Thursday, April 17, 2014

These Old Boots

Years ago I bought two pairs of “Bean Boots” (more properly called “Maine Hunting Shoes”) from L.L. Bean of Freeport, Maine. These are the original style rubber bottom-leather topped boots that were first sold in 1912 – No, the boots I own are not 1912 vintage, I’m not that old – and were purchased in the 1970s. They’re ideal for wear in wet or muddy conditions, although a friend and coworker wore his Bean Boots almost every day he was outdoors, all year round.

The original chain pattern soles on these boots didn’t provide the best traction and wore out fairly quickly, so I had the bottoms replaced. Back then the company offered an option to replace the original rubber bottoms with new ones that had Vibram soles. Over a decade and many, many miles later, when those Vibram soles had worn down, both pairs of boots went back to Bean’s for a second set of new bottoms with Vibram soles, some re-stitching and a couple of leather patches. Unfortunately, L.L. Bean no longer offers the option of Vibram soles when the boots are sent in for new bottoms.

Although my Bean Boots aren’t insulated, I’ve worn them at 25° below zero with two or three pairs of woolen socks. With old style 10-point crampons on, they’ve helped me make my way up frozen waterfalls and climb above timberline on glare ice to the top of some Adirondack High Peaks. They’ve been on my feet as I crawled to the top of one of those High Peaks when the sustained wind speed was so high that it was impossible to stand upright much less walk. They’ve been in mud to and beyond their top eyelets in wetlands and newly constructed roads; and they’ve occasionally been coated in manure. The bindings on my snowshoes fit them perfectly because, when we’ve had enough snow to need snowshoes, the Bean Boots were the only ones I wore. They’ve been on my feet on long hikes and daily walks.

One pair just went to the local boot repair shop to have some torn stitching repaired, and the other will follow suit. Both pairs of boots still provide good service – in winter snow and the mud time of spring; in the dew of autumn and on days of rain – they’re on my feet whenever it’s wet and I venture into forest and field.
No, this isn’t an ad for Bean Boots or a non-celebrity endorsement, it’s just a token of affection for the old boots (and the folks who made them) that have accompanied me at work and at play and carried me to some beautiful places and grand experiences.

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