing Company with a brew in my hand in 1988. Yep, those are my Tony Lama's on my feet.
I arrived in Las Cruces a month or so before the store actually opened. One of the first things on the agenda was to drive the 40 miles to El Paso where I would buy my first pair of cowboy boots. Tony Lama is an El Paso company; so, it shouldn't be surprising that it maintained an outlet store there. It was on North Mesa Street – very close to where I would live when I moved back six or seven years later.


My sister, brother-in-law and me at Sandia Peak in Albuquerque in 1990. Notice my footwear.
I can no longer remember what I paid for those boots, but I'm sure it was less than $60. This was 1976, after all. They were my only cowboy boots until I moved to El Paso in 1982, when I purchased a couple of more pair. Somewhere I do have a photo of me wearing those boots, standing in front of the Kandy Kottage with my yellow TR6 in 1976; but I haven't been able to locate it.

Wearing my Lama's at the White Stallion Ranch in Tucson in 1993.
 Granted, for most of the 37 years I've owned these boots, I didn't wear them a lot. I lived in El Paso for perhaps 18 months, and wore them extensively during that period. Beyond that, however, I'd probably only wear them a dozen times a year; and most of those occasions were visiting my sister. I lived in South Florida for 25 years and that just isn't a cowboy-boot climate or culture. 

At Eatons' Ranch in 2003, wearing, you guessed it, my Lama's.
Now that I'm in South Carolina, I get to wear boots a lot more. My original Tony Lama's, though, I reserve for riding horses. I donned them religiously on the nine vacations spent at Eatons' Ranch in Wyoming. I just had the opportunity to wear them again at the Toyota Tundra media event at Barnsley Gardens in Georgia a few weeks ago.

With Toyota's redesigned Tundra at Barnsley Gardens a few weeks ago. My Lama's are still hanging tough.
I've had them half-soled and heeled a couple of times over the decades. They have stood up heroically to all manner of treatment, weather and neglect. And after 37 years, they fit like a glove.

My love affair isn't even close to being over.

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