Bob knows why cowboys die with boots on

Bob knows why cowboys die with boots on By Bob Karolevitz I'm not much for wearing cowboy boots.

They don't fit my personality any more than a 10-gallon Stetson or a big, ornate belt buckle does.

Actually, I'm more of an oxford or loafer man myself.

Originally the boots were made just for working cowboys, and thus the name. Now I've seen them peeking out from under priestly garments, on the feet of presidents, on bankers and lawyers; and they tell me that even Pope John Paul II has a pair although I don't think he wears them.

They were designed for cowboys on horseback, not for congressmen or airline pilots. The pointy toes slipped into stirrups quickly, and the high heels kept them from sliding through.

Along with leather chaps, they protected the riders from cactus needles and the prickly branches of mesquite bushes, neither of which are a problem on Main Street or in a boardroom.

The high sides also warded off snake bites, seldom occurring behind a pulpit or in a truck cab.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not an anti-boot person. I'm just surprised to see who's wearing them, that's all.

Now there are even cowboy boots for women who never climbed into a saddle. The swagger makes them look sexy, I guess.

While I'm on the subject of Western regalia, I should mention those big hats. I'm not against them either, as long as they're on the right heads. They just don't go with a three piece suit, in my estimation. Too many fancy white Stetsons are worn by men who are trying to look like what they aren't.

Jeans are something else again. Today they're as American as apple pie. You see them everywhere, even in church on Sunday. There was a time, though, when cowboys, gold-panners and lumber-jacks were the principle wearers of those sturdy pants made out of canvas-like duck cloth.

I'll bet you didn't know that Genoa, Italy, was one of the suppliers of the material in those early work trousers. The French word for Genoa is Genes, which apparently was Americanized into "jeans."

They were also called Levis after Levi Strauss, the Gold Rush entrepreneur, who teamed up with a struggling tailor named Jacob Davis who used copper rivets to provide extra strength at stress points like the crotch in the pants he made.

Unfortunately, when cowboys squatted around their roaring campfires at night, those rivets grew uncomfortably warm, especially in the more sensitive part of their anatomy, and they became victims of the so-called Hot Rivet Syndrome.

That went on until 1933 when the then president of the Levi Strauss company got similarly scorched on a camping trip in the High Sierras. He vowed that the heat-bearing rivet must go; and at the next board meeting of the Strauss firm, the directors voted to do away with it.

But I digress.

I started out writing about cowboy boots and how they are showing up on people who have nothing to do with cattle. There was a time when Phyllis even bought me a pair, and I sure as heck didn't qualify in the bovine department.

I tried them a few times, but for me it was like walking on stilts. Then came the problem of taking them off at night.

I finally found out why cowboys die with their boots on. They can't get the danged things off, that's why!

© 2001 Robert F. Karolevitz

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