I remember when we were house hunting in Vermont being amazed at the piles of boots in people\’s mud rooms and closets: tall boots, short boots, rubber boots and leather boots, as well as clogs of all descriptions. In my pre-Vermont days, I never saw the need for more than a couple of pairs of boots—one black, one brown, high-heeled of course, to go with whatever outfit I was wearing. And a third pair for hiking. As for clogs, I thought they were something you wore for folk dancing.
Now that we have been in Vermont almost five years, our house, garage, and barn are littered with various kinds of specialized foot gear. Let me take you on a tour, starting with the barn. In the milking room there is a pair of blue rubber clogs that I slip on every day when I go into the goat or chicken rooms. Their raison d\’etre is to keep me from tracking hay and manure back into the house. Next to them there is a pair of tall rubber boots, the kind you see real farmers wearing. I keep them there in case I have to venture into the goat yard in mud season. Before putting them on, I always shake them upside down to get rid of any critters that may be hibernating there.
In the garage there is an old pair of Crocs—the kind without any holes—that I use to walk the dogs and to garden in when the ground is wet but not overly muddy or slushy. There is also an old pair of running shoes that I wear exclusively to my herding lessons with Wolfie. The soles are so encrusted with sheep manure that I\’ll never be able to use those shoes for anything else.
Come into the house. Just inside the back door, in winter, you will find a plastic tray with my serious cold weather boots defrosting on it. They are a pain to put on and take off, but I could trek to the North Pole in them and my feet would stay warm. I have snapped some gizmos onto the soles to keep me upright on the ice. On the floor of the entrance closet (the one by the front door that nobody ever uses) live my hiking boots.
Proceed up the stairs and look in the bedroom closet. Here is another pair of Crocs, this one with holes, that I wear indoors and, if the weather is clement, outdoors as well. Note the assortment of suede clogs which I reserve for fairly dressy (at least by Vermont standards) occasions. A couple of pairs of high-heeled shoes, forlorn reminders of days gone by, gather dust on the shelf.
On the floor there are more boots. These are my “dress” boots, one pair black, one pair brown, though with substantial rather than sexy heels because you never know what kind of terrain you\’ll have to cross on your way to the party. Plus two pairs of regular walking-around boots.
Did I mention the snow shoes hanging in the garage?
I would say that, at least from the standpoint of footwear, I am on my way to becoming a real Vermonter. But I am lacking in one respect: around here, when people come to your house, not only do they come to the back door, but they immediately take off their shoes…to reveal some of the most exotic, imaginative, baroque socks I have ever seen. When I take off my boots, alas, nothing dramatic or humorous greets the eye. My chaussettes don\’t advertise my love for the German Shepherd breed or express my political convictions—they are a boring, solid, flatlander beige or black. I need to do something about that before the cold weather sets in.