the actual boot

I love receiving “real” mail.  Usually I open our mailbox to find a Victoria’s Secret catalog, a water bill, three pieces of unnecessary mail from the VA for Danny, and some strange letter from Rice suggesting that the university still somehow believes that I have graduated.  If I’m lucky I find one of my Netflix selections.  (Anne of Green Gables!  Woohoo!).  Sometimes my celebrations are cut short when I realize that it is, instead, one of Danny’s picks.  (The Spirit.  Bah.)

Anyway.  Real mail.  I love real mail — when I unclog our narrow apartment mailbox and find something with a handwritten address.  I appreciate the immediate satisfaction of email, and I’m grateful that I can fire up gchat and send Bee a quick note about the latest link to a ridiculous news item about a cat who can read the newspaper.  But who doesn’t love receiving something that required a stamp and some forethought?

While I appreciate real mail and certainly love  sending it, I’m not much of a letter writer.  I write pretty slowly, and I get impatient and hand-crampy.  And then I decide halfway through a sentence that I want to revise, and it’s too late!  Blast!  And there’s nothing I hate more than crossing out words in a letter.  Oh so gauche.

So I’ve been thinking about real mail because my friend Lilian moved to Asheville, and I know that she is also a real mail person.  Because I am a failed letter writer, I have been on the lookout for quirky postcards.  I figure that they’re the perfect balance — real mail but requiring only a few witty sentences.  I have discovered that while Borders might have a few interesting images, Barnes and Noble has a much more interesting selection.

So far I’ve purchased a few postcards with illustrations by Edward Gorey and a slew of Texas-y postcards published by the Found Image Press.  A selection of my most recent purchases (and I apologize for the intrusive press logo):

a subtle suggestion that she should return to Houston

fancy roping

a reminder of quality Texas entertainment

But my favorite by far features a photograph by Martin Parr entitled “The Actual Boot.”  Apparently this is a well-known photograph postcard — famous enough to merit a place in the title of The Actual Boot: The Photographic Postcard Boom, 1900-1920 by Parr and Jack Stasiak.   (Or perhaps Parr is just a shameless self-promoter).  Anyway, here is the wonderful photograph:

The note attached to the boot reads: “The actual boot the lad was wearing on Thursday June 24 at Ringmors when struck by lightning, a horse being killed at the same moment not more than a yard away.”

Lilian has a well-developed appreciation for the folksy and weird, and I know she’ll love this one when I send it along.  After all, who doesn’t want to open the mailbox on a humdrum Tuesday and receive, alongside the electric bill and a circular for Target, a picture of the actual boot — a piece of real mail that is in fact an invitation to speculate on the frailty of life, the sturdiness of boots, and the ill fate of an equine friend?

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4 thoughts on “the actual boot

  1. Your postcard collection looks great! I too love receiving real mail, especially now that I’m 3,000 miles away from my best friends. I’ve learned a lot about flat rate boxes and I collect locally letter pressed note cards for all occasions.

    When I write letters to my girlfriends I don’t always write a normal letter. If I put any real news in there, it would be old news by the time the letter got to them. I send fun articles, print outs of my design projects, or even just doodles and silly notes on some cute stationary – anything I think will make them smile when they open it. Sometimes when I’ve had a bad day, I’ll come home and have a letter waiting in the mailbox that makes me smile and laugh more than an email ever could.

    • What a great way to keep in touch with your friends on the east coast!

      I think the only way to be a true LETTER writer in the age of email is to write not about what’s going on in your life but about opinions and views on more in-depth topics… maybe a correspondence two-person book club or something similar. I just don’t have the time or energy!

  2. If you message me your address, I will send you the tackiest (i.e. most fabulous) postcards I can find. I will start when I’m in Dickens Country in a couple weeks. 🙂

    • That would make me the happiest Victorianist in the world. Address is definitely on the way.

      When do you leave exactly? I hope you have a fantastic trip! Scout out jobs at Dickens World for me. Acting as a street urchin is my backup plan if the job market doesn’t work out.

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