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Jeff Nania Asks: If My Boots Could Talk, What Stories Would They Tell?

Jeff Nania is the author of the Northern Lakes Mystery Series. You can find out more about him here, see his books here, and read his last post here.

I think some boots are taken for granted. That may have to do with a couple of things. First, if you have good boots that are really comfortable, you tend not to notice them, but bad boots that hurt your feet with every step are hard to ignore. Then there are waterproof boots. If they don’t leak, that’s great; if they do, you’re stuck with wet feet. And there’s nothing better than winter boots that keep your feet happy­—ones that leave you with cold toes are no good. Around here boots have been and remain a big part of our lives. In fact, the banner on our website is a couple of boot-clad feet walking in shallow water. The name of our book company is Feet Wet Writing, and our logo features a boot.

Boot-clad feet walking in water.

We have many different kinds of boots. Waders, hip boots, hikers, knee-high snow boots, steel toe, and pac boots. All of them well used. I have a couple of pairs of shoes also, but they’re mostly reserved for weddings and funerals. 

I have boot favorites. Two pairs made by L.L. Bean among them: one for warm weather, one for cold. They are lace-up boots with leather tops and chain tread rubber soles. I’ve covered a lot of country in those boots, and I am proud to say that I have worn the soles out three times each. No problem, send them back to Bean, they re-sole them, fix the leather, and send them back good as new.  

When I was in law enforcement, I really got to like pull-on boots—comfortable, leather, good soles and tough. One reason I liked that kind was because the open top allowed me to carry a backup gun in an ankle holster, covered and secure, but accessible. I still like that kind of boot. As a matter of fact, I am wearing a pair as I write this.

I wonder what my boots would say if they could talk. They just might tell stories of grand adventure and mishap.

My waders would surely tell you about the time I walked across snow covered ice and broke through a spring hole up to my neck when the air temperature was twelve below zero, and I was two miles from the truck.

My law enforcement boots would tell you about chasing a wanted felon up a stairway to an old two flat. He slammed and locked the door. I kicked at the lock on the hollow-core door and missed. My foot, followed by my leg, went all the way through. I was stuck.

Landscape image of Icelandic Glacier
Looking out over an Icelandic Glacier.

My winter Bean boots would certainly tell you about carrying me up to the top of an Icelandic glacier where we looked out at a vast prehistoric wetland complex draining into the north Atlantic.    

But more likely my boots might talk about simple things. Leisurely walks through the woods, prairies, and wetlands. Renewing old acquaintances with the neighborhood wildlife. Wading into the water to get a little closer to the spot I’m trying to cast to. Enjoying the autumn migration or winter wonderland.

To me, good boots are kind of like a story. The right book is a good fit. I try to make my books comfortable, easy to read. Maybe take us to a new place or perhaps one we’ve visited before. For me, nature is a story worth telling that constantly unfolds in front of me. So, when I write, one of my goals is to share the land with you. In that regard I have had some success. I have met many people over the past few years who share my passionate love of the land; people who understand a good pair of boots can take you anywhere.

Treasure the land, our traditions, and the good people around us. What stories would your boots tell? Happy Holidays to all.

Jeff Nania

Award-winning author Jeff Nania draws upon careers in law enforcement, conservation, and a passion for our natural resources in his bestselling Northern Lakes Mystery series. Jeff’s narrative non-fiction writing has appeared in Wisconsin Outdoor News, Double Gun Journal, The Outlook, and other publications. Download a free short story and read more of Jeff's writing at, or follow him on Facebook, Instagram, or Goodreads.

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Jeff — I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post!

    I can relate to having a good pair of boots. My favorite pair is older than my son, who’s thirty-eight. They’ve been with me on three different continents, and like yours, been re-soled countless times and continue to serve me well.

    I’ve read your entire series, and each time I open the cover and slip into the pages, it’s like pulling on my favorite pair of boots—I know I’m going on a grand adventure.

  2. Christine DeSmet
    Christine DeSmet

    Fun post! Takes me back to all kinds of boots over time. As a kid, we always had rubber “Tingleys” (spelling?) to put over our shoes before we went to the barn. And my hunter dad had all kinds of favorite boots that got him through a lot of terrain in Wisconsin. Boots are the sole of good stories!

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    Alas, since moving from Chicago to warmer climes, I’ve no need for boots, but I’m happy to go where your boots take me.

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    Love this post, Jeff. I’d like to hear more about the boots you wore while chasing criminals.

  5. Margaret Mizushima
    Margaret Mizushima

    Great post, Jeff. Loved reading the stories your boots could tell, and I love reading your books as well.

  6. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Fun post, Jeff. I was sort of waiting for you to say, “These boots are made for walkin,'” but you’re too good a writer to slip into cliches! If my boots could talk, they’d probably say, “Would you wear a different pair at least one day a week? I need to air out!”

  7. Sheila Lowe
    Sheila Lowe

    In California, I rarely get to wear them but I’ll never look at my boots the same way again!

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    Avanit Centrae

    Great storytelling! How’d you get out of that hole and back to your truck without freezing to death?

  9. joyribar

    The perfect Midwest post, Jeff! No wonder you had such fondness for Aldo Leopold. I can hear him walking around with you right now. I love the idea of boots telling stories of where we walked and why. I love the earthy scent dredged up by every step.

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    Kim Taylor Blakemore

    I absolutely love the boot stories and really want to know how you got your boot and leg out of that hollow core door and if you caught the bad guy!

  11. Tracey Phillips
    Tracey Phillips

    Thanks so much for this great post. Since I’ve never had the need for hip waders or durable footwear, (I’m not the out-doorsey type) I humbly admit to owning eight pairs of boots. None of them are terribly comfortable, and not one would keep my toes from freezing on a Wisconsin winter hike. But, I love boots. Wear them every day. And I love your stories. Thanks so much for sharing!

  12. Sharon Lynn
    Sharon Lynn

    I love the stories your boots tell! I’m with Saralyn in that I don’t have much need for boots in the Southwest. But I do have one pair with a great story because I only bought them to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. We went in November which is tricky because it was 30 degrees at the top and 70 degrees at the bottom. Layers of clothing and breathable boots with ankle support are a must. It was a magical (and bone-tiring) experience. I never have a need for the boots but I keep them to remind me of the accomplishment.

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    Jacqueline Vick

    I loved this so much I shared it. Your boots are definitely more interesting than mine. 🙂

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