Iâ€™d felt a hand grippinâ€™ my shoulder as I was standinâ€™ there,
â€˜Long side the grave of my daddy, head bent, pretending prayerâ€¦
I was thinkinâ€™, â€œGod, you son of a gun, Iâ€™ll look you up one day;
Iâ€™ll walk right up and ask you why you took both my folks away.â€™
When the preachinâ€™ was over, I looked to see whose hand it was Iâ€™d feltâ€¦
All I could see was the buckle he wore to fasten up his belt.
He looked just like a mountain, the biggest man Iâ€™d ever seenâ€¦
Hat pushed back and grinninâ€™ at me, wearinâ€™ boots and Levi jeans.
He was a friend of my daddyâ€™s, a man Iâ€™d known most of my lifeâ€¦
Heâ€™d been at the service for Mama and always treated me nice.
It was Jim, the rodeo cowboy, famous both far and wideâ€¦
Thereâ€™d been a time when he and my dad both wanted Ma for his bride.
Theyâ€™d stayed best of friends even after one had beat out the other,
And wed the woman they both lovedâ€¦the one who became my mother.
The bond continued strong and sure, while Jim made a name for himself,
My folks worked our little spread, makinâ€™ a livingâ€¦but not much else.
Mama died when I was six; now at eight, my dad was gone, tooâ€¦
Aunt Mattie said sheâ€™d take me in and raise me along with her brood.
Jim trailed us home on horseback and when he climbed up on his bay,
The fancy new boots he was wearinâ€™ just plumb took my breath away.
Iâ€™d never seen anything like them and they proved a distraction of sortsâ€¦
Jim said they were hand-crafted snakeskin, they gleamed like smoky quartz.
He stayed on, him and me workinâ€™ cattle, there on my uncleâ€™s ranch,
He helped me work out my sorrow, showinâ€™ me I still had a chance.
Came time the rodeo season started up after winterâ€™s break;
My friend said he was leaving, that he had a livinâ€™ to make.
My guts tied in knots as we loaded his good roping horse,
He gripped my shoulder and said, â€œSon, Iâ€™ll be back, in due course.â€
I needed to tell him I knew heâ€™d stayed on just to help meâ€¦
That he was my best friend and I hoped he would forever be.
My tongue tangled up, words stuck in my throat; I finâ€™ly blurted to him,
â€˜Whatâ€™re you gonna do with them boots when ya git through with â€˜em, Jim?â€
He grinned and said I could have themâ€¦â€Thereâ€™s lots of good in â€˜em yet;
Iâ€™ll polish â€˜em up â€˜fore I ship â€˜emâ€¦and I promise I wonâ€™t fergetâ€.
First he sent new boots he thought would fit….they were a bit too smallâ€¦
I wore them â€˜til they pinched so bad, I couldnâ€™t get in them at all.
Whenever he could, heâ€™d stop by and tell me I â€˜sure was getting tallâ€™;
Heâ€™d bring or send a new pair of boots when school took up in the fall.
Finally the day arrived when his snakeskin boots came in the mailâ€¦
They must have been a size fifteen, my feet rattled in them like hailâ€¦
But they were the ones Iâ€™d waited for since I was a little kidâ€¦
The same ones Jim was wearing when he came to do what he did.
The note that came in the box said, â€œSee, son, I said that I would;
Iâ€™m not sure that these old things will ever do you much good.â€
I stuffed the toes with holey socks and bandaided-up my heelsâ€¦
And flapped around like someone whoâ€™d stepped on a banana peel.
Kids pointed and laughed when I showed up in boots too big for my feet…
Of the many fights I got into, thereâ€™s not one Iâ€™d care to repeat.
I wore those boots until they threatened to fall right off my feetâ€¦
I never did grow into themâ€¦and never admitted defeat.
Those boots belonged to my hero, the man Iâ€™d tried to becomeâ€¦
The cowboy who shaped me and taught me, the man who called me â€˜sonâ€™.
The new boots kept coming in the mail, long after Iâ€™d grown and wed,
And a lot of them still are lined up right there at the foot of my bed.
My kids all started getting theirs when each of them turned threeâ€¦
Just as steady as clock work they came, with an unspoken guarantee:
â€œThis is the way I can tell you how much all of you mean to meâ€¦
Yer dad anâ€™ me ainâ€™t much good with words, I guess youâ€™ll all agree.
Yer daddy wanted tâ€™ know about love when he was just a boyâ€¦
He asked about some olâ€™ boots of mineâ€¦but that was just a decoy;
He wanted tâ€™ know would I ferget about him after a whileâ€¦
Would I recall his eyes were brown or he had a crooked smileâ€¦?
â€œWhatâ€™re ya gonna do with yer bootsâ€¦ when you get through with â€˜em, Jim?â€
Iâ€™d send some along, filled up with love, no matter if they suited him.â€
Aunt Mattie had told me when my dad died, he had left a willâ€¦
That all heâ€™d had came to me and there werenâ€™t any debts or bills.
Truth was he hadnâ€™t left anythingâ€¦. the ranch was buried in redâ€¦
But Mattie said everything was just fine and I was never to fret.
I learned later that Jim had paid for everything Iâ€™d ever owned,
The clothes I wore, the car I drove, everything, til I was grownâ€¦.
I ate â€˜Jim foodâ€™, went off to college on a â€˜Jim Scholarshipâ€™â€¦
Rode a â€˜Jim Saddleâ€™ and took him along on my first Mexican trip.
His shoulders stoop now, as he rocks, outside, there on the porch,
His hips stiffen up a little, after a day spent up on a horseâ€¦
There he is, that fine old man, with his silver-mounted saddles,
His championship buckles tell of the days he spent bull-dogging cattle.
The trophy that means the most to Jim and the man that he calls â€˜sonâ€™,
Is the one mounted up there on the wall, the trophy that both of them wonâ€¦
It represents their love and pride, itâ€™s the one the whole family salutes
Every day as theyâ€™re walking byâ€¦..those worn-out old snakeskin boots.
I’d like to thank Ms. Byrd Woodward thinkin’ this “Book of Bootnik Poetry” was a good reason to write another poem.
- Byrd Woodward may be new to this website, but she’s got a pile of poems sittin’ on her page at www.cowboypoetry.com, where she’s writin’ on the underslung heels of “bootnik poet” Rod Nichols. She’s been honored as a Runner-Up for the prestigous “Lariat Laureate Award”.
© Byrd Woodward, 2002. All poems are copyright the artist and should not be reproduced without permission.