Thought I would resurrect it for some who may not have seen it, as it is buried deep in the archives. And not that it is particularly that good, but is is all I have, waiting on Thursday…
(And because I am working on a new project, but it is not yet ready)
True Grit (Or, Almost a Cowboy, Or, What You Will)
Thanks for reading.
Being a Native Texan, I decided to become a ‘Real Cowboy’ in the late Summer of ’70, as opposed to being a ‘ranch hand’, which by the way is different and which, by the way, I was actually pretty damn good at a couple of years later. I’m talking ‘bout haulin’ hay, buildin’ fence (BoB Whar—Texan pronunciation), drivin’ tractors, feedin’ cows; chasin’ cowgirls, drinkin’ whiskey, you know: that sort of thing. But actually before I found my niche in western employment, I did dream of riding the open range astride a great galloping beast.
Here is how “that worked out for me.”
Madelyn had a horse once: a cross between a Shetland pony and a Welsh mare. Now, I really don’t know much about horses and during that time I knew even less, but I really did want to play cowboy, so I decided to make friends with the local “real cowboy” and have him teach me how to ride this animal. I was about twelve going on thirteen at the time.
The problem with this horse was that it was a pet. Madelyn had talked my father into buying it for her not long after she and her mom moved in (I was not yet on the scene; was still living with my grandparents.
I suppose I arrived some months after the horse). Anyway, she soon lost interest in Gretchen (is that a proper horse name?) hence, she (Gretchen) never ever got ridden; (I cannot speak for Madelyn.) This will become important later in my story.
Not long after making friends with said local cowboy (he was sixteen, much older and wiser…well, older anyhow) James Griffin, (Funny how I still remember his name.) we went to the pasture, which was actually inside the city limits of Honey Grove and took damn near an hour just to catch this beast. Gretchen did not apparently, want anything to do with cowboys, experienced or neophyte. Once we had her, James proceeded to teach me how the saddle and all the other kit went together. He grumbled something under his breath about the “hackamore” bridle I had provided along with the saddle that he was none too impressed with either. I told him that this was all the gear my step-sister had in our garage, and what was the problem,
“This stuff is brand new,” I said. (And of course, I was NOT wearing my varnished boots)
“Never mind,” he said while showing me how to mount the horse. He told me I always had to mount from-the-left-side. I asked him why, and he said that is what the horse expects. I certainly was all about living up to that horse’s expectations, so I did as instructed.
Shortly after I moved from Winnsboro to Honey Grove my grandmother decided it would be a grand idea for the two of us to take a road trip out west to Levelland, (“There is nothing in the desert and no man needs nothing.” –Lawrence of Arabia) which was her childhood hometown.
“Lance, it will be wonderful; you’ll be able to meet all the Marcoms who have lived in Levelland for generations.” (Oh goody)
I really had no say in the matter, but Grandmother Marcom always spoiled me, and since I was a little bit mercenary even back then, I figured what the hell? I’ll probably get something out of the deal. Just about half-way to Levelland we stopped in Nocona. You know, ‘Nocona’: World Famous Texan Cowboy Boot Capital of The Universe? Yeah, that one. Grandmother informed me that I could not enter her hometown without looking like a proper Texan, so while in Nocona she got me decked out in some true Texan dude clothing and a pair of fine Nocona boots. Forty-five bucks she spent on those boots, and in my mind, that was just shy of a million. Damn expensive is what I’m telling you.
These boots were Fine. Luscious dark brown all leather vamp, all leather cow hide boot top with three rows of stitching, toes not too pointy, soft leather lining. Damn fine cowboy boots, all shiny and smellin’ richly of new leather. “Nothing smells better than a bran’ new pair of Nocona boots Son.” (I was told, but I’m thinkin’ what about a brand new Corvette? Bet that smell ranks right on up there.)
After long hot miles on desolate roads, we arrived in Levelland. (Nailed the name for that town, they did) Did the Marcom Fam-dam-ly circuit. I met aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles, lesser aunts, lesser uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, second cousins, fourth cousins, and yawn and yawn and yawn.
I was extremely proud of my first pair of real Texas boots though. So the price of admission was worth it.
After a couple of days of my being paraded around to all the kin, we headed home to Fannin County. I absolutely could not wait to show off my new boots.
One of my hobbies at the time was building little wooden models of medieval torture and execution devices: guillotines, gallows, pendulums, the rack—see my post, “Addam’s Family Values,” and you will understand–Maybe.
I kept all my modeling stuff in my room: various pieces of scrap wood, x-acto knives, glue, brushes, sand paper, reference books, wood stain, and varnish.
One day while admiring my boots, I perceived some dullness had begun to set in. They just didn’t have that new glossy look I had been so proud of. (They also were unable to retain that new Nocona boot smell, but that didn’t concern me). I had some Kiwi shoe polish, but after working with it for some time, sweating and tiring, the results I was getting were unsatisfactory. I put the boots and polish down, thinking there must be an easier way to get some shine back on the damn things. Spying the small can of varnish on my desk ignited an idea in my mind: ‘Hey, this stuff works instantly and beautifully on my models…’
I took a little brush and painted a penny-sized spot on my left boot. Wow! Instant shine. But best let it dry a bit and make sure the wet glossiness doesn’t fade.
Thirty minutes later both boots were completely varnished and Yessir, they looked great. Better in fact than when they were new. “I wonder if anyone else knows this secret to boot shining?” I pondered. “Naw. Bet I’m the first to discover this.”
Wanting to show off my now shinier than ever boots, I put them on and headed over to a buddy’s house. “Dwayne, just take a good look here at my shiny boots,” I announced as soon as he answered my knock to his door.
“Damn! Marcom. They are right shiny,” Musta took ya ‘bout two hours of polishin’ and a whole can of Kiwi.”
“Nope. ‘Bout twenty minutes and a can of varnish,” I announced proudly.
“Varnish? Wood varnish?”
“Yep. Works great, eh?”
“Uh… I dunno. I never heard a such.”
“Well, you should try it, as you can see it works better ‘n Kiwi. Gotta go now. See ya at school,” I said and headed on home, satisfied I had properly impressed Dwayne with my ingenuity.
As I was getting ready to crawl into bed, I placed my very glossy boots on my night stand so I could get one last look at them before I turned out the lights and went to sleep.
Next morning I dressed quickly, donned my boots and couldn’t wait to get to school to parade about in them. I didn’t cop out to anyone after Dwayne as to how I had gotten them so marvelously ‘polished’. Things were going great until around lunchtime. I began to notice little cracks in the smooth veneer of my boots. My boots were cracking! How could this happen?
“Hey Marcom! Them boots lookin’ a little sad now,” was the comment of the first to notice.
“Yeah, they look kinda… uh, wrinkly,” someone else added.
Dwayne came over and announced, “He done varnished them boots y’all.”
“Varnished?” another said. “You caint be puttin’ that shit on L-e-a-t-h-e-r, you dumbass. When it gets hard, it gonna crack, just like it a-doin’ now.”
This never occurred to me. Shit.
Word spread quickly and before the end of the day, ‘Laughing Stock’ was my new claim to fame.
For weeks after that I suffered the greatest humiliations of my young life.
“Hey Marcom! I got some boots need a shine. Kin y’all hep me out?”
“Hey Lance, when ya gonna open your boot varnishin’ stand ‘front ah Ol’ Johnny Smith’s feed store?”
Read The Words: BOOT POLISH
Folks I didn’t even know would cackle as I walked by, “Hey, there’s that dumbass kid whut varnished his Noconas. Ye ever heard a-such? Varnishin’ boots!”
I was a celebrity, just like Charley Brown.
My boots took an early retirement while I lived on in shame.