White Oak Mountain Ranger: Old Boots

Friday, February 26, 2021

My old man used to comment quite frequently that the two greatest inventions of the last 100 years were indoor plumbing and air conditioning. Forget Neil Armstrong on the moon, or the atomic bomb, or polio vaccines. Indoor plumbing and air conditioning.

I guess if you labored as a share croppers son and then you volunteered to go to Saipan and Guam for three years to load bombs on B-27s, it makes some sense. There was no indoor plumbing on those islands; and definitely no air conditioning other than some daily enemy strafing from what was referred to as a ZERO flying pilot, called P-time Charlie. Starting your day worrying about being machine gunned probably makes everyone a little sweaty and craving an air conditioned hole of some kind.

Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs and Steel - The Fates of Human Societies, includes in the preface; “This astounding book attempts to provide a short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years”. (I highly recommend this book for a number of reasons. I won’t bother you now with the details.)

Diamond spends some time on inventions postulating; “That once an inventor has discovered a use for new technology, the next step is to persuade society to adopt it. One factor of invention is compatibility with vested interests”. 

“This text, like probably every other typed document you have ever read, was typed on a QWERTY keyboard, named for the left-most six letters in it’s upper row. Unbelievable as it may sound, that keyboard layout was designed in 1873 as a feat of anti-engineering. It employs a whole series of perverse tricks designed to force typists to type as slowly as possible, such as scattering the commonest letters over all keyboard rows and concentrating them on the left side (where right-handed people have to use their weaker hand). The reason behind all of those seemingly counterproductive features is that the typewriters of 1873 jammed if adjacent keys were struck in quick succession, so that manufacturers had to slow down typists. When improvements in typewriters eliminated the problems of jamming, trials in 1932 with an efficiently laid-out keyboard showed that it would let us double our typing speed and reduce our typing effort by 95 percent. But QWERTY keyboards were solidly entrenched by then. The vested interests of hundreds of millions of QWERTY typists, typing teachers, typewriter and computer salespeople, and manufacturers have crushed all moves toward keyboard efficiency for over 60 years.”

This probably explains some of my prodigious stack of problems with Typing 101 and the grade D I was awarded at one State Institution of higher learning. Many of you kind readers have noted that I obviously flunked proof-reading. For that vexing problem I have no decent excuse.

So what does all this have to do with old boots?

One of my top five inventions of the last 100 years is, 5-minute epoxy. It’s right up there close to Super-glue. 5-minute epoxy replaced duct tape and Super-glue for repairs on holes in my old canvas canoe years ago. I no longer float that boat without a handy tube of epoxy and a scrap of an old canvas tent. Many a wood duck “shoot” down the Chickamauga creek has been extended with only wet feet and no wet seat due to the invention of 5-minute epoxy.

But lately, I find epoxy to be a marvelous antidote for extending the life of old, cheap boots. I often wish that I had kept track of the number of boots I have destroyed. Waders are the worst. They don’t seem to last me more than a couple of trips before they get a liberal slathering of epoxy patches. Inevitably I give up on patching too may leaks, rips, and holes and wind up cutting the feet off before trying to remember to use them as a pair of emergency rain pants. Waders still manage to leak a profusely when repurposed as rain pants. There is a growing pile of them in the barn that I find occasionally when it is really raining hard, or when gutters need to be de-leafed during a particularly bad monsoon.

I keep my other boots good and epoxy-ed up because their soles seem to come unglued regularly. I’m convinced that the boot makers use in Vietnam, China or where ever it is that boots are made these days, use the cheapest glue they can designed to completely fail and rot after somewhere around 300 days. How else can boot makers survive? If you actually purchased a pair of boots lasting longer than the time it takes cheap glue to deteriorate; how would anyone make a 100% profit?

Maybe it’s the fact that I choke on spending more money on a decent pair of boots than I “shelled out” on my first double barrel shotgun. Maybe I’m just too tight to pleasure my feet with anything other than a pair of glue challenged, foreign made, footwear. But, I am convinced that there is definitely some sort of international conspiracy “afoot” with boot makers and the glue they utilize to make the cheap boots.

Irrespective of the leaky and throw-away nature of today’s boot industry; a good dose of 5-minute epoxy has managed to extend the life of about every boot I’ve owned since 5-minute epoxy was invented. Some of these of these epoxy-ed boots were even somewhat more water resistant. Those particular boots were two tube challenges, but well worth it.

Speaking of inventions that are compatible with vested interests: Whatever you do; don’t use the glue with the gorilla on the label for your valued and comfortable footwear. By the time you get the repaired boot pried from the table you’ll find yourself consumed in some new footwear catalogue; wondering why you thought this particular invention with a gorilla on the label was initially a good idea.

Trust me I tried it.

TWRA Offers Ways To Help Stop The Spread Of Aquatic Nusisance Species

White Oak Mountain Ranger: Two Rivers

DIY Volunteering On TVA Trails

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Although COVID restrictions still limit large gatherings like volunteer events, visitors and residents of the Tennessee Valley can still get out and make a positive impact. With the fifth anniversary ... (click for more)


TWRA Offers Ways To Help Stop The Spread Of Aquatic Nusisance Species

TWRA asks boaters and anglers to help in the fight against aquatic nuisance species. ANS are any nonnative species that spreads into waterways and affects environmental, economic and human health stability. ANS includes invasive plants and animals. Some commonly known ANS in Tennessee include Asian carp, zebra mussels and hydrilla. ANS spread primarily through human activities such ... (click for more)

White Oak Mountain Ranger: Two Rivers

“So long as we think dugout canoes are the only possibility-all that is real or can be real-we will never see the ship, we will never feel the free wind blow.” Sonia Johnson “Everyone must believe in something. I believe I’ll go canoeing.” Henry David Thoreau The keel of the canoe softly scraped the shallow stone making the only sound in the early morning darkness. The paddles ... (click for more)

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