If you mozy on down through the ranches of in the Wild Wild West, you are bound to come across a few with a pair of cowboy boots resting upside down on top of a fence post. We've got quite a few ranches here in Washington state, have you come across boots on a fence post?
I like to think that cowboys put their boots on the posts to dry them out just in time to hit the club later for some line dancing. At least, if I was a cowgirl, that's why I would put them out there!
Perhaps those early cowboys who stuck their old boots on the fence were heading down to the old town road, with the horses in the back.
You might see one sole boot on the post or a whole pair. I've seen explanations ranging from honoring the dead (cowboys), straight-up cowboy traditions, letting people know if they're home or not, and protecting cows from poking their skin on the barbed wire.
Let's think about these reasons for a second.
Putting boots to let people know if you're home or not? Oh, so you just want to advertise it to the criminals, "Hey y'all, we're not home right now. Help yourself to our family valuables and steal a pig or two while you're at it."
Protecting cows from poking their skin on the barbed wire? What cows and bulls do YOU know like to rub up against a fence post? Well, I could see that happening if the heifers had an itch they wanted to scratch. (I just wanted an excuse to use the word 'heifer'.)
There's a legend that the boots are supposed to be free for the grabbing, helping out strangers passing through who could use a newer pair of boots. Isn't that encouraging vagabonds to steal your old boots? My parents raised me not to steal stuff from people's property. I remember how I used to get in big trouble for stealing crayons, stickers, and chump change from my classmates' backpacks and purses when I was in elementary school. The last thing I'd wanna do is pilfer somebody's cowboy boots as a full-grown adult! Depending on how much those boots are worth in retail value, that could be a gross misdemeanor! Have you seen the PRICE on some of these boots at the Boot Barn on South 1st Street?!
I prefer to think of the displaying of boots as a decorating style. You've heard of Bohemian chic, Shaggy chic, Steampunk chic. Why not call this Cowgirl Chic? (Or Cowboy chic, if you're a stickler.)
You know how in some neighborhoods, kids will throw a pair of tennis shoes over the electric lines to mark their territory? Maybe the first cowboys to stick their old stinky boots on their fences were merely marking their territory. Those cowboy rivals across the acre on the Eastside knew better than to mess with the Westside ranchers! Maybe it was a case of early versions of the Hatfields and the McCoys or the Jets and the Sharks!
I'm still leaning towards putting them out to make heading out to the juke joint a little bit easier. COWBOY CUMBIA, anyone?
We haven't collectively decided what the heck it really means to see cowboy boots on a fence post, but a word to the wise, if you're gonna try to grab one, you'd better not get caught!