As I sit here on Friday, December 20th, staring at my laptop, I find myself distracted…thinking more seriously about January than I did a day or two ago.

Is it our upcoming 4th annual January trip to Colorado for a late holiday with both sons and their families as we have for the past three years to also help our youngest grandchild celebrate her early January birthday?  Well, yes, of course.

Truth be told:  I am most distracted because it is the day after the fine leadership folks at Arteris Impact Fund in Boston (the prospective buyers of Saddleback Ski Area) announced that the expected closing on the mountain, planned for this coming Monday, December 23rd, would be delayed until sometime in January at the request of the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME).

Knowing a couple of the fine leaders at Arcteris, and having months ago researched their solid financial position and successful track record in helping communities or urban neighborhoods in need of a boost by directing funding to stimulate said communities with investment (hence the term “Impact” in their name)….I was optimistic.  I still am, mostly.

However, the Rangeley area’s experience insofar as the sale of the mountain is concerned over the course of the past 4+ years does leave one a bit skittish after news of another delay.  Yogi Berra’s sage comment “It ain’t over, ’til its over” certainly rings true…again.

Then, my mind drifted to another topic focused on the “heart of a Maine winta’.“…a phrase most usually assigned to January, as well.  It was a recent side trip, once again, to Roy’s Shoe Shop while in Portland.  My mind went immediately to the rich odors of leathers and shoe polishes and the visions of walls covered with racks of shoes and boots…each pair with a little manilla tag and handwritten numbers and dollar signs on them.  Both, testaments to the mind-altering effect of over-the-top stimulation of the olfactory nerves and the visual cortex.

I quickly found myself focusing on my old (and I mean OLD) “Bean Boots”.  It was a very effective distraction on a cold and snowy late December day, no matter what was going on of much greater consequence in Boston, Augusta,…or the mountain.

My stop at Roy’s Shoe Shop on Stevens Avenue was to fish out the repair stub in my wallet that had been there for about three months.  The head shoe repair man was now Roy’s grandson.  I guess my old boots have been repaired by three generations at the shop.  I had dropped off my right boot last summer to get the finger loop replaced (see photo).

After a frustrating winter of pulling on my right boot without the biomechanical advantage of that loop, I vowed to get it repaired (just as I had the left boot’s loop repaired a couple of year’s earlier).  I knew that the busy shop would take months to get to my boot.  Mid-summer would be a good time to drop it off.  Yup, “stop by in about three months, and we will have it ready for ya” was the expected response when I entrusted that right boot to the capable hands at Roy’s Shoe Shop.

I have now, after a couple of moderate snowstorms so far in December, had the pleasure of pulling on both of my comfortable old Bean Boots with the helpful ease offered by both finger loops.

A bit of history is in order before I go on about this, the winter of 2019-2020.  We moved to Maine shortly after I completed graduate school in North Carolina in May of 1974.  Small compact car, a U-Haul truck, and a very small 6-week-old first-of-two sons in tow (figuratively speaking).  I had a job as a physical therapist waiting for me at Maine Medical Center.  It was an exciting time for our young family.  We loved Maine from the first time we crossed the Portsmouth-Kittery bridge and onto the Maine Turnpike.

Among the many things I learned in those first eight months of living in Maine was that in order to properly get through a winter in these parts was to have a pair of Bean Boots on my feet.  They were therefore, the only items on my Christmas of 1974 wish list.

“Santa” delivered….as directed.  They were (are) basic 10” boots, with eight pairs of eyelets.  An application of Nor-V-Gen waterproofing paste (the same stuff in the dark green can that waterproofed, softened, and darkened my baseball gloves back in my high school and college playing days) and a couple of days to allow the paste to dry and become one with the leather “uppers” and I was properly ready for my first winter in Maine.

I soon learned why these boots helped Leon Leonwood (L.L.) Bean in 1912 become a successful purveyor of outdoor clothing and gear in Freeport (we all know the story about the first pairs of boots sold that unfortunately leaked, so L.L. replaced them with improved stitching free of charge, thus establishing a very impressive customer-friendly return policy that is still in place…although slightly modified a couple of years ago).  The boots were comfortable, and effective in keeping my feet dry and warm during the length of a typical freeze-thaw Maine winter.  I was, and still am, a happy Bean Boot wearer.

And speaking of wear…I have been wearing those same boots every winter since the Christmas of 1974.  This is partly due to frugality I admit.  Yet mostly it is due to the fact that I love them.  They are great, but not totally indestructible given the 45 winters of use I have put them through.   Enter the help of Roy’s Shoe Shop, recommended to me when the first holes appeared in them…probably in the late ‘80s.

First to go, simultaneously, was the leather in the hyper-flexed Achilles tendon areas (see also that repair of the right boot in the photo).  Note:  I did not take them back to Bean’s customer service counter…knowing that the boots were not defective…they were just giving in to a dozen or more years of steady use.  Note also that Roy’s repair patches aren’t exactly stylish, but they were effective….and remain leak-proof.

Occasional waterproofing, and they are continuing to serve me well.  I did take them back to Bean’s in the ‘90s when holes appeared in the rubber “lowers” right where the repeated bends occur when walking.  I used “Shoe-Goo” to plug the holes for a while, but that solution was only temporary before the “goo” would disintegrate.  Bean’s replaced the lowers for a fee at the time.  This replacement included another leak-proof stitching technique that has been the standard since L.L. learned it the hard way back in 1912.  I think I may be due for another replacement in a year or two…the holes have yet to reappear, but the rubber heels are continuing to wear down on the lateral sides.

Out of curiosity, I checked out the Bean Boot offerings in this year’s L.L.Bean Christmas Catalog.  There are now over a dozen options…very nice (and pricey) models that include a 10” model with “tumbled leather, shearling lined” features for $249/pair.

The current price for my old basic 10” model is $150.  Reasonable, I guess, given today’s shoe and boot prices.  However, as long as Roy’s Shoe Shop continues its fine service (and as long as one can be patient), and as long as L.L. Bean’s Customer Service Department will replace my rubber “lowers” in three or four years…I’m good with my trusty, old and comfortable 1974 editions.

Regarding January of 2020:  Ever the optimist, I expect that Arctaris Impact Fund and the Berry Family will both finally sign on their respective dotted lines, and we will have “our” Saddleback back by January of 2021.  NOTE:  You will then find me in the base lodge at about 9 a.m., unlacing my old Bean Boots and happily squeezing my even older feet into my not-quite-as-comfortable ski boots before another day of skiing on our beloved mountain.

Happy New Year, by the way!

We need to write, otherwise nobody will know who we are.

                                                                  Garrison Keillor

I’ll be ridin’ shotgun, underneath the hot sun, feelin’ like a someone….


Per usual, your thoughts and comments are always welcome.  Jot them down on a 3”x5” card and slip it inside the log door of our mudroom on the rockbound west shore of Gull Pond, or simply fire off an email to [email protected]  Thank you in advance.

My 1974 Bean Boots. Please note the most recent repairs to both boots (as shown on the right boot). Allen Wicken

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