Best of the Best: These boots used to be made for walking

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Cathy Best

Cathy Best

By Cathy Best, Columnist

Texas covers 268,820 square miles; it’s a big state… big state. My father and younger sister do their dead level best to cover some part of it every time he visits her in San Antonio. Snapping pictures and giggling, they traipse the back roads in search of quirky places. It’s amazing what they discover.

On one trip, the quest was to find a shrimp farmer in Imperial, Texas. They missed him by a few years; he had moved on to grow algae. Jaunts around the state have uncovered a rug maker in Paintrock, leather toolers in Kingsville, and the Hummer House in Chistoval- “summer home to Texas’ largest concentration of breeding Black-chinned Hummingbirds.”

In San Angelo they discovered ceramic potters in a chicken coop and a water lily farmer who collects, and grows, lilies from all over the world. On my father’s most recent trip, the two visited Rootin Tootin Boutique in Morgan Mill, Texas.

Upon arriving in the small community, south of Fort Worth, they stopped by the post office to get directions to the shop. Down the street a few blocks, a left–hand turn, and the first driveway on the left found them in the front yard of a small house.

They knocked on the door and Arlie Garrett’s wife, Debby, answered. Yes, Arlie was out in his shop in the garage. When Arlie retired, from his career as teacher and high school football coach, he needed something more to occupy himself besides selling vintage cowboy boots at craft fairs.

Glancing around the house he noticed an old pair of cowboy boots and began to imagine what he could make out of them. He settled on a purse. Yes, a purse. I told you daddy and sister find quirky things. Seems Arlie and Debby have quite a business turning worn cowboy boots into purses, wine totes and Texas tea totes.

Pickers find boots all across the state, and beyond, to supply Arlie’s imagination. He crafts, and sells, his purses in one half of his garage; the other half holds the family car. Daddy and sister, Leslie, enjoyed visiting with Arlie and Debby while selecting four purses to purchase- one for each of daddy’s daughters.

When my sister Donna received her purse she called to inquire who made the boots my purse was made out of. Since Arlie left the makers mark in the boots she discovered her purse was a pair of Tony Llamas. On inspection, my boots were made by the Don Atkinson Custom Boot and Saddle Shop in Kerrville, Texas.

I did a little digging and found Don Atkinson was, not only, a legendary boot and saddle maker until his death in 2012, at the age of 82, he was also a fixture on the rodeo circuit until the age of 42.

Research revealed, that beginning when Atkinson was nine years old, renowned Oklahoma boot and saddle maker Monroe Veach mentored him and later set up Atkinson’s first shop. An innate ability to work with leather led Don Atkinson to make boots for Gene Autry, Hank Williams and Slim Pickens, among others.

[His own tomato-red rodeo boots are in the Cowboy Hall of Fame and the rodeo arena at Thousand Hills Cowboy Church in Kerrville, Texas, is named in his honor, Don Atkinson Arena.] Reading about Don Atkinson only piqued my interest further. I’d love to know two things: who wore my purse as boots and where did the boots take them? If they were anything like my daddy and sister there’s no tellin.

BEST OF THE BEST Barkin’ Dogs Shoe Co., South Main St., Madison: Great selection of cowboy boots. Rootin Tootin Boutique, Morgan Mill, TX: The boutique will custom make a purse out of your boots. Hummer House Bed and Breakfast, Christoval, TX: Check out the best time to view the hummingbirds and their natural habitat, Share your discoveries with Cathy:

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