Sitting with Dad, a retired stock and station agent/auctioneer, I noticed his beautiful soft RM Williams boots by the bed. I was immediately transported to the back step of our old house when I was a teenager. He passed away last month.
The well-worn brown leather boots, always covered in mud and manure, need to be cleaned. A simple job that’s usually relegated to the youngest capable child.
Cattle sales on Friday, Sheep every second Monday. The boots are left on the back verandah, just by the bottom step – always to the left. The phone starts ringing at 6pm, as truckies, farmers and agents complete their business. Dinner goes cold in the oven while it’s sorted.
The basis of the boot cleaners toolkit includes newspaper spread on the verandah below the bottom step, a damp rag, nugget, and a specially designated old bone handled bread and butter knife. The only companion on this lonesome task is Rover, the faithful Kelpie. He knows to get out of the way when the boots are banged together to loosen the mud. He’s only just cleaned the same mud from his own paws.
Awaiting dinner, he may as well share this moment while the poop is scooped from the sole, the mud scraped from the sides, and the whole lot wiped clean with the damp cloth. With one hand against the warm soft interior leather, replenishing brown nugget is smeared thick with a brush. Rubbed into the cracks it is brushed to a shine, then finished with a polishing cloth. The boots wait by the bottom step for the following morning, and are always pulled on in a hurry.
They are never replaced outright. They’re sort of phased out. A new pair appears, but they’re just for the office, where they will slowly soften and the creases will find their place. How many pair of boots has passed through in a working life? When will he stop wearing them?
When his weakening legs have only the strength to carry slippers, and Rover has grown whiskers.