Bootmaker sets up shop in Marfa

from BigBendnow.com

Boot maker sets up shop in Marfa

May 12th, 2011 under Top Stories

By EMILY JO CURETON

MARFA – The human foot consists of 20 muscles and 28 bones. An indefinable mix of reason, emotion, pride, vanity and God only knows what else make up the human psyche. When western boot maker Colt Miller sets to work his unusual task is to fit for both the foot and the person attached to it.

Hunched over a cluttered table in his workshop on South Highland Avenue in Marfa, he patiently tools a pair of custom cowboy boots for his girlfriend of the past five years. The complex inlay depicts her namesake, Mt. Logan, in tri-colored calfskin. In the end he’ll spend upwards of 60 hours working on this pair.

It starts simple enough. He traces the outline of each foot and takes down certain measurements: instep, toe box, width, length and the like. But Miller’s handiwork brings dirt kickers to another level – replete with a whole spectrum of colors and different types of leather, intricate inlays and embroidered designs laden with highly specific, personal symbols.

“I’ve noticed that it’s a lot of the cowboys who want the most flamboyant boots,” Miller says.

But of the 50 or so pairs he has crafted in the past seven years, only about half went to cow folk. The rest outfit concrete dwellers, those concerned less with rattlesnakes and mesquite thorns than with fashion.

Since cowboy boots appeared in the late 1800s, (a close cousin of military boots designed specifically for riding on horseback all day long), they have been subject to the whims of every generation, from polyester paisley to Ralph Lauren.

Despite, or perhaps because of this enduring demand for western wear, one-man operations like Miller’s Cobra Rock Boots are a rarity these days.

Colt Miller at work in his workshop. (staff photo by ALBERTO TOMAS HALPERN) 

At the Justin boot factory in El Paso a computer-programmed embroidery machine replaced 100 workers who used to do the ornate stitchings. The factory churns out 1,000 pairs of boots a day.

Miller averages one pair of boots a week, on a good week.

While still an enduring symbol of Americanism with a capital A, modern cowboy boots are predominately manufactured overseas: another commodity in an ever-globalizing economy. In all, the value of US production of men’s western style boots fell 40 percent between 1997 and 2002, according to the US Census Bureau.

Roughly 35 to 40 percent of the Tony Lama line is outsourced, while between 75 and 80 percent of the Justin Boots brand are crafted in China and Mexico.

Cobra Rock Boots are made from start to finish by 30-year-old Miller, who grew up in Borden County, Texas, about 70 miles south of Lubbock, the son of a cowboy and a schoolteacher. The nearest town to his family’s ranch boasts a population of 180 and a Main Street full of shuttered business, save the post office.

After studying geography and financial planning at Texas Tech, Miller returned home in search of a job he could hold down while still playing guitar in a touring country band called the Thrift Store Cowboys.

Then he met a boot maker in Post, who taught him the time-honored trade in exchange for guitar lessons. After a yearlong apprenticeship, Miller made his first pair of handmade boots for his granddad.

“It was finally something where I could be creative. I was always too self-conscious to do anything in school,” Miller says.

He moved to Marfa in August and now spends much of his time either working on boot orders or touring with Thrift Store Cowboys, whose fourth studio album came out in October.

A pair of Cobra Rock boots runs $600 for an all custom design and fit; $525 for a standard fit, designed to suit; and $300 for custom lace-up western ankle boots.

The design aspect of Miller’s work is time consuming and totally personalized, but he says it’s a good fit that makes or breaks the deal, often after 40+ hours of labor:

“You do a lot of sweating just measuring someone and shaping the last. You won’t really know until they try them on”.

Cobra Rock Boot Company is located at 207 South Highland Avenue, just north of Marfa National Bank. Samples of Miller’s work can be seen online at cobrarock.com.

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After Fire, Wind and Drought, Something Good Will Follow

from the Friday, April 29 edition of the New York Times and Texas Tribune:

 

 

 

photo by Alberto Tomas (Beto) Halpern/Associated Press

 

Wildfires overran parts of Fort Davis, Tex., in early April, destroying more than 60 homes in West Texas and killing livestock and horses.

By JOE NICK PATOSKI
Published: April 28, 2011

These are strange days in Texas. A severe drought gripping the entire state, unseasonably high temperatures, unusually low humidity and exceptionally gusty winds have created a perfect storm for wildfires, which have erupted statewide like never before. Horrible images of homes burned to the ground, property destroyed, and livestock, wildlife and human fatalities are impossible to escape.
The Texas Tribune

Expanded coverage of Texas is produced by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit news organization. To join the conversation about this article, go to texastribune.org.

Unfortunately, the greatest chronicler of such dire conditions — the person everyone in Texas turned to for perspective — is no longer with us to make sense of it all. It’s fair to ask, rhetorically: What would Elmer Kelton say?

Mr. Kelton was the farm and ranch editor for The San Angelo Standard-Times from 1948 to 1963. He was also the longtime associate editor of Livestock Weekly and the author of several dozen western novels. His finest work, “The Time It Never Rained,” published in 1973, focused on the historic seven-year drought of the 1950s as told through Charlie Flagg, the hard-headed, independent-minded protagonist.

If anyone knew about drought, wildfires and making a living from running livestock on the range west of the 98th meridian, it was Mr. Kelton. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2009. But his son, Steve Kelton, is alive and well and living in San Angelo.

Steve Kelton, who now edits Livestock Weekly, remembers clearly that his father considered the period of time spent covering the 1950s drought for the San Angelo newspaper the most traumatic in his life. “I’d long since run out of new ways to say ‘dry,’ ” the father had told the son.

What would the elder Mr. Kelton write about today’s news? That there is an upside — a silver lining. “Dad was always a firm believer that nothing was black and white, nothing was all good or all bad,” Steve Kelton said.

“Fire can be good for brush control, if it’s a good, hot fire; these should be pretty effective in that regard,” he said in droll understatement, referring to the so-called Wildcat fires that have raged over 159,000 acres north of San Angelo in the west-central part of the state, threatening to engulf the towns of Robert Lee, Tennyson and Bronte.

Indeed, for all its obvious negatives, fire was part of the life cycle of the arid western range long before humans settled the region and tried to tame the land, instinctively suppressing wildfires whenever possible. Today, when conditions are right, many landowners intentionally burn their property because, as Steve Kelton noted, “it will improve things.”

He cited the destruction of nuisance species like prickly pear, mesquite and ashe juniper — a k a cedar — and brushy undercover that compete with native grasses. “There are a lot of caveats to that,” Mr. Kelton added. “You have to have rain, but if it comes all at once, you lose all the topsoil.”

But if the rain falls gradually, the first land that will green up and spring back to life is that which burned. “A really hot fire brings out woody vegetation that deer, birds, and even goats and sheep like to eat,” Mr. Kelton said. “Their seed needs fire to germinate.”

He made the same observation about the Texas rangeland that critics have made about forest management in the American West: the human tendency to suppress fire at first sight has created a buildup of dry tinder that makes any wildfire that manages to break out “bigger than they ought to be,” Mr. Kelton said. “But we also have the technology and the people on the ground to fight them, so we’ve got a trade-off.

“During the 1990s and the early 2000s, we went 13 years with a really severe drought out here,” he said. “Then it rained.” The country was left so depleted, he said, that there were no cattle or sheep left to eat the grasses that sprang up; so in 2006, the worst year for wildfires in Texas on record until this year, “when it burned, it burned extra hot.”

Despite the horrific loss of property, livestock and wildlife this year, the longer view finds something to look forward to in the wake of the destruction.

“This is survivor country,” Mr. Kelton said. “It puts on its best clothes when it rains after a long drought.”

Joe Nick Patoski is the author of “Generations on the Land: A Conservation Legacy” (Texas A&M Press).

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Boquillas crossing at Big Bend National Park

 

Big Bend National Park News Release

BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK SEEKS PUBLIC COMMENT ON PROPOSAL TO CONSTRUCT VISITOR CONTACT STATION,

ESTABLISH PORT OF ENTRY AT BOQUILLAS CROSSING


The National Park Service (NPS) proposes to construct a visitor contact station in Big Bend National Park near the Rio Grande and across from Boquillas, Mexico.  The facility would provide visitors with information and would house the equipment necessary to permit the area to function as a Class B port of entry between the U.S. and Mexico.  The public, organizations, and other agencies are invited to review and comment upon an Environmental Assessment (EA) describing and analyzing the proposal.

 

The purpose of re-establishing the Rio Grande crossing near Boquillas and constructing a visitor contact station is to provide visitor information and to support safe and secure international crossings of the Rio Grande.  This new contact station and re-established border crossing are intended to facilitate opportunities for visitors, scientists and researchers, and park and protected area managers to enter Mexico, as well as permit residents on the Mexican side of the border to enter the United States to purchase goods and services and to visit friends and family living in nearby West Texas towns.  Construction of the visitor contact station is proposed to begin in July 2011.  The port of entry opening is proposed for April 2012.

 

This Environmental Assessment (EA) evaluates two alternatives and the potential environmental impacts of each:  1) Alternative A, the No Action Alternative; 2) Alternative B, Construction and Operation of a Visitor Contact Station.  Alternative A describes the current condition of the project area and the environmental impacts that may occur if there were no changes in the way the park currently manages the area.  Alternative B describes construction and operation of a new visitor contact station and establishment of a Class B (remote, automated) port of entry.  Alternative B is the preferred alternative.

 

The EA has been prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations (40 CFR 1500 et seq), and NPS Director’s Order 12: Conservation Planning, Environmental Impact Analysis, and Decision-making (DO-12).

 

The 30-day review and comment period starts May 4, and continues through June 2, 2011.  To see the Environmental Assessment, visit the National Park Service Planning, Environment and Public Comment (PEPC) website at: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/bibe during the comment period.  Written comments may be submitted on the PEPC website or may be sent to: Superintendent, Attention Boquillas Contact Station, P.O. Box 129, Big Bend National Park, Texas, 79834.

 

Before including your address, phone number, e-mail address, or other personal identifying information in your comment, you should be aware that your entire comment – including your personal identifying information – may be made public at any time.  While you can ask us in your comment to withhold your personal identifying information from public review, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to do so.

 

 

 

–END–

 

 

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Why Texans are Texans, a talk at Lamar University, April 14

“Why Texans are Texans: An Introduction to Texan Identity” presented by Joe Nick Patoski, author of multiple books on Texan identity and Texas music; former staff writer at Texas Monthly
“The Future of Texas” lecture series
Date: 4/14/2011 7:00 PM
Cost: Free
Location: McFaddin-Ward House Museum Visitor Center
1906 Calder Ave.
Beaumont, Texas 77701

The lecture series is sponsorsed by the Texas Academy of Leadership in the Humanities, the McFaddin-Ward House Museum and the Beaumont Public Library. The series features lecturers that discuss Texas historic themes. The lecture is free and open to the public. For information, call Lamar University at 409-839-2993 or the McFaddin-Ward House at 409-832-1906.

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Willie Nelson: An Epic Life

Willie Nelson: An Epic Life | Why I wrote this
book

Read my MVP Q&A
with Mickey Raphael
. You can read a chapter from the book. [
Chapter 1,
2, 3
]

Order Willie
Nelson: An Epic Life
from Amazon here.

Read REVIEWS
here.


Joe Nick PatoskiCelebrate
Willie Nelson’s 75th birthday
with Joe Nick Patoski
WILLIE NELSON: AN EPIC LIFE
In stores April 21st, 2008

The realization Texans are different from everybody else hit me about
an hour after I’d first set foot on Texas soil. I was only two years old
but I distinctly remember my father picking up my mother, my sister and
me at the Greater Fort Worth International Airport and driving us to our
new home in Fort Worth, stopping along the way at the Big Apple Barbecue
on Highway 183. The waitresses talked funny and the smoked beef brisket
covered in barbecue sauce we were served tasted like nothing I’d experienced,
vaguely familiar and strange and exotic all once. Even as the hot spices
set fire to my lips and the inside of my mouth, I immediately wanted more.

I’ve been trying to figure out Texas and Texans ever since. Fifty two
years later, I realized the answer had been right in front of me for most
of my life. There were vague memories of the smiling friendly face flickering
on Channel 11 singing songs live from Panther Hall on the Cowtown Jamboree
and on Ernest Tubb’s show in a voice that could have only come from Texas.
I grew familiar with the songs by listening KCUL, the Country & Western
radio station, although versions of “Hello Walls” and “Crazy” by other
people were Top 40 hits in Fort Worth. The first interview came in 1973
for Zoo World magazine. After thirty five years of writing about him and
many others, I can now safely say no single public person living in the
20th or 21st century defines Texas or Texans better than Willie Hugh Nelson.

Texans by nature are independent, free-thinkers, open, outgoing and friendly.
Iconoclasts, they respect tradition but are not beholden to it. Whether
it’s God or sin, they tend to embrace excess. The good ones have a whole
lot of heart. They are creatures of geography, exuding a sense of place.
They reflect their climate and sometimes are a little crazy from the heat.
They are wanderers and explorers, keen to improvise, curious enough to
discover They are loud and boisterous when they need to be. They seem
to go out of their way to make friends with strangers. They are great
storytellers and some of the most distinctive music makers on earth. You
know Texas music when you hear it, just like you know Willie’s music.

A certain red headed stranger was once said to say, “Don’t let the truth
get in the way of a good story.” I tried my best to ignore that sage advice
once I took on this project. On the back side, all I can say is that getting
all the facts straight while piecing together the history of a culture
considered too low, too sordid, and too wild to be worth documenting in
print was no sure thing. Many characters were too busy living life to
the fullest, sometimes under the influence of alcohol, nicotine, Dexedrine,
Black Mollies, marijuana, boredom, and being caught up in the adage, “If
you can remember the sixties, you weren’t there” to remember the trivial
details of time and place. Then there were those who were inclined to
con for the pure sport of it.

Fortunately, my subject was accommodating and open – exactly the person
I’ve always thought him to be. He’s the story. I’m just the teller.

Copyright © 2008 Joe Nick Patoski

*****

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