A couple of days ago, I noticed these cowboy boots decorating the tops of fence posts next to the Weiser River Trail in Goodrich, Idaho. At the time, I thought it was odd but didn’t think much about it until later, when driving down the road I noticed another boot on top of a fence post about a mile away. Seeing it again really got me wondering what it all meant and symbolized? I did some research and found that it’s a cowboy tradition. Nobody really knows how it got started and boots on the fence post could mean different things.
When a rancher’s hired hand moves on, the rancher may put a pair of boots up in his memory. If the ranch hand dies, his boots will decorate the fence in his honor. Sometimes it’s to honor the passing of a beloved horse. Before telephones were invented, some say ranchers would put their boots on the posts to let his friends know he was home and the workday was over. It can even mean that the boots are just plain worn out and beyond repair and are put on the fence alongside all the other worn-out pairs of boots. Boots were also used to keep the wooden posts covered to prevent rain water seeping into the posts and rotting them. Cowboy shrines, art or whatever they represent, it’s a cool idea and tradition.