Monday, November 25, 2013

Restored from the Ashes

For weeks my trusty pair of Doc Martens have been lying around like a discarded old pair of shop rags. Crusty and smelly from their last adventure inside our house after it burned to the ground. You may recall my triumphant post exclaiming that I found Wifey's wedding ring among the ashes the morning after the fire.

I wore my Docs on the hunt that morning for one reason: it's what I had on when the house burned down. Typically I wore these sturdy, leather boots with my favorite pair of jeans. With an added Dr Sholes insole, they were like walking on pillows and I could wear them all day. The sturdy brown leather withstood just about everything I could throw at them. Everything except...

The ash and debris was piled above my ankles as I slogged through the remains of our home. The firemen had hosed the house down with so much water that parts of the house had deep puddles of water and sludge. Insulation could be seen bobbing up and down in the living room. It was here that I took my Docs to battle.

Wifey knew that her wedding ring was in her jewelry case in the southeast corner of the bedroom. I entered through the bedroom window, careful not to step on any of the exposed nails.  Using downed two by fours of wood as a walkway through the sludge, I made my way to the corner of the room.  My shoes were ankle deep in the sludge as I began to dig around for the ring.

Thirty minutes later, a blackened metal circle could be seen in a pile of unidentifiable rubble. A few strokes with my now blackened fingers and I could make out the shape of her trillion diamonds. With a tear in my eye, most likely from the chemical smell in the house, I made my way out of the house.

I returned to the neighbor's home where we were graciously being allowed to stay a few days. After sharing the good news with Wifey, I kicked off the ash encrusted boots towards an outside wall of the house. They stayed there for two weeks until we moved to a different guest house. Again I brought them along, awaiting the day I could attempt to restore them to their prior glory.

Today was that day. It started with a warm water bath and soap scrub in my old blue igloo ice chest.  The soot quickly turned the water black but progress was being made.  After a thorough wash, the damage could be more clearly seen. The moisture has been sucked right out of several areas on the boots: toe, tongue and heel side.

A long hand bath in Obenauf's and they look remarkably better. I handworked the substance into every nook and cranny until even my hands were shiny. I placed them in the laundry room to spend the rest of the evening soaking up the moisture. I'm sure they'll get another coat tomorrow and look near brand new. I have a small tin of Kiwi brown polish awaiting any necessary touch ups.

Any time that I can, I like to renew something old rather than run out and buy something new like so many folks seem to do these days. Once I get them back into shape, I'll wear them with pride knowing that they made it through our house fire...just like I did.


PS, I did a YouTube video on this too.


  1. Good for you OJD! For rehabbing your shoes and for persevering.
    It's therapeutic for my soul to clean and condition a good leather shoe (and a good shoe in good shape keeps my feet happy), in my case it's usually a western boot. I also love, love, love to clean saddles the same as I like to brush a horse.
    You are a great example for so many. Keep sharing your life's adventures with us!

    God bless you and yours,

  2. Thanks STS. I won't lie, it's been tough this year. But people have enough problems, they don't need to hear mine. I'll share if I think it will help others and maybe, just maybe...complain a little here and there.

  3. The difference OJD, is that when you share your problems you are either teaching others about how you solved that problem, thinking aloud (via writing), or reaching out to others for suggestions or encouragement.
    It seems a far cry from whining. We're rooting for you. I can whine to my husband and he to me. You and your wifey have had enough issues this past year, it's okay to seek out other avenues to let out a whine once in awhile if for no other reason to keep from having to further burden each other.
    I read somewhere that on a stress level, a devastating house fire ranks just about right after losing a loved one. Whining is allowed. Even the best insurance doesn't just cut a check for your loss, you must inventory and price everything (while your life goes on and work, too). Then there are those things money can't replace. Yes, it's mostly just stuff, but it's hard and you are human and you have six children and a wife, too.
    I thought your analysis of your new place and what you needed to obtain and to do, was over-the-top superb. You showed great strength and leadership in that and I'm sure your wifey knows what a blessing you are to have that ability so soon after your loss. I have had loved ones lose their home in a fire and they were zombie like for almost a year. They eventually came out of the fog, but it was a long road and big decisions seemed too difficult for them. Fortunately they had trusted family to help. It sounds like you are squared away with church family to help. Such a blessing.
    Better let you go, we're all pulling and praying for you all.

  4. When a man has a good pair of boots, they're worth the labor and $$ to keep them alive, rather than running out and grabbing a new pair. Awesome job.

  5. As a man who's spent his 33 years walking, first on the 33 acres I grew up on, then in the service in the big sandbox, and now on my homestead land, I can attest to the importance of good boots OJD. My current favorite is a pair of Timberlands purchased in 2006, resoled twice, rescued 3 times from my wife's "Throw those disgusting shoes out" hands. Wouldn't trade em for the world. Bury me in them.

    I can't wait
    To hear about your rebound from the fire and the rebuild to your self sufficiency. Thankful for you and other blogs this holiday. God bless and keep you.

  6. OJD, what an ordeal. You truly have had your trials and difficulties this year. What a roller coaster ride it's been! I have to say your attitude and fortitude through it all has been a blessing to us all.

    I also wanted to tell you that my book is finally published! (Seems like forever ago that I first told you about it). Please come visit my blog, to take a look-see. Plus, perhaps I can entice you to enter my book giveaway. :)

  7. Hey OJD - I know you got a ton of packages and are overwhelmed with setting up your new digs. Was hoping you might confirm a package from down Tempe way made it there intact. I bet when sending them, some folks sort of forgot to note that there was ammo along with the other goodies.

  8. That’s a great philosophy in life; renewing and/or restoring something old and damaged rather than buying something to replace it. And I’ve just learned the reason for these restoration was because your house burned down, and it's great that you are alright. I hope you had some type of pre-planned protection, because starting over would be a lot easier if you had one. Good on you for fixing up those shoes of yours, they look good as new. Be safe!

    Mary @


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