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Lessons where the rubber meets the boot

The other day I was in a big box outdoors store when I happened to be going through the high-topped rubber boot aisle, as a man is wont to do. After a few steps, I noticed a couple of fellows looking at the price of a quality pair of rubber boots and shaking their heads.

“Who on earth would pay $350 for a pair of rubber boots?” one asked.

It was obvious that they had little understanding of the value of a good pair of high-topped rubber boots, or they would not have even asked.

It seems to me that the average uninformed person simply believes that the high-topped rubber boot’s sole purpose is to keep a person’s feet warm and dry. That’s because they live in some sort of utopian world.

Little kids and seasoned outdoorsmen know better, however. For we fully appreciate that the primary purpose of a high-topped rubber boot is to tell you how deep the water you just stepped in is. Nothing more. Nothing less.

We also know the boots in question are not instruments of precise measurement. Rather, they are meant to provide the child or outdoorsman with quick, meaningful information: essentially, is the water lower or higher than the top of my boot.

This critical information is key to the decision-making process when attempting to cross anything from puddles to oceans.

If the water is lower than the top of the boot, we know we can take another step. If it is higher, we then realize that we should have not taken the step we just took. For the outdoorsman or child, this is valuable information. And it is probably you rarely see a person in high-topped rubber boots swimming.

I’m not suggesting that high-topped rubber boots don’t serve other valuable purposes too. No, sir. You get so much more for your money.

For instance, if a certain hunter insists on continuing to wear socks that exceed a hunt camp’s liberal sanitary standards, rubber boots can remedy this unfortunate situation. This is because other savvy members of the camp will, once their eyes stop watering, secretly pour a liberal amount of laundry detergent in each rubber boot and then send the hunter in question to a stand that requires him or her to cross a creek or two whose water levels are definitely higher than the boot is tall. By the end of the day, those socks will be the cleanest thing in camp.

(FYI: This can also be done with underwear, providing you can get the person to wear chest waders.)

Rubber boots are also designed to give good indication of how much suction the mud on any trail has. And this is helpful to everyone who lags behind the person wearing the rubber boots. Basically, if that person walks into the muddy stretch with rubber boots on and walks out of it in stocking feet, you should probably walk on the high and dry ground around the mud.

A lot of people don’t know this, but they can even be used to measure speed, reflexes and fitness. Fitness can be gauged by placing a rubber rattlesnake in one and then watching how close the person putting them on gets to or past the rafters after noticing it. And you can get a sense of how good a person’s speed and reflexes are if you make a rattling sound the next time they pass by.

That’s important to know, especially after they find out it was you who placed that rubber snake in their boots.

A little more local for your inbox.

Seven days. One newsletter. Local reporting about people and places you
won't find anywhere else. Stay caught up with The Observer This Week.

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