Remember the shoe repair store in the vicinity of the Chief Theater? In the 1980s I dropped off a pair of shoes to be repaired—yes, people used to have shoes repaired. The owner also sold boots.

I was in the market for a good pair of boots to wear deer hunting and he happened to have a pair on sale for around $40. He said they would withstand minus 70-degree temperatures. They were high boots, camouflage color and there were no laces or buckles. I purchased the boots and wore them on hundreds of occasions for the next 35 years or so.

Recently walking on the ice through all of the snow and slush wearing my favorite boots, my feet were getting wet. My old boots had sprung a leak. It was time to put them to rest. They just wore out like all of us eventually do.

I have found that putting old clothes to rest is sad. I spent a lot of time in those boots and they served me well. I certainly got my money’s worth. They were with me when I walked through our woods. They were with me in the duck blind and on the deer stand. They were with me in the fish house and when gathering maple syrup in the spring. They were with me when I took the dogs on our many walks. They became good friends.

Kathy would have thought I was really strange if I would have said something like, “I think I will wait until spring and do a proper burial for the boots.” What did I do with them? I just put them in with the other garbage to be discarded with the rest of the trash. It’s hard getting rid of old clothes that have served you for a long, long time.

When my father passed away we had to get rid of lots of things. Obviously we kept many things but you can’t keep it all. After having several garage sales and an auction and giving things to the kids, we finally disposed of it all. One of things I could not part with was my father’s old tan hunting jacket. It was the kind with a pocket in the back where you could put a pheasant or two or a rabbit or a squirrel.

I washed it and hung it up next to my other outdoor clothes. When I see it, I am reminded of the countless hours that my father and brother and myself walked cornfields and sat in duck blinds. That old jacket became part of my father. And, I guess, my father became part of the jacket just like my old boots became part of me.

What about you? Can you think of old clothes you had to discard or maybe are still hanging around the house that are part of you? What is it about some clothes that affect us in such a special way? They are kind of like the blankets that young kids have—like Linus in the Peanuts cartoon strip. In many ways our old clothes are kind of like a security blanket.

Students will sometimes wear the same jacket or sweatshirt or shoes year after year until they grow out of them. As a teacher, I never pushed kids to take off their jacket. If they felt they needed to wear it in the classroom, that was fine with me. I think it made them feel more secure and comfortable.

When I was in my early teens I had this black jacket with red stripes around the cuffs and around the collar. It was a spring jacket, made of heavy cotton. Under it I wore a white tee-shirt. It was kind of like my uniform. I can remember my brother, who was a very good dresser in high school, asking me why I wanted to wear that old jacket all the time. I didn’t have a good answer for him. It had become part of me.

I have this old leather Vikings jacket that is my favorite. It must be about 30 years old. I bought it in Wisconsin on sale at a discount store. The leather is beginning to wear off the sleeves and on the front. Kathy can’t believe I am still wearing it. The zipper recently broke and I am having it replaced, which will probably cost more than what I paid for the jacket. I’m not ready to put it to rest.

In a way, clothes are kind of like old cars. Some of them we hate to part with. Both of my kids learned to drive on a standard transmission Nissan pickup. We had it for many years and my kids loved it. It finally broke down long after my kids left home. I couldn’t see junking it so I gave it to a neighbor boy who had grease in his blood and loved to tinker around with engines. He got the old Nissan running again and as far as I know, it’s still going. I’m happy for him and the old pickup.

I replaced the old pair of boots with a new pair that are supposed to be good for 40 below. There are no laces or buckles, you just slip them on. They remind me a lot of the boots they replaced. If they last long enough, which I assume they will, I just might pass away with my boots on.

Riddle: Which President wore the largest shoes? (Answer: The President with the largest feet. It could have been Washington, because he was a ton.)

100%

Thanks to Beltrami County Social Service, Beltrami County Highway Dept. and Salli and Ellie Daycare, we now have 353 organizations that support 100%. You can help our students graduate when you:

  • Ensure that they are safe.
  • Know where your kids are at all times.
  • Ensure they have warm clothes.

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.