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Texas man has a real kickin' collection

TYLER, Texas (AP)--The distinctive smells of leather and cologne greet you as you enter the closet of D.M. Edwards.

Rows and rows of boots, in immaculate, perfect order, not a speck of dirt on them, line the shelves.

There are exotic boots made from the mountainous, craggy skin of an alligator, scaly boots made from snake skin, electric blue boots, deep green boots and a beautifully tooled pair of "Tyler" boots, complete with the words "Lone" and "Star" emblazoned on them.

Even with 126 pairs, Edwards, a Tyler businessman and self-proclaimed collector, is still searching for more.

"The goal over the last 30 years has been to have at least one pair of boots of every exotic skin that's made," he said. "And I keep looking for exotic skinned boots that I don't have in my collection."

Glancing down the rows of boots on Mr. Edwards' shelves can be deceiving because many of the plainest-looking pairs are the rarest boots of all.

"Some of the ones that I have that are the most difficult to find are the boots made from Texas turkey skin, Texas deer skin, African tree-toads, African wildebeest, Australian kangaroo, rhinoceros and hippopotamus."

Edwards smiled to himself as he told a story about a young girl who visited his boot collection three or four years ago.

"When we finished the tour, she said, 'Mr. Edwards, I bet animals run when they see you coming,'" he said, laughing.

Boots aren't the only thing Edwards collects, and as a tour through his closet progresses, there are color-coordinated western jackets hanging neatly, western ties organized on tie racks and exquisitely crafted western belts and buckles.

"Being a native Texan, I've always enjoyed the great things about our Texas heritage, whether they are from the frontier days or the Old South days or the days of the Wild West," he said.

His collection began with a pair of yellow calfskin boots belonging to his grandfather.

"They are too small for me to wear, but they have a lot of sentimental value," he said. "My family has always had ranches in Texas and, when dealing with horses and cattle, boots are always the natural thing to wear."

This particular pair was worn by his grandfather in the Gladewater Rodeo in the 1950s.

"My grandfather and my dad had a matching pair of Palomino horses and they would wear their yellow boots when they rode in parades," he said. "The boots were made back in the 1940s, and they are a good example of type of design you saw back then, yellow with white trim and green stitching."

When Edwards rattled off a list of his favorite boot makers, comfort, not aesthetics, was the most important stipulation.

"My favorite makers are Larry Mahan, a former champion all-around cowboy, who makes some of the most comfortable boots, Lucchese boots, they have a wonderful fit, and Tony Lama," he said. "I also like some of the other long-time brands like Justin. Some of the most interesting and unique custom boots are by Rocketbuster and Rocky Carroll in Houston."

Edwards owns several pairs of Rocketbuster boots, including boots resembling the ones Gene Autry, John Wayne and Roy Rogers owned.

Most people would hesitate to wear such rare and unique creations, but Edwards wears them in a yearly rotation.

"I get to each one about three times a year," he said. "There are some boots like the electric eel skin boots that you only wear country-western dancing on a Saturday night. You have to pick the appropriate skin for the occasion."

And for someone who is looking to buy their first pair of boots, Edwards offered sound advice.

"Go to any quality boot store and find a pair of French calfskin or sharkskin if you want something durable to start your collection," he said. "We're blessed in this part of the Southwestern United States to have a lot of excellent custom boot makers that supply all of the United States with quality boots," he said. "We really live in the heart of an area that knows how to produce the quality boots that Texans like to wear."

When asked if he had to pick only one pair of boots to keep, Edwards shook his head.

"I can't pick just one pair," he said, grinning widely. "That's like asking a person to pick their favorite child."



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