By Marge Tisdel Burnstad

My dad, a member of “The Greatest Generation,” wore many styles of boots. Each pair could tell a story of his sixty-six year journey of life. 

            Dad’s baby booties would reveal a child born to a prosperous farm family.

            Life changed dramatically during the Great Depression. Dad’s boots were tattered and torn – the soles rubbed thin and the cardboard replacements worn out. His bare feet would identify a poor farm boy. Back then boots were a luxury – no one had anything – everyone lived on a shoe string budget. 

             The Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC Camp) provided Dad with the necessary work boots he needed to clear ponds, plant trees, and restore historic buildings at Minnesota’s Itasca State Park. Dad’s pride as a participant in something great, constructive and worthy would be reported by those boots.

               Inside Dad’s combat boots he developed jungle rot on his feet from hiking through swamps and lying in water-filled fox holes. Those grimy boots, worn in the Pacific during World War II, would whisper the evil horrors of war – events Dad chose not to discuss.

              Dad’s boots served him well as he jumped onto his tractor to plow, disc, seed, or harvest. Those durable boots took him to the pasture to bring in the cows to be milked twice each day and back out late at night, to deliver a calf or lamb. They revealed signs of grain dust, oil, gas, manure, silage, mud and sweat.    (Dad often referred to those boots as “shit kickers”). Bumper crops, hail, blizzards or crop failures would be related by those well used, sturdy work boots.

Occasionally, Dad’s boots showed signs of wear. They were too good to be thrown out. He’d drop them off at Shorma’s Shoe Repair in Wahpeton. With a few stitches, a spit and shine, his boots were as good as new.

            Mom and Dad attended many dances. I loved watching them gracefully glide across the floor doing the Two-Step, Schottische, Polka or Waltz. Dad’s dancing boots would express the pride and joy he experienced each time he danced with his lovely wife.

            His hiking boots would convey tales of rock picking, mountain or glacier climbing.  They’d chat about his trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, scaling the side of a mountain, or searching for garnets, agates, and arrowheads.    

When Dad began raising horses his foot attire switched to cowboy boots. Rodeos and a yarn of happy trails would be described by those fine boots.

            Dad spent countless hours fishing. He’d troll around looking for the perfect fishing hole.  He’d choose the precise lure or bait – minnows, leaches, or earthworms. Boastful fish stories could be conjured up by Dad’s wading boots – the perfect cast, reeling in a whopper, a stringer of ten pounders, or the big one that got away.

            These boots served Dad well after he received an ankle replacement. They lent him the support he needed for his weakened foot.  He was wearing these good looking boots the night of his fatal heart attack.  I store them in my keepsake chest. Each time I take them out I am reminded of the many walks of life my dad experienced.