Muddy Boots

By Marli Walker

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When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God (Mosiah 2:17).

Daniel’s eyes lit up as he tore the last of the wrapping paper off the box. He lifted off the lid, then shouted, “Yippee! They’re just what I wanted!”

Inside the box were a pair of shiny, new cowboy boots. They were black and had a white design stitched on them. Daniel had wanted cowboy boots for a long time.

“Try them on,” his five-year-old brother, Steven, said.

“Yes! Yes! Try them on!” echoed Daniel’s three-year-old sister, Sara. Carefully he lifted the right boot out of the box. He turned it over in his hand, feeling the smooth black leather.

“I hope you like them,” Mom said. “Dad thought that they would be just right for you.”

Daniel nodded happily. “Wow!” he exclaimed as he admired them. He gently pulled the boot onto his right foot, lifted the other boot out of the box, and pulled it onto his left foot. He wiggled his toes inside the boots. Then he stood up, stomped his feet, and jumped twice. They fit perfectly!

“It looks like they’re just the right size,” Dad said.

“Thanks, Mom and Dad! They’re just what I wanted!” Daniel leaned forward on his feet, then rocked back. He balanced on one foot, then the other.

“I think he likes them,” Dad whispered to Mom.

“Just be careful with them,” Mom cautioned. “If you get them in the water or get them muddy or scuffed up, they won’t look new anymore.”

“I’ll take real good care of my boots!” Daniel promised as he bent over and ran his hand along the shiny black toe.

He did take good care of his cowboy boots. He always jumped over any water on the sidewalk. He never skipped through any mud puddles, and he always walked very carefully so that he wouldn’t make scuff marks on them. Every night when he took them off, he shined them with a soft cloth, then placed them side by side next to his bed. The cowboy boots stayed black, shiny, and new-looking.

Early one morning, as Daniel was finishing his breakfast, his mother asked him if he would go to the post office and mail a letter for her.

“Sure, Mom.”

“Be sure you wear a jacket, Daniel. It looks like the wind is picking up.”

After he put on his jacket and hat, he took the letter from his mother and started out for the post office.

The sky was overcast, it was windy, and it looked like it might rain. But Daniel was so happy to be wearing his new boots, that he didn’t notice. He skipped down the sidewalk and soon reached the post office. He mailed Mom’s letter and started home. The wind was blowing hard, so he zipped up his jacket and adjusted his hat so that it would not blow off. Then he started to jog. He passed Mr. Campbell’s bakery and Mrs. Goodson’s little sewing shop. He hurried past the Tuckers’ house and the Andersons’. By then, the wind was so strong that leaves and bits of paper were flying through the air, and dust was getting in his eyes.

Suddenly he stopped. He saw something very strange—a large white object flying by him! He blinked the dust out of his eyes and looked again. The flying white object was a man’s shirt! It fluttered, twisted, and flopped, then came to a stop right in a huge mud puddle!

“Catch that shirt!” A breathless voice exclaimed behind him. “I’ve been chasing it for five minutes! Oh, look at it now!”

Daniel turned around just as Mrs. Tucker caught up to him.

“I hung my laundry out on the clothesline this morning,” she said, panting from her run. “The breeze was quite nice, and I thought that it would dry my clothes quickly.” She took a deep breath. “But it suddenly got so windy! Now look at the shirt!” she moaned. “My husband needed to wear it tonight. Oh, now what am I going to do?” She threw her hands up in the air.

“I’ll get it for you, Mrs. Tucker,” Daniel quickly volunteered.

Mrs. Tucker’s face brightened. “Could you do that?” She looked hopeful. “I have to get the rest of my laundry off the clothesline before anything else blows away! Thank you so much!” Mrs. Tucker was already hurrying home.

Daniel stepped cautiously toward the huge mud puddle. It was starting to rain, and he didn’t want any mud splashing on his boots. The shirt had landed in the middle of the muddy water. He bent down and tried to reach it, but his arms weren’t long enough. He stood up and looked around for a long stick that he could pull the shirt out with. There were no long sticks anywhere, but he saw a short one a few feet away. He picked it up. It might work, he thought.

He squatted and reached out over the puddle as far as he could, but the stick wasn’t quite long enough. He inched closer to the water and stretched the stick out a little farther. But it was just too short. The shirt was still out of reach. He tried again, stretching the tiniest bit farther. …

Suddenly Daniel lost his balance. He tried to keep himself from falling, but he couldn’t stop himself and fell face first into the muddy water!

He stood up, grabbed the shirt, and jumped out of the dirty puddle. He was soaked! Mud and water dripped from his head and arms. His hat was crooked and it had dirty water dripping from the brim. As he wiped a dirty sleeve across his face, he looked down at his feet. His wonderful boots were wet and covered with a thick layer of mud! Daniel couldn’t even see the white stitching on the sides. He began stomping his feet on the sidewalk to shake the mud off of his boots, but not much came off. He wiped his jacket sleeve across the toe of each boot. It came away muddy, and it didn’t help much.

Upset, Daniel tucked the dirty white shirt under his arm and walked slowly to Mrs. Tucker’s house. It was still raining a little, but he didn’t even notice. All he could think about was his boots. No longer were they black, shiny, and new-looking. Now they’re ruined! he thought.

Daniel returned the shirt to a very grateful Mrs. Tucker. She thanked him and gave him a homemade chocolate chip cookie. He took a little bite as he walked home. But even though chocolate chip cookies were his favorite, he could barely taste it. All he could think about was his boots.

He felt so miserable that he didn’t see the little girl standing under a tree. He did hear her crying, though. It was Katie. She played with his sister, Sara. “What’s wrong, Katie?” he asked.

“My kitten climbed this tree when it started to get windy, and I can’t get her down.”

“I’ll help you.” Katie pointed to the top of the tree where a frightened kitten was clinging to a branch, and Daniel started to climb the tree. The wet branches grabbed at his jacket and scraped his legs and hands as he climbed toward the kitten. Finally he reached her. He gently lifted her off the branch, tucked her into the front of his jacket, and climbed down the tree.

Katie was very happy to have her pet safe and sound. She thanked Daniel and ran off cradling the kitten in her arms.

Daniel felt good. He was glad that he had helped Katie. But as he looked down to zip his jacket, he saw his boots—they were not only wet and muddy, they were also scratched and scuffed! Daniel sighed sadly. He was sure that his parents wouldn’t be very happy when they saw his boots.

He was going up the lane to his house, when he saw Dad trying to herd the new lambs back into their pen. “Do you need some help, Dad?” Dad gave him a long look. He noticed Daniel’s dirty face and muddy, wet clothes. He saw the scratched cowboy boots. “It looks like you’ve had a busy afternoon.”

Daniel glumly nodded.

“Well, I could sure use some help getting these lambs back into their pen. There’s a hole in the fence, and they found it!”

Daniel climbed over the fence into the lamb pen. Then he took the lambs when his father handed them over the fence. Soon all the lambs were back where they belonged. Then he helped his father fasten new wire across the hole in the fence so that the lambs couldn’t get out again.

“Thanks for the help, Son. Let’s go back to the house. It looks like it’s going to rain really hard in a few minutes!”

Daniel climbed up the fence and swung his leg over. He heard a ripping sound. He looked at his right foot in dismay. A loose wire had torn three inches on the side of his right boot. His eyes filled with tears.

Dad helped him down from the fence. “I think I can fix that with some heavy thread,” he said as he examined the tear.

Daniel just nodded slowly. His cowboy boots were really ruined now, even though he had tried hard to take care of them.

Later, in the warm kitchen, Daniel sat at the table with a cup of hot chocolate. It tasted good, but it didn’t do much to warm his spirits.

Mom put down the dish towel she had been using and sat by him. “Do you want to tell me what happened to your boots?” she asked gently.

Daniel told her about getting the shirt out of the mud puddle for Mrs. Tucker, about rescuing Katie’s kitten, and about helping Dad put the lambs back into their pen. “I’m sorry, Mom,” he said as a tear rolled down his cheek. “I really tried hard to take care of my boots.”

“I’ve noticed how well you take care of your boots,” she told him. “I’ve seen how gently you polish them and how carefully you take them off and put them away. It makes me very happy to know that you are so responsible.” She reached over and took his hand. “I’m also very pleased that you helped Mrs. Tucker, Katie, and Daddy today. Your boots may not be as shiny as they used to be, but it was only because you were serving others. That’s what our Savior wants us to do.

“You were always happy to wear your new boots because you had taken care of them. They may not look as new or as clean as they used to now, but every time you wear them, you will remember why.” She reached over and hugged him. “You know, Daniel, helping others is more important than clean, shiny boots.”

Daniel thought about that and felt happier.

“Let’s go clean your boots,” Mom said. “Then Daddy can sew up the tear. Of course,” she said with a twinkle in her eye, “they won’t be as bright or shiny as they used to be, but we’ll know the reason why, won’t we?”

“Yes—my boots are muddy because I was helping people, like Jesus wants me to!”

Illustrated by Shauna Mooney Kawasaki