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15 October, 2009

Boots In-Side My Head, I Said Boots Inside My Head

Being an anthropologically-minded archaeologist, I find myself judging people by the boots they wear into the field. In Hawai'i, of course, there were plenty of times when boots weren't involved, and I did more than my fair share of work in rubba slippas and fake birkenstocks. Bruddas usually wore the same, or would show up in gum-boots or steel-toes (or unadorned cowboy boots in paniolo country), at least back in the 90s they did. I had a Tongan supervisor who always wore rubba slippas ("flip-flops," haoles) on survey through the jungle, and swore that it was just as safe, that it made you walk more carefully. He saw more artifacts than anyone else, and I think that the pace and tactility afforded by the slippas helped.

On many crews, there would be somebody with a pair of high-end hiking boots made by some company that proles like me don't even recognize. Not that I have a problem with quality footwear, but often it was the wrong tool for the job. Lava chews the soles and jungle rots the top off of any boot, so it never made sense to have expensive ones. Plus, the people with the expensive ones were, often as not, lazy and/or clueless when it came to hiking through the bush looking for sites, the kind of people who'd gotten educated in classrooms only, who didn't understand the value of game trails and drank water from camel-packs instead of a Menehune Water bottle re-used for the umpteenth time. Sometimes insufferable to the point of citing Dunnell in the field.

Then there were the people who would show up in sneakers to slog through mud or traverse a'a. Sometimes they would end up losing one or making it through with bloody ankles; always they end up being the Limiting Factor. Now and then this would happen when some dumb haole kid (me, circa 1991, for instance) would show up in rubba slippas in a vain attempt to feel local, but lacking the skill to go off-road with the things, or the judgement to leave them behind when heading into the thorn-paved kiawe groves.

I'd go more by cost than anything else, but found myself in Hi-Techs pretty often. When I worked on the Big Island with Pele's insatiable hunger for soles, I would head to K-Mart every month or so for another pair of whatever was cheap. Being the devotee of made-up ritual that I am, I carried over my practice of interring T-shirts that had reached near-compost stage to boots, stashing them in lava bubbles. A sacrifice, an offering, a recognition that the land had won. Some day, some archaeologist will run across these and wonder...

1 comment:

  1. Aw, you posted dad's boots. Go you! And you oil them too ... Aww.

    Also, now I totally have Spinal Tap in my head, because you know after all - Michael St. Hubbins is named for the patron saint of quality footwear. I'm glad I stopped by, in between cleaning off my desk and missing the lunch I packed and totally left in the fridge at home. *Sigh*

    --Leedle Seestah