He had been locked out by a gust of wind and an automatic latching door: no phone, no keys, and no shoes. We walked the two blocks to my house to find him something, a screwdriver, a crowbar, or even a hanger, to help him break back in. We made it to the start of the gravel driveway, when he pulled up short and stopped. He was nervous about walking barefoot down the gravel. I slipped off my sandals and handed them over, but he just laughed and rejected my gift before saying he never went barefoot growing up. He was a cowboy he said. Cowboys always wore boots.
We both spent our childhoods playing Cowboys and Indians. He was raised in Missouri, I grew up in Kansas, but the rules were always the same. Track down the other group and have a battle with sticks, plastic guns, and imagination. The last group standing wins.
He was always a cowboy. He had a quick draw and stead aim. He dreamed of duals in dusty streets with a pair of pistols, a trusty stead to carry him away into the setting sun, and a sturdy pair of leather boots with spurs to protect his feet. Cowboys always wore boots, even when they were running down neighborhood streets, hopping fences in small town Missouri searching for the illusive Indians.
I, on the other hand, always knew I was a long lost Indian Princess with an Indian Brave out there, who had been searching for me his entire life; he just hadn’t found me yet. I could jump fences and weave through overgrown backyards without leaving a trail. I knew how to dodge a Cowboy’s bullet from an imaginary pistol, track a trail with ease, and disappear down a gravel road without shoes. Because Indians didn’t need shoes.
I walked down the middle of the gravel driveway, watching him pick his way carefully between large rocks and chunks of concrete, while mumbling profanities under his breath. His uncalloused feet unwittingly move the rocks as he passed. I tracked each of his footsteps, the way I did as a child. As I ran to catch up with him, not caring about the sharp edges of the rocks pushing into my bare feet, I knew that there was no way that this Cowboy would survive the fight if his gang were pitted against mine.