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New Boots
by Dave Hovey

Early October 1959, our boss and company owner, Mr. Fred Endom from Clinton, Mississippi, sent three of us to Mankato, Minnesota, to paint a tall 1600 foot TV tower red and white. I had a new GMC pickup, just purchased for $1,700.00 total price. John Brownlee and Lamar Cook from Sandersville and Utica, Mississippi, made up the crew.

The farther north we got, the colder it got, and the windows stayed up with the heater on. Lamar had the shotgun seat, with Johnny in the middle. That was because Lamar could whip Johnny and had pleasantly offered to do so. It was dark now, past 9:00 P.M., somewhere in Iowa, and I was planning to stop at the next Tourist Court. There were no motels yet, in those days -- just little wooden cabins called Tourist Courts; however, staying there beat sleeping in the back of the truck.

Lamar and me had been rig building oil derricks in Yazoo City all summer and had each built up a pretty good amount of change. He was real proud of his new snakehide Tony Lama cowboy boots, which were sitting on the floorboard where he had pulled them off.

Johnny always chewed Red Man and he would drink Budwiser at the same time. All day and night on the way he kept asking Lamar to roll down the glass so he could lean across him and spit out the window. Lamar was trying to sleep and resented getting woke up every little while. He told Johnny if he woke him again he would make him ride on the back.

Almost an hour passed and Johnny had used the last empty Bud can for a spit can, which I had tossed out. He was needing to spit real bad and his cheeks were swelled up, but he wasn't about to ask Lamar to roll down the glass since he was snoring so comfortable. He glanced at me sideways and I shook my head, No. He was not going to spit across me either. He knew what would happen if he spit on the floor of my new truck. Very slowly and carefully he eased a snakehide cowboy boot over and hit it perfect center without a sound.

The Tourist Court man turned on his light and gave me a key to a cabin with 2 beds and a cot. We were too tired to even build a fire in the little wood heater. It had been a long time since Johnny first started to use the new boot for a spit can. Lamar just came inside in his stocking feet and set his boots by his bed.

I always got up first in the morning and was outside checking the oil and water on the truck when I heard the terrible loud cussing and saw Johnny flying across the gravel parking lot toward the road.

Lamar couldn't run fast with only one boot on. The other was in his hand and his white sock was stained brown up past the ankle.

People peeped out of some of the cabin doors and the manager headed our way to see what was up. Johnny stopped out near the road and was trying to button his shirt with shaking hands.

I was laughing too hard to talk to the manager but kept some space between me and Lamar just in case.

Finally Lamar hopped back inside to run tub water into his new boot and rinse it out. The air turned less blue around us and even the manager chuckled on his way back to the office.

We picked up Johnny on the side of the road a while later. He rode on the back though out in the cold wind and watched Lamar real close through the truck glass. When we pulled in for our gas station breakfast of Moon Pies and soda pop, he stayed well clear of Lamar.

That night we made it to our job and settled into another Tourist Court. We found the package store, checked out the local action, and by the time we started to paint the tower the next day, the guys had reached an understanding. Good thing they both wore the same size boots.

Lamar would get another new pair when we made it back to Mississippi and Johnny now had a pair just like them with one brown lining.


Dave Hovey has been a Yalobusha County, Mississippi, resident forty plus years. He was born in North Dakota, a few miles south of the Canadian border.

"My folks moved back south when I was eight. Statute of Limitations had run out," Dave says.

He is married to Emma Dawkins of Coffeeville, Mississippi, and they live on and farm "the old home place." Dave has worked all over the USA and abroad, erecting oil derricks and tall communications towers.

"I've enjoyed writing about my unusual co-workers' mis-adventures and experiences over the years, and I appreciate the venue USADEEPSOUTH provides for aspiring Erskine Caldwell wannabees," writes Dave.

Read another of Dave's tales: The Straw Man


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