Why Do South Dakotans Place Boots on Fence Posts?
Why Do People Place Boots on Fence Posts?
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Cowboy life is filled full of traditions.
Many of us born and raised in the city are not fully aware of the special meanings behind the various traditions of farmers and ranchers.
A great example is that of a boot placed on a fence post.
Living in a rural state like South Dakota, chances are you've been out in the country for a drive on occasion and come across a cowboy boot that has been placed on a fence post.
I remember when I was younger, my family was taking one of our annual summer vacations to Ellendale, North Dakota. (If you're not familiar with Ellendale, it's a vacation Meca here in the Midwest.) I kid of course. Ellendale is actually a tiny little North Dakota town that has a population of just over 1,000 people. I had an aunt and cousins who used to live up in Ellendale when I was a kid, and my family would trek up there almost every summer.
Anyway, on one of our many trips, as we were driving up north, I spotted a cowboy boot upside down on a fence post out in the middle of nowhere. I can remember thinking, is this some sort of lost and found thing, did some cowboy misplace their Tony Lama and one cowboy is just trying to make it easier for another cowboy to find his or her boot?
Being the inquisitive young man that I was, I asked my father, hey, what's with the boot upside down on the fence post over there? I remember him telling me, chances are the landowner has either lost a family member or good friend recently and this is their way of paying respect to that person, or the landowner may have had a horse that just passed away, and the boot helps represent the special bond they had with the deceased animal.
Come to find out, my old man was actually right, and according to the website FamilyHandyMan, a boot on a fence post also has a couple more meanings.
It's a proven fact that cowboys have a long reputation for getting attached to their boots. Once they begin to wear out, it's not uncommon for a farmer or rancher to hang them on a fence to represent all the hard work the boots made possible.
A boot on a fence post can also represent a form of communication in some cases. This tradition stems back to long before farmers and ranchers had telephones or the Internet. They would place a boot near the entrance of a farm or ranch to signify if they were home depending on which direction the boot was pointing.
Who knew these boots on fences had so many different meanings?
Regardless of the use, should you encounter a boot on a fence someday, whatever you do, leave it alone, it has a very special meaning for one reason or another.