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July 7, 2015

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To boot or not to boot?

Recently, I opined (they pay me to do that) about my desire to own cowboy boots but my fear that, for men, they might qualify as underwear because much of the boot never shows.

Though the fact is irrefutable, some of you chose to refute. (Is somebody paying you to do that?) Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson offered sartorial and self-defense reasons for me to get boots, starting with “white socks look fine with a suit when you’re wearing boots. Not so much with shoes.”

“The convenience of having just white socks in your drawer is compelling. No more ‘is this sock blue or black?’ as you fumble in the early AM. In fact, with nothing but white socks (preferably same brand and purchased at once so they age similarly), you don’t even need to fold them — just throw them in the drawer.”

Jerry Patterson: retired Marine, beloved state official, haberdashery expert.

He also noted boots are good for carrying knives, small guns, “unmentionables” or “a small flask, giving rise to BYIB (bring yours in boot).”

Boots, the commish wrote, also protect against “various ankle biters of differing species” and end the need to tie your shoelaces. He ended with sharp criticism of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s decision, based on back pain, to stop wearing boots. “Feeble excuse,” Patterson said.

“Tell Rick that boots can be purchased with normal heels,” he wrote. “I lament the fact that our governor could now pass for a West Coast metrosexual and has embarrassed us all with his sartorial change of direction.”

I also heard from John Moritz, spokesman for the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas. Moritz, a New Jersey native who got to Texas about when I did in the 1970s, also confronted the cowboy boot dilemma.

“Finally, the Texas-born lady who pays half the bills and makes all the rules at my house decided that I absolutely must, MUST, have cowboy boots at this stage of my life,” Moritz told me. “So I finally got a pair (you know, of course, that by ‘a pair’ I mean boots, right?) a few months ago. All of the pros and cons you listed in your column can’t be argued with. Even the underwear comparison.

“But you left out one key factor on the plus side: When you’re wearing cowboy boots, it doesn’t matter if your socks match. So for me, at least, it was $483.78 well spent,” Moritz concluded.

Readers Dianne Pingree, Jetty Sutton and Herb Steiner set me straight on something I screwed up in the boots column: Cowboys punch dogies, not doggies. Steiner said he enjoys my “insightful tomes, even your charmingly misguided opinions about cowboy boots.” (I find it helpful to be charming when I’m misguided.)

“Cowboys punch dogies,” Steiner informed me, “which are motherless immature cattle. Folks that punch doggies are, well, that just ain’t the Cowboy Way.”

I’m glad to hear I also was charmingly misguided on the meaning of punching.

Said Sutton: “Dogies are orphan animals like lambs and calves and baby goats. Ranchers surely don’t want many of those because it would mean the mama died or abandoned her baby. So, not that many orphan babies to herd/punch.”

Jim Cooper, 72, sent me tips on boot buying. He recalled the first pair he got in high school. His dad bought them for him from legendary bootmaker Charlie Dunn. Cooper also told me a good pair of boots can make you a better man.

“I don’t much like you at all, not because of where you are from, but because I generally don’t agree with your viewpoints and don’t know you otherwise,” Cooper wrote. “If, however, we were to meet and I noticed a fine pair of well-polished boots on your feet, my opinion of you would certainly be improved.”

Reason enough.

The final words on this topic came from John Kelso, an aging South Austin shut-in.

“I kept wondering where the hell is he going with this underwear concept,” Kelso wrote about my boots-are-underwear theory. “Maybe you should open a cowboy boot store called Jim Bob’s Secret.”

Ken Herman is a columnist for the Austin American-Statesman.

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