Trophy Boots

by Byrd Woodward

I’d felt a hand grippin’ my shoulder as I was standin’ there,
‘Long side the grave of my daddy, head bent, pretending prayer…
I was thinkin’, “God, you son of a gun, I’ll look you up one day;
I’ll walk right up and ask you why you took both my folks away.’
When the preachin’ was over, I looked to see whose hand it was I’d felt…
All I could see was the buckle he wore to fasten up his belt.
He looked just like a mountain, the biggest man I’d ever seen…
Hat pushed back and grinnin’ at me, wearin’ boots and Levi jeans.

He was a friend of my daddy’s, a man I’d known most of my life…
He’d been at the service for Mama and always treated me nice.
It was Jim, the rodeo cowboy, famous both far and wide…
There’d been a time when he and my dad both wanted Ma for his bride.
They’d stayed best of friends even after one had beat out the other,
And wed the woman they both loved…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, makin’ a living…but not much else.

Mama died when I was six; now at eight, my dad was gone, too…
Aunt Mattie said she’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 wearin’ just plumb took my breath away.
I’d never seen anything like them and they proved a distraction of sorts…
Jim said they were hand-crafted snakeskin, they gleamed like smoky quartz.
He stayed on, him and me workin’ cattle, there on my uncle’s ranch,
He helped me work out my sorrow, showin’ me I still had a chance.

Came time the rodeo season started up after winter’s break;
My friend said he was leaving, that he had a livin’ to make.
My guts tied in knots as we loaded his good roping horse,
He gripped my shoulder and said, “Son, I’ll be back, in due course.”
I needed to tell him I knew he’d stayed on just to help me…
That he was my best friend and I hoped he would forever be.
My tongue tangled up, words stuck in my throat; I fin’ly blurted to him,
‘What’re you gonna do with them boots when ya git through with ‘em, Jim?”

He grinned and said I could have them…”There’s lots of good in ‘em yet;
I’ll polish ‘em up ‘fore I ship ‘em…and I promise I won’t ferget”.
First he sent new boots he thought would fit….they were a bit too small…
I wore them ‘til they pinched so bad, I couldn’t get in them at all.
Whenever he could, he’d stop by and tell me I ‘sure was getting tall’;
He’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 mail…
They must have been a size fifteen, my feet rattled in them like hail…

But they were the ones I’d waited for since I was a little kid…
The same ones Jim was wearing when he came to do what he did.
The note that came in the box said, “See, son, I said that I would;
I’m not sure that these old things will ever do you much good.”
I stuffed the toes with holey socks and bandaided-up my heels…
And flapped around like someone who’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, there’s not one I’d care to repeat.

I wore those boots until they threatened to fall right off my feet…
I never did grow into them…and never admitted defeat.
Those boots belonged to my hero, the man I’d tried to become…
The cowboy who shaped me and taught me, the man who called me ‘son’.
The new boots kept coming in the mail, long after I’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 three…
Just as steady as clock work they came, with an unspoken guarantee:

“This is the way I can tell you how much all of you mean to me…
Yer dad an’ me ain’t much good with words, I guess you’ll all agree.
Yer daddy wanted t’ know about love when he was just a boy…
He asked about some ol’ boots of mine…but that was just a decoy;
He wanted t’ know would I ferget about him after a while…
Would I recall his eyes were brown or he had a crooked smile…?
“What’re ya gonna do with yer boots… when you get through with ‘em, Jim?”
I’d send some along, filled up with love, no matter if they suited him.”

Aunt Mattie had told me when my dad died, he had left a will…
That all he’d had came to me and there weren’t any debts or bills.
Truth was he hadn’t left anything…. the ranch was buried in red…
But Mattie said everything was just fine and I was never to fret.
I learned later that Jim had paid for everything I’d ever owned,
The clothes I wore, the car I drove, everything, til I was grown….
I ate ‘Jim food’, went off to college on a ‘Jim Scholarship’…
Rode a ‘Jim Saddle’ 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 horse…
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 ‘son’,
Is the one mounted up there on the wall, the trophy that both of them won…
It represents their love and pride, it’s the one the whole family salutes
Every day as they’re walking by…..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, 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.