The day a powerful hailstorm led to a pair of Dixon Ted Buss boots
Many high school kids here in the 1950s and 1960s longed for a pair of Dixon boots, nationally renowned for their fit and handcrafted from fine leather, not the pre-made stuff we see today.
Two Dixon brothers, who learned their trade from their grandfather in Ardmore, Ok., Who opened a shop in 1889 and moved to Wichita Falls in the 1940s.
It was here that the boot company’s reputation for craftsmanship was established. Cowboy movie stars and country and western crooners made special trips to WF to purchase the Dixon brand.
At one point, the showroom had signed photos of many movie and western swing stars scattered along its walls. I remember seeing pictures of John Wayne, Gene Autry, James Stewart and Ben Johnson.
The store also once held autographed photos of country music boot buyers Hank Snow, Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Bob Wills, Ernest Tubb, Roy Orbison, Lefty Frizzell and others.
In 1960, a good pair of Dixon boots cost around $ 300. In today’s dollars, that comes down to about $ 2,700. So many teens with frayed Levis and empty pockets found themselves with little hope.
I grew up with three types of high school teens: the rich, the middle class, and the poor. The middle class and the poor were often indistinguishable.
A pair of Dixon boots was no sweat for the rich. The middle class and the poor kept their hopes up by working hard and saving pennies and dimes. Mine came from Mother Nature.
One day when I was about 25 years old, a hailstorm of epic proportions pounded much of the city. Baseball-sized ice clots ravaged our residential neighborhood, pounding siding, windows and roofs.
I don’t remember the size of our insurance check, but I set aside $ 300 to cover my own house which was acceptable at the time.
The guys who delivered the shingles said they would go up and put the packages on the roof for $ 50. I said, “Na, I can do it.” Big mistake. The shingles weighed almost 100 lbs per bundle and the scale I used was below commercial grade.
With $ 300 in my pocket, I walked into Dixon Boot Company and placed my order; distinctive black from top to narrow toe. The fit was excellent.
Nat Fleming of The Cow Lot, who taught his trade at Dixon, always said that a good boot fit has a way of popping a little when the foot settles and mine obeys.
The military taught me how to spit waxed shoes, and my new boots shone with every polish.
Oddly enough, when taken care of, quality leather has a graceful way of aging. My boots were resole twice and lasted for years.
If you’re a little scared of money and have a chance to roof your house to get a pair of good boots, do it. Let someone else carry the shingles.
Ted buss is a former business and sports editor at TRN and author of three books.