And another thing…

Back in the ’60s, I had a big postcard collection. Family vacations to Florida were my annual shopping trips — I spent my allowance snapping up everything that caught my eye, depicting natural wonders and tourist traps and more.

I remember one particular card, common in Virginia, Tennessee and the Carolinas, telling “The Legend of the Dogwood.” It paid tribute to the slender tree that dots the mountainsides of the region with a simple folk tale. Each of the dogwood’s characteristics was connected to the Easter story.

The dogwood trees adorning The Ozarks’ wooded slopes, including those on The Mountain, are in full spring bloom right now. It happens to be Easter weekend, too, of course. Every time I see the bright white blossoms, I can’t help but remember the nickel postcard I saw as a kid.

I learned long ago (probably in Boy Scouts) that if my feet ain’t happy, I ain’t happy. That’s true on the trail, on the job, everywhere. But it doesn’t start with shoes or boots.

Lesson #1: Having comfortable feet begins with good socks. Lesson #2 is that there’s no such thing as “cheap, good socks.”

Believe me, I’ve looked. They don’t exist.

When we took to the road two years ago, we knew we’d have to pick and pack just a few pairs of do-it-all socks that’d hold up to unkind treatment. We went with products from Darn Tough Vermont, and man, did we ever pick a winner.

Deb and I each chose one pair of over-the-calf socks, one pair of casual-wear socks and four pairs of everyday utility socks. My personal favorites are in the last category — the midweight Men’s Coolmax® Hiker Boot Sock. Hands-down, they’re the best I’ve ever worn.

They’re as comfortable now as they were when new. Despite neglect and rough care, they haven’t pilled or pulled, faded or frayed. The cushion still cushions. Darn Tough socks are “unconditionally guaranteed for life,” and yes, they’re $27 dollars a pair — and I’m here to say that they’re worth every hard-earned cent.

You can get your own directly from Darn Tough Vermont, or through Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s.

I’m fortunate these days to also have some of the best footwear I’ve ever owned. Over the years I’ve worn everything from five-and-dime sneakers to $700 custom-made logging boots. (For the record, I didn’t pay nearly $700. I’ve never been a lumberjack, either, but I’m ok.) Now my needs and my budget are more modest, so I look for boots and shoes somewhere in the middle.

My go-to for The Mountain are Cabela’s Kiltie 2.0 Waterproof Work Boots, which I bought 18 months ago at Bass Pro Shops in Branson, Missouri. They’re sturdy, comfy and waterproof, with a great sole for traipsing around on our rocky terrain.

I’ve worn the hell outta these boots, subjecting them to all kinds of conditions. They show wear but they’re far from worn-out. In fact, since they feature a Goodyear welt I’ll probably re-sole them once or twice before they give up. And if they ever do, I’ll buy another pair just like them.

The price? A very affordable $110. They can be had with a taller (9″) shank for only ten bucks more.

Venomous snakes, namely timber rattlers and copperheads, inhabited The Mountain long before we showed up, and when we go bushwhacking on the property it makes sense for us to wear boots designed to deflect a strike. Deb and I have fielded our Rocky Low Country Waterproof Snake Boots for only about a month now, and already we’re fans.

The Rocky boots are an over-the-calf style, with a full-height zipper easing entry and exit. The soles feature aggressively lugged tread and, as advertised, they’re waterproof.

For obvious reasons, they’re pretty stiff. Still, we’ve found them plenty comfortable for all-day wear (especially with the addition of a gel insole from Dr. Scholl’s or equivalent). They don’t qualify as hikers, but I can see them being dandy hunting boots.

Direct from Rocky, a pair of Low Country Waterproof Snake Boots in Mossy Oak Break-Up Country Camo (style #RKS0232) will set you back $145. As of this writing, Amazon has them for between $110 and $131, depending on size.

For casual wear, I prefer slip-on shoes. (I don’t much care what you think about that. Fight me.) The challenge always has been finding something walkable — that is, a slip-on good for more than lounging around the house or sitting by the campfire.

When we shopped the Cabela’s in Mitchell, South Dakota on our way to Montana a couple of years ago, I took a chance on a pair of Merrell Jungle Mocs in leather. Merrells always have fit me well, going back to a pair of hiking boots in the early ’80s, and these mocs felt good on my feet from the moment I put them on.

Since then I’ve worn them all over the place, from dining out and road trips to light trekking. The soles are grippy and confidence-inspiring, and their light weight gives them a barely-there feel.

Merrell’s MSRP for the Jungle Mocs (leather) is $120, though they’re usually discounted to $84 (even less during the holidays). Amazon‘s price can be a little lower or a lot higher, so shop wisely.

Beyond that, and in the “honorable mention” category, are my trusty Skechers Relaxed Fit Superior Milford Loafers (MSRP $70, Amazon $42). I wore them every single mile that I drove Ernie, and they remain my three-season camp shoes.

I’m now on my second pair.

Props also to the boots that kept my feet warm and dry this past winter — the Merrell Men’s Jungle Mid Zip Polar Waterproof Ice+ (MSRP $140, usually much less with discounts, Amazon $100 to $140, but very limited sizes and colors). They fit just like my Merrell Jungle Mocs (see above), have the perfect sole for snow and ice, and aren’t “clunky” like most cold-weather footwear.

And seriously, even when the mercury plunged to well below zero before Christmas, or when I stood in snow for hours in January, my feet never got cold.

After listening to me rave about them, Deb got herself a pair.

As always, my recommendations are unsolicited and uncompensated. I have first-hand experience with these products — I actually use every one, in the real world. I like all of these socks and boots and shoes, and there’s a chance you may like ’em, too.

(The soles of the shoes and boots I’ve talked about, top to bottom: Cabela’s work boots, Rocky snake boots, Merrell mocs, Skechers loafers, Merrell winter boots.)

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

#LetsGoBrandon #FJB

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