My Bootiful Day

(“I just couldn’t stand it anymore!”)

We who’ve been around a good while can look back on the beginnings of our riding careers and marvel at our innocence and the little crises we naïvely got ourselves into. As you may know, I started riding in my late teens as a fresh faced and wide eyed foxhunting candidate hoping to impress my equestrienne girlfriend. I was by no means impoverished, but my soon-to-be college kid budget did not permit rushing out to buy trunk loads of fancy clothing and equipment. I had a faded velvet hunt cap and, when I first rode, a saggy pair of second hand field boots which I had dyed black.

Anticipating  my first formal hunt over Christmas break freshman year, I picked a November Saturday to ride the New Haven Railroad in to Grand Central and buy myself a real pair of dress up boots. This was way before Dover or State Line. If you wanted to shop for riding stuff, you had two real choices. They were both in lower Manhattan about a block apart on E. 24th Street—Miller’s and Kauffman’s. So eschewing the cost of a subway token, I marched myself down Park Avenue in the rain to Miller’s Harness Company. Having never been in a real tack store, of course I was awed and amazed by all the treasures to be had.

Shopping at the Baltic/Mediterranean Avenue end of the spectrum, I selected a pair of Marlboroughs. In retrospect the leather was thick and cardboard-hard, but they were shiny and new and they were going to be mine! I remember they cost 36 dollars.

They were pretty tight, but with some talcum powder and the bemused salesman’s instructions on the use of boot pulls, I got them on and stood, greatly admiring myself in the full length mirror.

Once back in New Haven they sat in their box as I marked off the days awaiting vacation. Till I just couldn’t stand it anymore. One late afternoon when the dorm was empty— I’d have been too embarrassed to do it in front of anyone—I just had to try them on again. Exercising forethought, I had purchased my own boot pulls and some powder. After a bit of a struggle, I managed to get them on. And they were absolutely as wonderful as they were the first time.
But then it was time for me to go off to work – I bussed tables every suppertime in the dining hall. And it dawned on me that the one thing Miller’s had which I did not was a boot jack.

. . . And I was imprisoned in my wonderful boots. Could I wear them to work? Not likely! Was there any one around to help me get them off? No, I have been very careful beforehand to be sure no one would spy me modeling them. And no amount of tugging and sweating and cursing would get them off.

In a panicked, desperate effort not to be late for work, I pulled the mattress off my bed, wedged my foot in among the springs, and chinned myself on the opposite end of the bed frame till somehow I got free of them. Looking back on my predicament , although I grew up in an age where zippers were already invented, another generation would pass before anyone thought to put them on the back of riding boots for dopes like me.