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August 5: Barnyard Work Boots Characteristics

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Down-to-earth people know that manure is a fact of life for farmers and ranchers. Cattle, horses, sheep, swine, ducks, turkeys, and chickens all produce manure, which can be used as fertilizer to enrich fields and pasturelands.

The worth of manure as fertilizer has always been appreciated, but stepping into a fresh ‘cow pie’ or ‘horse apple’ was to be avoided. Sometimes it could look dry, only to send a person sliding.

The key to successfully navigating through a cow yard, horse pasture or barnyard involved keeping your eyes open and wearing the right kind of footwear. Barnyard shoes are elemental for those with livestock.

On this date, in 1920, a newspaper advertisement touted the virtues of Huiskamp’s “Barn Yard Shoe” and Huiskamp’s Barnyard Shoe Oil.

These work-shoes, according to a 1913 advertisement in Valley City, were manure-proof and ammonia proof; guaranteed “not to rot or crack-through from barnyard service.” These Iowa-made work-boots were said to resist “manure acids and barnyard liquids” that could crack and destroy ordinary shoes.

Some North-Dakotans wore Huiskamp’s boots, while others, in the years after 1912, bought Minnesota-made Red Wing Shoes. The company’s “Chief” line was commonly known as “The Farmer’s Shoe.” They were “manure-proof; stone-proof; and as near water-proof as leather can be.”

Another option for counteracting mud and manure in the country was the simple expedient of wearing rubber overshoes.

As decades passed, North Dakota farmers and ranchers opted for what are known as “manure boots” – knee-high rubber boots that have proven to be liquid-proof. Other names for this type of footwear include “chore boots;” “muck boots;” or “barn boots.” Some of these manure boots have reinforced steel toes, others do not.

Whatever type of barnyard shoe or boot was used, they could bring a big mess into the house and needed to be left on the porch, or in more modern times a designated “mud room.” Such mud rooms became a design feature in the 1950s, even for urbanites and suburbanites, so folks could clean up before coming in to eat.

So, the concluding message for this day is simply this: “Watch your step and don’t put your foot in it, or maybe buy some manure boots!

Dakota Datebook written by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, MSUMHistory Department


“Barn Yard Shoe,” advertisement, Princeton [MN] Union, August 5, 1920, p. 5; “Huiskamp’s Barnyard Shoes; Gray’s Department Store, Valley City, N. Dak.,” Valley City Weekly Times-Record, September 4, 1913, p. 5.
Advertisement, “Huiskamp’s Barnyard Shoes,” Boot and Shoe Recorder, March 1, 1911, p. 95.
“The Red Wing Shoe Company: A Timeline,” St. Cloud Times, August 15, 1993, p. 13.
Advertisement, “Red Wing Shoes; The New York Store, Minot, N.D.,” Ward County Independent [Minot, ND], April 2, 1914, p. 12.
Advertisement, “Brown Chief, Red Wing Shoe Company; Reed Brothers, Dickinson, ND,” Dickinson Press, October 2, 1915, p. 4.
Advertisement, “Overshoes, Rubbers From the La Crosse Rubber Mills Co., La Crosse, Wisc.;” J.C. Penney Co., Minot, ND,” Ward County Independent [Minot, ND], September 27, 1917, p. 15.
“What You’ll Find in Today’s Farm Homes,” Minneapolis Tribune, August 30, 1953, p. 12.
“Farm Kitchen Improvements Recommended,” Winona [MN] Daily News, April 21, 1950, p. 18.

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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