Boot Fence in Madison County
I was driving along Francesca Avenue, a gravel road in Madison County. As the road heads south, it leads towards the Roseman Covered Bridge, one of the six remaining covered bridges of Madison County. Along that route, you’ll come across a boot fence on the east side of the road where there’s a stretch of numerous boots that are inverted over each fence post.
I’ve seen boot fences in only a few other locations in Iowa – and I’m always curious as to why this is done. In some cases, I’ve seen it done strictly with cowboys and work boots. Other times, its everything from tennis shoes to ice skates.
Location: Francesca Avenue in Madison County.
Why are boots hanging over the fence post?
After doing some digging online, there isn’t one single answer, but instead a variety of possible answers, including:
Option 1) Ranchers used them to tell people they were home
Some ranchers used a single boot on a fence post to indicate if they were home or not. In some cases, they even used the boot to point to the direction of the field they were working in. Of course, this scenario doesn’t apply when an entire length of road where all the posts are covered.
Option 2) To protect the fence post
Original fence posts were made with untreated wood. To protect their investment, farmers would cover the post with old worn-out boots or shoes.
Option 3) Memorial to hired hands
Many farmers and ranchers hire additional workers, or hired hands. When a hired hand moves to another job or passes, they add another pair of boots to the fence line, as a memorial.
Option 4) It just looks cool
Of course, the last and most logical of all the options is that farmers and ranchers hang boots on their fence posts because it looks good.
Under the protection of the post theory, I’ve seen them covered with metal…..coffee cans, old hubcaps, etc. The boots are not familiar to me. I grew up in far northwest Illinois, and have lived in northeast Iowa for more than 45 years. Just an observation.