Fancy Dancing – not quite the Sherman Alexie way

Over the last day, or so, there was a passioned discussion on Facebook. The object of everyone’s desires were cowboy boots. Not just any old boots, but outrageous, even crazy, fancy line-dancing kind of cowboy boots!
Many, many years ago Barry presented me with the gift of a pair of custom-designed, handmade cowboy boots from our neighborhood boot maker, Paul Wheeler, in Houston.

It was an unforgettable experience for this newby Texan-by-Choice to select the materials, be fitted and wait for the unique finished product. To my utter amazement, my beautiful Python boots fit like a glove and have been the most comfortable companions ever since. But, being delicate snakeskin boots, they’re not suitable for everyday life on the ranch. They truly are fancy dancing boots!

So, when we moved to

for good in 2004, new boots were definitely in order. We soon learned of Don Atkinson, who has been a boot and saddle maker in his native Oklahoma since age 13. He now has his workshop not far from our place, in Ingram. He is in his eighties, but still gives classes in saddle and boot making – some of his students travel all the way from Japan for his instructions. He still tools saddles and makes boots and belts. He does, only v e r y slowly.

Don is a sweetheart and he can’t refuse the devil a lie. He constantly accepts small and large repair requests, as well as pleas by old friends for just one more pair … all the while struggling with some pretty serious health issues. His wife Virginia, who does the stitching for his boots, is often not able to work either. After the initial fittings and selection of leathers, gorgeous cream with black, it took us about six months to pay for both pairs, after which Don got to work. First Barry’s black with cream boots, then my cream with black twin pair. For the next year and a half, give or take, we visited with Don in his workshop every time we drove to town, roughly once a week, cajoling, encouraging, admonishing, laughing, crying, you name it, we tried it!

We did despair on occasion. We did wonder if Don might live long enough to see the job through, but it was all worth it. In addition to sturdy and beautiful handmade gems, we had the privilege to become friends with one of the last craftsman of the ‘Old West’. A man, who retired once, but couldn’t stand ‘getting fat doing nothing’. A man with a never-ending supply of stories about rodeo riders and country singers. A legend himself. And these are his creations. Thanks, Don and Gini!!


PS to all you 21st Century politically correct people out there. I am aware of conservation (snakeskin boots) and animal cruelty (rodeos). The former was 30 years ago and I love our neighborhood rodeos!

One thought on “Fancy Dancing – not quite the Sherman Alexie way

  1. I realize I am a little making a commment, but…..Very Cool!!!
    Who says rodeo's are cruel? You mean to the cowboys? Hey, it's their own free will to get on that bull! I think it's called testosterone or something.


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