a crumbling dream can be like walking through a field of day-old
doughnuts. Let me explain. Fishing small streams and playing in
casual, pickup basketball games may not seem like related activities.
But they were significant daily parts of my life for many years.
The athletic shoes I wore for basketball on blacktop often became
my wading shoes when they began to wear out. Wading shoes have to
be tough and ought to be comfortable. The best wading shoes dry
quickly and don't show ill effects from being wet and dry often.
year I discovered what I believed would be my best-ever basketball
and wading shoes must have been 1978. They were sold under the brand-name
Bata. They had some sort of manmade rubber soles and uppers of something
that appeared to be nylon.
Batas would dry quickly and were amazingly comfortable even when
wet. Magic Johnson and his Michigan State teammates wore the leather
high-top version while winning the 1979 national college basketball
innovative shoes appeared likely to steal a piece of the market
dominated by Nike and other big names. Then one day I noticed they
were available at close-out prices in some stores. I bought six
or eight pair, including a pure-white leather high-top pair I hoped
to be wearing 20 years later. I stored the extra shoes here and
there and gave my father a pair. I gave a pair or two to youngsters
on teams I coached.
was no question in my mind that my Batas would be around as long
as I was. After a while, Batas lost some of their appeal as I acquired
other comfortable shoes. A couple of years ago, I found my sacred
pair of leather Batas but was shocked to discover their soles had
deteriorated. They were no more usable than the nylon Batas I had
worn to pieces running and jumping on gym floors and parking lots
and sliding on slick mountain-stream rocks.
soles were practically gone, the same as a pair that I wore one
season over my stocking-foot neoprene waders while duck hunting
in the Grand Prairie rice fields and Bayou Meto green timber of
eastern Arkansas. I was irritated and disappointed. My investment
had been wasted.
year, I had to go through my late father's clothing to see what
I might salvage. In a box in his closet I found the pair of nylon-top,
low-quarter Batas I gave him in 1980 or '81. They appeared to be
I decided to wear them. They felt great. I drove to the bank and
enjoyed walking. When I got back into my vehicle, however, I noticed
what appeared to be mushed bread or cake on the brake pedal and
long-preserved Batas were falling apart!
I understand why the shoes were removed from the market. Finally,
I understand that I ought to have used my bargain Batas as fast
as I could while they were still new.
I could get them resoled at a reasonable cost, I would. The nylon-top
version was the best all-round athletic shoe I ever owned. But the
chances are the best I can do is maybe use them for wading a few
times and toss them in the dumpster. Not even the street people
will want them when the soles finally finish crumbling away.
about learning what to save and what to use are obvious in this
story. But I have had great success with some of my hoarding. I
am still using fishing tackle I bought in the 1970s, but only the
especially good items that can't be matched by new models. But,
despite a widely publicized fashion trend that began in London and
New York more than a year ago, bell-bottom trousers haven't quite
caught on again in Arkansas. So my 1958-model Coast Guard dungarees
may rot before I get to wear them again.
of my bad habits is buying the latest product only when the fad
wanes and the item is marked half-price. Fishing lures and clothing
both attract me at that point. After purchase, the season-end bargain
goes into hiding and I keep using older things. After a year or
two, I start using the new toy. I am even happier, of course, when
I manage to find such things at garage or yard sales and get them
for pennies on the dollar. Then they seem like special treasure.
Fashion-conscious youngsters probably wonder why I am wearing a
shirt I have owned for three years when to me it is a new pleasure.
bargains help make up for the occasional major mistake, such as
trying to hoard my Batas until they crumble or storing plastic worms
until they melt and fuse into a nasty, motley-colored ball of slime.