Sheplers Shopping, Texas Dancehalls and the Price of Home

Not many places in Colorado remind me of home so resolutely as — believe it or not — Sheplers Western Wear.

Sheplers is really the only game in town (Denver) when it comes to true western wear — you know, the kinds of clothes you’d wear to the rodeo (or to rodeo, when used as a verb).

Yesterday, I visited not one but two Sheplers stores, looking for the perfect pair of jeans in my size and length. Didn’t find them, darnit.

But I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy my time in those stores. Unlike when I shop for typical clothes for work or play, at places like Dillard’s or Macy’s or Kohl’s, I find myself feeling quite happy at Sheplers.

After all, I like the people shopping alongside me. For instance, there was a mom-daughter duo, who had just drove down from Wyoming. Sheplers was a destination for them, and they were having a good time hitting the sale racks. Watching them made me miss my mom terribly. There was also a father in the store with his elementary-school-age daughter; he was wearing Wranglers and she was, too, along with some mighty fine pink

Kickin' red boots. Maybe I should have bought them.

boots. And there was an older couple, probably in their 70s, who gave me some pretty funny commentary as I tried on some awesome boots in deep red. The wife said they were too flashy; the husband thought they were fine. Unfortunately, I would’ve needed a loan to take those babies home with me.

I also love the country music piped through Sheplers store speakers. It’s GOOD country music, too, not just radio-friendly crapola. We’re talking vintage George Strait and Reba (before she was overproduced) and even Keith Whitley and Waylon. The kind of music that makes me miss the South Texas dancehalls I grew up in.

I miss Texas dancehalls like this one.

As weird as it may sound, I also happen to love the smell of Sheplers. Leather boots and belts. Stetsons being steamed in the middle of the store. Ahhhhh.

And just shopping for the jeans themselves reminded me of all those trips to D&D in Seguin, or to Cavender’s in College Station when I attended Texas A&M and was, shall we say, very into cowboys and All That That Implies (bonus points for any reader who knows what movie that line comes from). I remember my sister and me trying on about a million pairs of Rocky Mountain-brand jeans back then. I had a pair in just about every color and wash of denim possible. They went well with my cowgirl-spiral-permed hair and purple roper boots. (What was I thinking??? And no, I’m not posting a pic of that hair.)

One thing, though, that has changed dramatically since those days is the price of jeans. Holy guacamole! There wasn’t a pair of jeans in that store for under $50. Even my beloved Wranglers were $60! And I thought $30 back in the day was expensive. I am officially old.

Move over, Willie Nelson. There's a new kid in town.

I’ll leave you tonight with a photo of my beautiful son on the stage at Gruene Hall, Texas’ oldest dancehall, and an excerpt from A Good Kind of Knowing, my second novel that will be out later this year as an ebook:

As always, the hall smelled of stale cigarette smoke and cheap beer. Most people probably hated it. But Sera cherished the feel of rural Texas dance halls. She preferred arriving early to beat the crowd and the inevitable clouds of smoke. She felt the fusty smell of Saturday nights past was somehow familiar to her, even though she was certain she’d never stepped foot in a VFW hall before she came to Texas. But it all seemed comfortable. Like an old pair of jeans you throw on for a Sunday afternoon, she’d just slipped right into it, almost forgetting it hadn’t always been her life. To her, a dance hall just beginning to fill with people, just beginning to get all wound up, meant possibilities. You never knew what the night might bring, what songs would be played, who would come by the table to talk, who would have too much to drink, who would start a fight, who would wind up dancing a little too close to someone they shouldn’t, and who would leave with someone new. For better or for worse, an empty dance hall practically shouted anticipation.

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