On Halloween night next week, kids will don makeup and masks, and make the rounds in their neighborhoods with buckets and bags open wide. In an era when neighbors often don’t get to know one another, Halloween offers an opportunity to get out and meet the folks who live next door and around the corner.
In this edition of our “Heel to Toe” project, Houstonian Paul Lester says his boot story goes all the way back to the 1940s when he was growing up in Austin.
“We had a neighbor whose grandfather, it turned out, was a well-known cowboy boot maker,” Lester says.
Lester’s father took him trick-or-treating for the first time, with his older sister, when Lester was about five years old.
“It was a very cold Halloween night. We went up and down the street calling on all the houses until finally, we came to the last house, which belonged to Tommy Dunn,” Lester says.
Lester reached the door and, full of confidence, yelled “Trick or treat!”
At that point, Tommy’s grandpa came to the door, took a stern look at Lester and said, “Just a minute. I’m gonna go get my gun.”
Lester says he dropped his bag and ran to the curb where his father was waiting. His sister, three years Lester’s senior, stayed on the porch and Mr. Dunn returned with no gun in sight, but candy in hand. He filled both kids’ bags and that was that.
Lester says growing up, Tommy Dunn gave him and his sister Edith leather cutouts of various shapes like animals and cactus, all in bright colors like fire-engine red. It turns out that the leather came from the workshop of Tommy’s grandfather, legendary bootmaker Charlie Dunn. Lester didn’t make that connection until he moved back to Texas years later after living out of state.
“When I finally moved back to Texas, somehow I learned about these quality cowboy boots made by Tommy’s grandpa,” Lester says. “What I’ve learned about him and his life, I’m confident now I would accept candy from him without any hesitation.”
More than that, Lester says he wishes he had gotten a pair of Dunn’s boots.
“I’d love to own a pair, especially if they were a pair adorned with those leather cutouts of animals and flowers and cactus,” Lester says.
Written by Caroline Covington.