Saturday, November 15, 2008
Boots. I know now, why Boots has to stay "Boots". My house is small and amazingly cluttered as a small 100 year old house with one real and two sort-of closets can be after living in it with one husband, two children, and a succession of Alaskan Malamutes and Malamutts for going on 20 years. There's a lot of stuff.
It's spring and time to clean off the back porch. I was being pretty ruthless in a halfhearted way. Ruthless in that I was not saving every mismatched glove in vague hope that it's partner would appear before next winter, though I did squirrel a favorite few into a baggie in the summer hat box. Ruthless, in that cloth bags and backpacks of all description found their way to the bag destined for the huge clothing drop off bins now found easily in grocery store parking lots. I tossed backpacks, not damaged, just used for a couple of years of schoolbooks and lunches. I tossed fanny packs unless they were marked with some event whose memory I still clung to with a passing smile. But as I worked my way up the metal shelf with the backpacks, old gloves, rejected kitchen utensils, camping gear, recycled pop bottles and grass stained tennis shoes, I came to the boots.
First, I encountered Gabe's old Boy scout hiking boots, heavy and brown. They were the cheapest of the expensive kind of hiking boots we could find to fit his even then size 14 foot. I contemplated them briefly before placing them in a plastic bag for the grocery store parking lot bins. Though I'm sure they made footprints in summer trails from Ontario to the shores of lake Superior, I know, now 18, Gabe doesn't look to these boots to hold what he recalls of those buggy Boy Scout days, even if he wanted to.
My big green Lacrosse boots were more difficult to toss. They are cracked with the changes of heat and cold they've endured on the porch and through the years I wore them. I can see them now, deep in the October mud puddles of Northern Minnesota, plowing their cloying murk with joy, rig and dogs, and countless teams splashing through around us. I watch them tramping heavy on the solitary trails of just myself and my own team, maybe Patti and hers ahead in the Quarry, long corridors of puddles spread out like skipping stones down the trail. Those green boots were just rubber, made heavy by steel shanks on the bottom, but through the thin rubber the cold could be felt, clammy against even heavy pant legs when they made their way through spring bogs and thawing streams. Those were some good boots, but they were cracked and leaking now, and I put them in the trash bag. Next to them on the shelf I found Gideon's last winters boots. Those could be given away without even a passing thought. He never wore them if he could help it and they didn't fit anyone in the family now.
Behind them all, pressed against the dirty glass of the porch, almost falling off the shelf, dusty and covered with cobwebs were a pair of cheap rubber boots, navy blue with green trim, the flatfooted, lightweight rain boots I bought in the years before I knew what kind of footwear I really needed for what I do. I reached to throw them out, marveling at why I had kept them for so many years and certain they signified the reason for the incredible clutter of my household. In as long as it took me to stretch my arm, grasping for the top shelf, I saw it. It was on the left boot. Half of the brim of the left boot had been gnawed off, making a crooked and torn crescent in the old rubber. My gaze settled on that boot, chewed by an Alaskan Malamute named Cody who came to us with a beautiful voice, crawling beneath the seats of our Chevy Station Wagon on the way home from Chicago when he was 6 weeks old, 19 years back this spring. I'd worn the boot chewed like that for years, liking the fact that Cody had left his mark there, before I abandoned them for sturdier fare.
I look down from the boot shelf and all around my feet, strewn across the porch, and chewing each others ears are six Alaskan Malamute puppies, 7 weeks old this past Wednesday. I still turn a casual eye to many of their destructive antics: Those shoes are old anyway. Who needs that old collar? Their small eyes peer up at me, pulling boots down from the shelves, and I settle on the one that I have called "Boots". Of the six puppies, if I have a favorite, it is likely Boots. He sits across the room on the battered dog beds, just sitting, looking at me, as I recall Cody doing 19 years earlier, Cody gone 9 years now, but for the memory of his young eyes peering at me as Boot's do now, and the tracks of his teeth on the cheap navy blue rubber boots.
"Boots" is short for Bootstrap. It was just a silly puppy name because we watched Pirates of the Caribbean to relax a couple of nights after the pups were born. My clever husband says we'll call him Boots R Made for Mushin. But I've been thinking of the pitfalls of the name, of what else we might end up calling him with a name like that. Bootsie or BS come to mind. I've thought about looking in the usual sources for my more exotic names, my Alaskan Atlas, or the online Inuit Dictionary. I looked up the Inuit name for Bootstrap and it was worse than Bootsie for sure, Sitif or something like that. Exotic names don't seem to be doing it for me this round. So "Boots" he's stayed so far, though I keep telling myself the name Boots, should be for a black kitten with white feet. I've told myself that if I keep him, when the other puppies go to their homes, I will contemplate a new name for him. But looking at that gnawed boot on the top shelf, my hand recoiling from it's reach to toss it away forever, I know now that won't happen.
He was "Boots" because we became too enthralled with Johnny Depp and his crew in our exhausted efforts to unwind when the pups were just days old. Now he's Boots because I've relived a myriad of times and trails in the hopeless clutter of my back porch. It's because boots hold all memory of steps taken, streams crossed and trails broken. . Boots will stay "Boots" to leave his own mark of tooth and paw on heart, and trail.
Picture courtesy of Kris Kurzawa