Cowboy Boot Exhibit Shows Off KS Western Heritage

By: Lindsay Shively Email
By: Lindsay Shively Email

The Great Overland Station honors the rich railroad tradition in Kansas. It's a tradition that helped spark the state's powerful western heritage.

That's why the annual fund-raising gala has a western theme this year.
So it wasn't hard to pick an art exhibit when...well, the boot fits.

"There are a lot of things in Kansas we should be proud of and I think the western heritage is what we should be most proud of," says Dewane Burgess, co-owner of a local western wear store.

So upstairs in Great Overland Station, you can find an homage to the cowboy and one of his most important tools. Plus it's a Kansas discovery...the cowboy boot.

"It started here!" boasts Beth Fager from Great Overland Station. "The legend is the first cowboy boot was made by Hyer Company in Olathe. When one trail rider came in and asked for a boot with a pointed toe to get in the stirrup and a slanted heel so it would stay in the stirrup. And so a new form of boot was made for the cowboy."

From there, a need for the boots caught fire-- each aspect of the boot important for a cowboy's job---but they had to look good too...becoming works of art."

"It's to distinguish themselves from other cowboys and its common to tuck the pants in to show it off," explains Burgess. "There are some boots that will have eight to ten rows of stitching on the uppers and that's expensive. It's a very labor-intensive process."

And the more elaborate, or custom-made, the more expensive. "The highest retail I have is $569.00, and that's for Cayman aligator boots."

Burgess says it's not a trend going away. "There are still a lot of real cowboys in Kansas and many still have the same reasons for needing boots. Boots make up 35 to 40 percent of my business. Beyond that I think people have a real yearning for the western lifestyle. Because I think its associated with those cowboys like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry who had rules for kids to follow like high character, listen to your parents, etc. Your handshake was a contract."

"Those stories about Dodge City, Buffalo Bill, Jesse James, that's all real to us," Fager says. "It's a part of our heritage and the cowboy was the spark that led to all that."

You can stop by and see the boots on display at Great Overland Station through August.


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