Few things are more honest to me than my pair of old leather boots.
The scuffs, stains, rips and tears all have a story. Each one a story of something I have lived personally. It is a genuine record of a life actually lived— with far more meaning than I could ever find on any smart phone or computer.
There is one deep cut along the toe of my right boot. I caught it on a barbed wire fence while bird hunting in Iowa a couple of years ago with my wife. Though it was Ivey walking with me that day- when I see that cut it always makes me think of the spark in my father’s eye and his ability to walk men half his age into the ground in pursuit of the next covey.
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My father taught me the life-lesson of always using the best equipment you can afford before you venture off the concrete into an uncharted unscripted adventure in the wild. I learned to never let your flashlight batteries die, to double check the rainfly on your mountain tent and always bring an extra cigarette lighter; not to smoke but to start a fire in case of emergency.
The biggest lesson however was this; if your feet get wet or cold the trip is over. Nothing else matters. It doesn’t matter how good your binoculars are or how accurate your rifle may be if your feet are hurting or wet or cold- it’s over. You may still have hours in front of you before the base camp or truck are in view, so you’d better be particular about the boots you choose.
I have been wearing Filson’s as my everyday drivers for too many years to remember now. I was born with a severely clubbed foot and struggle to find footwear that fits well, lasts and can stand up to the punishment I dish out on a very regular basis.
When I was a kid my mother would buy two different sized shoes because she was convinced I was going to walk out of the one on the right. My right is four sizes smaller than the left but I have rarely left a shoe behind unintentionally except when it is stuck in deep mud and the suction is so great its torn away by the physics of the situation.
As I grew older destroying nearly every kind of shoe and boot you can imagine was a kind of sport. The right foot is cocked to the side and as a result it runs to the outside and breaks down everything from sneakers to hiking boots.
It can happen fast.
One pair of very expensive boots purchased specifically for a sheep hunt were destroyed less than one day into the trek into the Alaska Range. The trip in the toughest mountain range in North America carried on for another week in some of the most unforgiving frozen rain, sleet and snow. The boots were shot and delivered pain with every step. In short, the expensive boots failed and I suffered for it.
The discovery of American made Filson unlined leather boots was an epiphany that delivered incredible joy. It has ever since.
Stepping into ankle deep slush in Michigan in April or working my way up to a clearing looking for a place to toss an ought Mepps in Montana—the Filson’s are always there. From the first flush to the last they are my companion.
People have asked me if I really wanted to wear my boots on days that I am flying. The answer is always the same, yes. I am more than willing to go through a little bit of inconvenience to unlace and lace my boots back up to go through security.
There is a confidence of knowing no matter what happens I will be ready for it and so will my feet.