For Missouri man, boots are way of life

Friday, August 3, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:03 a.m. CDT, Friday, August 3, 2012
In this July 17 photo, Danny Richardson, left, and wife Deborah Richardson watch cars pass by on 6th street in St. Joseph, waiting for potential customers who are interested in Danny's collection of boots.

ST. JOSEPH — Danny Richardson's front porch gives passersby pause.

When the money's tight and the weather cooperates, he lines up his boot collection along his porch railing and waits for potential buyers.

Most are cowboy boots, an elephant skin pair for men, a red leather pair for women, faded chocolate brown leathers and scuffed tans.

His wife, Deborah, says her husband fancies himself a cowboy, even though he lives in the city and grew up in St. Joseph.

Richardson also sells work boots, motorcycle boots from when he had a Honda Gold Wing and ankle-high zip-up boots. He doesn't put his whole collection out (he guesses he has about 75 pairs), but the boots cover the wrap-around porch railing and a handful line the floor.

On sale days, Richardson sits behind the railing with his wife and watches. The cars might do a drive-by or two. Eventually, the interested customers will stop and meander on up to porch to take a look.

Richardson's father wore a lot of boots, but for Richardson, the appeal of the footwear came from their feel.

"You can't hardly catch me in a pair of sneakers," he says.

He inherited some of his father's boots, however, and they number among the pairs he tries to sell. Boots don't go bad, he says.

During his working years, Richardson would pick up at least a pair of boots a month, sometimes more. He shopped for himself, for his wife and for any family member who expressed interest in getting a pair. Most he picked up from the sale rack of St. Joe Boot. Every once and a while he'd find a good pair at the thrift store.

Deborah Richardson is a collector, too. She gathers a lot of candles she doesn't burn.

"They're already calling me a hoarder, my kids," she says. "I said, 'What about him? He's a hoarder, too.'"

She doesn't share her husband's affinity for boots. Deborah Richardson has a handful of favorite pairs. She favors the higher cowboy boot with the rounded toe; the ankle-high boots don't do it for her -- she likes to tuck her jeans in.

The family didn't inherit a love of boots, either. Danny Richardson tried, but none of his kids wear boots the way he does. He's still working on getting his grandson, Elijah Richardson, interested.

As a result, the boots started piling up. At one point, Richardson had the boxes stacked floor to ceiling in the hallway by the stairs. The ones he tries to sell stay out of their boxes now, and when they're not on the porch, they're in the coat closet in the front room. There's no room for coats in that closet.

Richardson's health pushed him into an early retirement from Richardson Construction in 2000. He had his third heart attack and a quadruple bypass that year, which took the starch out of his pan, he says.

He received a pension from his time in the military service, but sometimes at the end of the month, the money runs out.

He's not loath to dig into his boot collection, though.

"I always knew there'd be a time that came where I'd be sitting out on my porch trying to sell them, that they'd help me cut it in my old age," he says, adding the sales from the boots keep the wolves away.

Every time he went out shopping, he made sure he bought the right kind of a boot, Tony Lama, Dan Post, Justin. He oiled them, and if there was any chance they'd see rain, he got weather-resistant heels.

Although he knows it helps his bottom line, he finds selling the boots can be a tough business. He's the selling side of the barter now.

Recently, he traded his favorite pair of cowboy boots, his ostrich skin pair, for a black alligator boot and a motorized boat for his grandkids.

He also has another favorite pair from the Olathe Boot Company that's up for grabs.

"That's the sweetest pair of boots you'll ever wear," he says.

Richardson says he doesn't have a set schedule of when he sells his boots or how often he'll be out. Sometimes it's a couple times a week. Other times it's once a month. He doesn't sell during the winter; he always conducts his business from his porch.

Even if he's not buying boots as frequently as he used to, the love of the leather is no more diminished. He'll wear them for the rest of his life, and because he wants to go out the way he lives, he imagines he'll be buried in them, too.

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robert link August 3, 2012 | 9:03 a.m.

I myself am not going to beat a path to this gentleman's porch, but the reporter could have helped this guy by providing the boot size.

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