by Roy Exum
posted February 25, 2009 - taken from thechatanoogan.com
Back in December was one of the lowest points in my life. I’d almost just died, had four different infections raging through my body and a gooey arm that I wanted somebody to cut off. In the middle of all of this, the heel on one of my cowboy boots fell off.
This wasn’t an ordinary pair of boots. I have funny feet, with an unusually high arch, and when I find a pair of boots that fit me like a glove, I feel like I can always take another step. There is nothing like a friendly pair of nice boots then – boom – my heel separated.
Not being the sharpest pencil in the drawer, I was devastated because these boots – a pair of the famed Lucchese Classics – were close friends of mine and, at the time, we’d just climbed some of life’s steep hills together. So I scrounged around for the Lucchese address down in El Paso, got a money order for $50, and sent them to simply “The Boss.”
On a plain white sheet of paper I told “The Boss” my boot had, quite simply, “flung a shoe,” to use cowboy parlance, and wondered could he get the boys in the back of the shop to give me a hand so I wouldn’t tilt to the left every time I walked. Trust me, I still have some ways to go.
Further, I told him, in my sorry handwriting, that “I believe in you” and if he could fix my old boots it would mean a lot to me. You see, these were already “broken in,” softer than butter on a biscuit, and each morning when I try to “cowboy up” it is comforting to know at least my feet will feel good as I kick things and trip over stuff and stump my toes during my journey.
So the other day this box comes in the mail, and sure enough my boots were all slicked up with new heels, but – get this - “The Boss” also sent my money back. Not only that, he sent me a travel bag to carry my boots in case I needed to take them with me somewhere.
Get this straight; we’ve now come upon a real tough time when companies are having to lay off all kinds of people to stay afloat, where each and every penny counts, when management is being banged around because of decisions they never signed on to make. It is especially during storms when a speck of kindness goes a long way with me.
Suddenly it isn’t about my boots. Instead it is finding out anew the greatness of America is still out there. The Lucchese general manager is a guy who I just learned is Doug Kindy. It may well be he should go to the courts and ask that his last name be changed to “Kindly.”
You see, in a very simple way, he’s now a man who has helped restore my faith in the fact there are millions of wonderful people just like him across our country. You’ve heard of people, when they do something noble, don’t want to be paid back but who softly said, “Pass it on.” That’s Doug Kindy.
The Lucchese people don’t know who I am from scratch. Are you kidding me? My letter written to him was hardly legible and I even had to use a sticker that bore my name and return address. For all he knew I could have been some coal miner back East or some downtrodden car salesman, but, no, he slicked up my boots in a way that proves to me he’d do exactly the same thing for the next cowboy who found himself in a lurch.
Understand, he still has no idea what I’d been going through when the heel on one of my favorite boots fell off, nor could he have known that I didn’t abuse them in some way that would cause the heal fall off. I had taken care of them, of course, careful not to wear them in the rain or the mud, but he didn’t know any of that. Better, he obviously didn’t care what had happened.
No, he simply sent them to his shop, fixed then up real fine, and sent them and my money back. Do you think there is a lesson here somewhere? I had always held the opinion Lucchese boot were the top of the line, at least the way my ugly feet fit in them, but do you honestly believe I’ll ever buy anything but Lucchese’s when I have the money?
They tell a story that ole L.L. Bean, the outdoors supplier who started the company 100 years ago, made a boot called the Original Maine Guide Boot, or something like that, and to this day it comes with a lifetime warranty.
If you wear the rubber part of the shoe out, send them back and they’ll fix everything for free. If a bird-dog pup chews through the leather uppers, just send them back and they’ll do the same for as long as you own the boots. They do it as many times as it takes.
Thousands of people have taken advantage of that offer and some “industry geniuses” have called Mr. Bean “stupid,” as well as other names, for being taken advantage of in such a way. But in the year 2008, exactly 100 years after he opened his first store, do you know what mail-order store in the whole world had the best reputation?
L.L. Bean is the most beloved. It is in Freeport, Maine, a town it made famous. And do you know how many sweaters and canoe paddles and down-filled parkas L.L. Bean has sold simply because they’ll still fix your boots? Believe this, ole L.L. got the last laugh at the sales convention.
It appears the Lucchese Boot Company in El Paso is cut from the very same cloth, that Doug Kindy is of the same feather. Yes, their cowboy boots cost considerably more than Mr. Bean’s, but their ideals and values are quite the same.
Best of all, if that doesn’t restore your believe in America’s greatness, then you’ll never quite understand but, for those who learn the lesson, each one of the winners evermore stands a chance.