Kooker and his sharp boots

Ed Rood

Growing up in small town Iowa wasn’t always an easy adventure. Sure, there were many miles of smooth traveling along the way, but there was also an occasional rut in the road. Those bumps made life interesting.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, my public school days were paved with learning experiences of all shapes and sizes.

Back then there were rules – many written and many unwritten. Acts that were accepted and acts that weren’t. There were also rites of passage – times when a young man was expected to own up to a certain responsibility. Times when the unwritten rules were expected to be known without being told.

One of my first such lessons came about during my fourth year in grade school. It was shortly after Christmas vacation, and I and my classmates were trying to reacquaint ourselves with spending the next several months in school.

Sitting right across from my desk was Kooker, a kid who had never quite grown a face large enough to match his nose.

Kooker had few pluses and several minuses when it came to being socially acceptable in the eyes of the rest of our class. Probably his biggest shortcoming was his ability to belabor a point. He never knew when to back down.

As I sat at my desk, trying to give the appearance of studying, I noticed Kooker hiking up his right pant leg. It didn’t take a keen observer to notice he was wearing new leather high-top boots. What was also obvious was the leather pocket near the top of the boot. He sat like that until we finally were excused for recess.

As we boys all gathered around the steel swing set, Kooker began his vaunt. Seems his uncle worked at a clothing store in Ames and always gave Kooker a special present for Christmas. This year, he received a pair of boots with a little leather pocket containing a real pocket knife.

Man, that was too much. It was bad enough listening to Kooker brag when he didn’t have anything to brag about, now he had the coolest pair of boots in school. It just wasn’t fair.

For the next several days, we put up with Kooker and his boots. He strutted around school like a soldier walking guard duty. Most of the time he had his pant legs rolled up to expose his boots.

But Kooker’s reign of superiority came to a screeching halt one fateful day. As he was bragging to several girls about his boots and knife, he ran his finger across the blade to show how sharp it was. He evidently didn’t realize how sharp it was, as he cut his finger.

The girls screamed, the teacher came running and the next thing we knew Kooker was being rushed off to Dr. Severson’s office.

The next day Kooker was back at his desk, but he had on a pair of plain old shoes. His swagger had clearly departed and he sat as if he were a model student.

Our teacher soon addressed both the third and fourth grades. She emphasized that no more knives would be allowed at school – either in our pockets OR our boots.

It wasn’t too long after that that Kooker came to school with big metal clips nailed to the heels of his shoes. But that’s another story.

(Ed Rood is former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He and his wife Sharon live near Cambridge.)