Blog: Dying With Your Boots on

Burt Ross

I grew up watching westerns. I loved how my cowboy heroes Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and Hopalong Cassidy rode through the Wild West far away from my suburban home town outside of New York City.  Try to imagine how innocent a time those days were back in the 1940’s and early 1950’s when a gun toting hero could be named “Hopalong.”

I loved the way cowboys talked, their jargon so removed from anything I knew.  Nobody in New Jersey said “Howdy partner” let alone “giddy up,” “yonder,” or “skedaddle.” I think my favorite expression was “dying with your boots on.” 

For reasons I could never fathom, all the tough guys wanted to die with their boots on.

As I contemplate my own mortality, something which happens more frequently as I approach the end zone (it is football season), I never think of dying with my boots on. On the contrary, I would like to leave the scene footloose and fancy free. 

The simple fact is that I have never wanted to get into bed with any shoe gear. I don’t even like sleeping in bed with my socks on. And yet these cowboys seemed to want nothing more than to die with their boots on. 

I think real life was far different from this fictionalized depiction of real men wanting to leave this earth with their footwear firmly intact. Let me suggest a more realistic scenario: 

The lady of the house keeps a tidy home. She cleans and cooks all day long. Her man comes riding home on his favorite horse. He is wounded. He dismounts and walks through the horse and cow manure into his house where he is met with his woman.

She takes one look at him and demands he removes those filthy boots. He is bleeding and longs to lie down in his bed and to die with his boots on. His beloved says, “If you don’t take those boots off before you get into bed, I will kill you myself.” 

You never saw that kind of dialogue back when I grew up, but it was a more innocent time then.