JOPLIN, Mo. — People who live in the cities and the suburbs that drive through more rural areas might spot things that they aren’t used to seeing, like a boot on a fence post. What they often don’t realize is that the boot was put there for a reason and it should not be touched.
According to Classroom.com, boots aren’t on fence posts as decorations, rather they were placed there to pay respect. Sometimes a rancher will put a boot on a post or hang a pair of boots on a fence to honor a favorite horse. Ranchers have close relationships with their horses, having spent years training them and caring for them, so if one dies or is sold, many ranchers choose to give up a pair of boots and place them on the fence to pay tribute to the animal.
It’s not only animals that are honored by boots though, often times they acknowledge a beloved ranch hand. Stemming from the old adage “a pair of boots for every hand,” those who work on a ranch can become part of the family since many live and eat on the property. If a favorite helper passes away or moves on, boots may be placed on the fence in their memory. In these situations, the boots typically belonged to the employee.
Using boots on a fence has been going on for many generations. In the days before electricity and telephones, boots on a fence meant that the work day was over and, if the boots pointed toward the property’s gate, it meant that the farmer was at his home, while if they faced the other way, it meant the rancher wasn’t in. This way, visitors would know if they should stop by or not.
These days though, since boots on a fence tend to have a more sentimental meaning, it’s best to just leave them as they are and not touch them.