The Boots

It was the long anticipated fourth of July. While most of the kids wore Keds, Nick had Thom Mccanns handed down to him by his father. Slightly larger than his feet, he ran much slower than everyone else. There was that time that Mr. Fortier chased us for climbing his apple trees and Nick lost one of his shoes during the chase. He didn't dare come home with only one shoe and he made a miraculous dive to retrieve the lost loafer. Mr. Fortier had him. Had him in his grasp! And yet, somehow, Nick dove and slipped away like a greased pig. He later caught up with us at the Catholic Church woods. This earned him the nickname Thom Mccann, a name that still sticks today.

But it is Bucky Addams that stands forefront in my memory. His family moved into town long after the rest of us and he had the unenviable task of trying to make new friends in a new town. With jet black hair, a small framed body and a slight French Canadian accent, he made up with mouth what he lacked in size. A few years older than us, he spoke with the voice of experience about girls, beer and fighting. After all, his father had "the gloves" having once won the Golden Glove boxing title as a lightweight sometime during the fifties.

Bucky didn't come with Keds or Thom Mccanns. He came with a pair of boots.

The second child of a family of four and he, the only boy, found himself under the thumb of a loud and large mother. To memory, I can hardly recall hearing his father say more than ten words. So much for "the gloves." His mother could often be heard to command the girls to rub her feet and make her a highball. Especially on Saturday nights when Lawrence Welk was on t.v. No, Bucky stood most tall when out of the house and away from his mother. But insult his mother? And to his face? A sure way to start a fight. I've never seen anyone get so off the cuff so when it come to protecting his mother's holy name. Never much understood it.

Oh, but the boots.

Everyone always gets up and runs out of the house, slipping on their sneakers (except for Thom Mccann) to play ball, or army or just to hang out. You would run all over the neighborhood until the sound of the noontime whistle, when you would run home for lunch. In the afternoon you would repeat the process until supper. The call home at night was when the streetlights went on. If you noticed them.

Well anyway, Bucky it seemed, would never join us without one of us going to his door and to invite him out. We would have to go through the process of getting by his mother and then wait for Bucky to perform his morning ritual of putting on his boots. He would retrieve them from a box that was tucked into a small utility closet. There was a coat and shoe closet mind you but Bucky had this special place where he would box and place his boots away every night to retrieve again each morning. The boots come a full five fingers above the ankle. Not really black or brown, they had the look of very old but well maintained leather. Bucky would reverently take them out of the shoebox, wipe away any dirt whether there was any present or not, and then he would line them up before the stoop leading out into the sun porch. He would slip in a foot and pull at the laces from the the toe to the ankle until they were perfectly aligned. Then he would criss-cross the laces through the open clasps up to the top of the boot. An adjustment here, a wiggle there, and he would at long last tie a perfect knot pulling his pant down over the fine work of art that he so studiously perfected.

In hindsight, I envied those boots a little. They never came off no matter what trouble we found ourselves in. His feet never got wet. Even when we walked through the drainage pipe that ran under the road down to the river. He did stand taller and seem sure footed. Bucky taught us how to pick out who was and who wasn't a virgin amongst the girls. He was the first person I ever knew who was legitimately addicted to smoking cigarettes. He was the first one to get a driver's license and at that, the old gang was lost in his dust. We didn't see much of one another after that. Occasionally we would hang out but this was the time of emerging personalities. Some gravitated towards being jocks, some to long hair and freaks, some to retain the look and appeal of the old motor heads. Each seeking to find his own way. I last saw Bucky when he came by to tell me that he joined the Army. He was home on leave. He no longer spoke with a French Canadian accent. In fact, to memory, he sound like a boy from Tennessee or the Carolina's.

It was the summer of 1969. I was fifteen. Hair to my shoulders. I do believe that I invented the mullet. I wasn't sure where Bucky's original boots got off to or to their origin either. Sometimes I think that perhaps they were what his father wore in the ring. Perhaps they were just boots and had no meaning at all. But then I found it unnerving, or poetic or just plain spooky to see those boots placed upon his casket among the flowers. He died far from home and he rejoined his boots in a grave not far from where my father is buried now. I always think of those boots being there beside his body when I visit go to visit my family plot. I often wonder about how much of an influence Bucky may have had on me as I now so often wear boots in much the same style as what Bucky wore. Not knowing if I just like wearing good solid boots or if Bucky's reverence for his boots those many years ago held sway with me. Either way, when it is my time to die, I don't plan to have my boots join me in the grave. But then again, I don't think that Bucky planned on it either.


Mystic Wing said…
Amazing piece, Tim. Written with compassion and technical mastery.

Thanks for sharing this.
Loralee Choate said…
"I do believe that I invented the mullet."

Words can't express how much I adore that line, Tim. :D
Tim said…
Thanks, MW!

Rubik....I always like it when you laugh or are amused. Gives me a feeling of accomplishment
Jess said…
lol you invented the mullet.

great stuff. :)