March 19th…“DID ANY OF YOUR BOYHOOD DREAMS GET DASHED ON THE ROCKS OF REALITY?”
Roy Rogers was elevated into the sky by the equine strength of his mighty Palomino, “Trigger”. When those powerful front hooves touched back down to earth, “Trigger” and Roy would streak across the screen of our black and white television in conquest of any injustices that came to challenge the law of right and good in the Old West.
As a little boy, I admired everything there was about Roy Rogers (whose actual birth name was Leonard Slye). I loved the way he sang, I thrilled to his manly muscles as he’d be fighting the bad guys and I was especially intrigued by the fancy cowboy outfits and boots he’d wear. In my tiny world of idol worship, I decided that I wanted to look like my hero, so I’d start from the ground up with some of my very own cowboy boots.
Like many farm families, money was for essentials of life, NOT cowboy boots. I’d have to EARN that kind of money on my own. So, out came the steel traps as I’d saddle up my Shetland Pony, “Little Lady”. My Shetland pony and I began our own trap line (as it’s called) for a mile or two in each direction from our farm; anywhere we saw a gopher mound, we’d set a trap. When successful, I’d catch and kill a Pocket Gopher. After killing the creature, I’d cut off their two front claw feet. After trapping and killing quite a few gophers, I’d then receive a bounty of ten cents for each front claw that I presented to our local County Agent (Charlie Heitzeg). I’d keep the claws in a glass jar of salt, so I could save up a bunch to cash in at one time. It took A LOT of gopher claws to add up to enough money to purchase and ship those boots to our farm there outside of Kiester, Minnesota. As dollar bills began to accumulate in my shoe box, I had the thrill of perusing our mail order catalogs till I found the PERFECT pair of handsome cowboy boots. The rest of my western outfit would come later, but I HAD to have those boots……BIG TIME!
With each catalog page of boots, I began imagining “Little Lady” and I on our own grand adventures around the farm with my magnificent cowboy boots hooked into her saddle stirrups. When the shoebox was “full” of cash, the day finally arrived as our beloved mother, Clarice, did the catalog paperwork on my behalf and we took the envelope, with my dream money inside, out to the mailbox. My goodness how the days seemed to creep slowly by as I waited for the magic parcel to arrive from Sears!!! Being the impatient youngster I was (and still am), I must have driven Mom close to the brink of violence as I’d harass her almost daily with, “When will they arrive? Do you think my boots will come today? Why is it taking so long?” Sainted woman that she was, I was thankful she didn’t take my head off like a praying mantis. She’d just answer my anxious questions in a reserved manner. Blessed we were to have her patient heart among us!!
The magic day FINALLY arrived and I could feel the electricity in the air as I grabbed that shipping box out of Mom’s offering arms and raced upstairs to become, in a sense, Roy Rogers (farmer boy style)! Tape and wrapping paper flew as my nervously anticipating fingers wielded a blur of activity while I dug for my precious new foot wear. These were to be my very first EVER pair of cowboy boots. The boot box lid came off and……THERE THEY WERE!!!! In all their tanned glory they filled my nostrils with their heady fragrance of leather cowhide. I could have fainted right into cowboy heaven at that moment. Scooting over, I sat on the edge of my swaybacked bed and began to tug on the first boot. OHHH NOOOO!!! No matter how hard I pulled, the boots were TOO SMALL!! Somehow our family’s concept of boot size was different than that of the Sears Catalog folks. I was totally CRUSHED in my spirit! With tears streaming down my cheeks, I took the too small boots downstairs to Mom with the deepest sad face a brokenhearted little boy could emit!! It had taken SO VERY LONG for them to come, and it would be SO VERY LONG, in a little boy’s mind, to send them back and get the next size up. But, you know, as hard as it was, I just had to endure that wait. It was a true test of patience for a very discouraged Norwegian Farmer’s Son.