I traveled almost 3,000 miles this weekend in only 36 hours. I took the red eye on Friday night from Los Angeles to San Antonio, Texas to see the once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of William Barret Travis’ famous “Victory or Death” letter, written by the 26-year-old commander of the Alamo only 10 days before his death at the hands of General Santa Anna and the Mexican army.
Travis wrote the letter begging for help and reinforcements at the beginning of the 13-day siege on the Alamo, secreted it out under cover of darkness, and then died in the early morning of March 6, 1836 when Santa Anna's army overtook the Alamo in a surprise attack. Help did not arrive in time to save Travis and the 114 men who valiantly attempted to protect the Alamo, an important stronghold in the battle for control of present day Texas.
Travis’ letter has never been back to the Alamo since it was written 177 years ago -- it normally resides in a sealed vault in the Texas State Library and Archives in Austin because it is rapidly deteriorating. While the letter did not manage to save the men at the Alamo, it did stir the Texian revolutionary forces to make a final massive push at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836 to secure the state now known as Texas forever. The bravery of the men at the Alamo who refused to leave when faced with certain death is the cornerstone of Texas state pride.
I am a pretty bragadocious Texan girl, so I of course jumped at the opportunity to see this famous artifact in person. Without the Alamo, there would be no Texas. (And I’m sure this would make some of you who don’t love us Texans quite happy.)
Texas, like most of the U.S., has a bloody, conflicted history, starting with the slaughter, expulsion, and colonization of native peoples by Spanish missionaries in 1690. Mexico gained control of the territory in 1821, and encouraged immigrants from the 13 colonies and all corners of the world to come settle there. They quickly realized their error when the newcomers revolted and ended up taking the state for themselves 15 years later. The moral of the story? Be careful who you invite into your house, and remember that history is written by the victors.
Guess how long the wait was to get into the shrine at the Alamo and view the Travis letter on Saturday afternoon?
FIVE. FRIGGIN’. HOURS. When the Alamo guide came along to our part of the line and told us that the wait time from that point was going to be over 5 1/2 hours, my mom and I looked at each other for a minute, shrugged, and asked my dad to go get us a soda. Not one single person got out of line at that news. Texans are dead serious about their state pride.
When I told my best friend back in Los Angeles how long I stood in that damn line, the first thing she said to me was, “Oh hellfire, that’s a nightmare. What shoes were you wearing?!” I was, of course, wearing a pair of cowboy boots, and I hadn’t realized until she asked me that question just how comfortable the pair I had on was. If 5 hours of standing and walking on hard cement isn’t the best test of a pair of shoes, I don’t know what is. My feet didn’t hurt at all that whole time!
The magical boots in question? My favorite Old Gringos. I started collecting their boots years ago, and I ask for a pair every Christmas. My wish is not always granted, because they are handmade in small-ish quantities at their factory in Leon, Mexico, and the price seriously reflects it.
The ones I want aren’t even always available in my size! Sometimes there is a 5-6 month wait. I’m up to 4 pairs total right now. I hope to die with 100 pairs of ‘em lined up in my closet.
My co-workers are always asking me how I can wear cowboy boots to work all the time, because every pair they’ve ever had has been crazily uncomfortable. Without fail, I tell them it’s because they are Old Gringos! I could walk a country mile in them in total comfort.
Until recently, Old Gringo boots were actually sort of hard to find -- I always bought mine from The Junk Gypsies or Allen’s Boots on Congress Ave in South Austin. But Old Gringo has recently re-vamped their website and buying their boots is now a snap. (It was way better for my budget when they were hard to get your hands on.)
Don’t say I didn’t warn you -- they are madly addicting. And when a style sells out, there’s a good chance they are gone forever.
Some Old Gringo styles have the tendency to get a little too glitzy-Texan for my personal tastes, but they still have dozens of on point boots that successfully marry contemporary fashion and vintage style. I haven't regretted one dollar I've spent on a pair of Old Gringo boots.
And after standing in them for 5 straight hours this weekend, I am a true believer in their craftsmanship and comfort. Every once in a while in life, you actually get what you pay for.
I think I could throw away every pair of shoes I own and just happily wear cowboy boots forever. I wear them everywhere: with sparkly dresses on New Years Eve, while walking down the streets of New York City, and to kick rocks with my brother on my granddad’s dusty-ass ranch in Texas. They tone down any outfit that happens to be taking itself too seriously, and are a great conversation starter. When I die, I’m sure they’re gonna bury me in a pair of boots.
And oh yeah, I totally cried a little when I finally got into the Alamo and read Travis’ stirring words for myself. “VICTORY OR DEATH.” It was so chilling. God bless Texas, and God bless y’all.
I’m on Twitter: @IveyAlison