If You See Boots On A Fence In Iowa, This Is What It Means
I love driving through rural America. Those long roads along farm fields are a comforting sight. Whether they are filled with cattle, sheep, corn, or even wheat, you know you are looking at someone’s whole livelihood.
If you’re out exploring the countryside, you may even be lucky enough to find this special sight.
There is a variety of reasons people put boots out on fenceposts. One ranch I came across in Idaho would put out all their kids' boots as they grew up so you watched them grow up via boots as you drove by.
Others put boots on fenceposts to pay respect.
When you see boots or shoes on fenceposts, one thing to remember is to not disturb the boot. There are a variety of reasons they are on display including;
- The memory of a ranch helper- This stems from the saying “a pair of boots for every hand,” which refers to ranch workers becoming a part of the family. If a helper passes away or even just moves on, boots may be placed on the fence in their memories, These boots typically belonged to the employee.
- In honor of a dead horse- In ranching communities, it’s very common to have horses and bond with them. If a special horse is sold or dies, the cowboy may hang a pair of his boots as a symbol of respect for the animal.
- Boots have been worn out from working- Ranchers will wear their boots until they fall apart. I have even seen ranchers Duck Tape their boots before thinking of retiring them. Some like to take these worn-out boots and put them on display to symbolize the work that was put into the land.
While those are some sentimental reasons behind displaying boots on fence posts, there are other reasons behind the tradition as well. They were also used as a form of communication.
Back before electricity, farmers would put boots on the fence to mean their work day was over. If the boot’s tow faced towards the property gate, the farmer was home. If facing away, it meant the farmer was away.