Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I can flunk a session of Boot Polishing

'Back in the Olde Corps' (as Marines like to say to other Marines with one day less time in service), the Corps used black leather boots. One pair jungles, and one all leather. Most kind of fell into a habit of rotating boots depending on need and purpose. For example, when a pair of boots would finally fall apart, I would reluctantly trudge down to the nearest px and buy another pair. The new pair would become my inspection boots. The boots that were inspection worthy were now my field boots, my old worn out field boots were sometimes thrown away and sometimes stuffed with shrimp and used for nefarious purposes. Obviously, all markings, stamps, and dog tags were removed from the boots before their final mission.

Field boots were, amazing as it might sound, for the field. They got enough polish to keep the scuffed leather from showing through, and that was about it. They were quick to acquire plenty of character in the form of scuffs, toe dents, 550 cord for laces, and such.

Inspection boots were another animal alltogether.

Inspection boots were those used for first boot camp and School of Infantry inspections, and then gear inspections and the random times when even in cammies, one needed to have everything obsessively surpassing Marine Corps regs, like parades, boards, promotions, and dog & pony shows. They were meticulously looked after, stray threads clipped, any and all metal parts emnued (uniformly painted black), and polished to perfection. When you can see your reflection in a pair of combat boots, that's when you know you're starting to get a hang of the whole polishing thing.

One method that I liked to use to get my shine on was to, after applying a good solid base coat of polish on the leather, open the can of boot polish and set it on fire for a few seconds. This would allow the semi-melted polish to get down into the tiny cracks and pores of the leather, filling them up and getting them ready for a good polishing.

The introduction of fire to a story involving Marines is usually a decent indicator of good times ahead. With me in the story, the probability of hilarity is multiplied by a factor too large to accurately determine.

Setting the polish on fire would melt (ideally) only the very top of the polish in the can. Remember to blow out the flame before it can burn for too long! A quick dab of a taut polishing rag into the polish vigorously applied to the boot in small circles, interrupted by an occasional use of spit, plenty of elbow grease, and a little time would usually end in the desired result.

So there I was, hunched over the boot in my lap, just going to town. Anybody walking up from behind probably thought that it was waaay past time for me to find some sort of female companionship. After finishing application of yet another coat of polish, I paused and grabbed my lighter, taking a moment to adjust the volume of the CD player. I lit the polish and sat back to enjoy the finale of the 1812 Overture.

Yeah, I'm a geek.

Remember where I wrote about blowing out the flame? Well, if the flame is not allowed to burn for too long, it's not that much of an issue. When the flame is allowed to burn for too long, the flame is somewhat more established and not as easy to blow out. Amazing, huh. What to do, then? Well, instead of, oh...say putting the lid on the can, removing the oxygen supply of the fire and thereby putting it out, I decided to... just blow harder!

Hot, melted, and sometimes still flaming boot polish does wonders to a freshly laundered uniform, documents, furniture, and bare feet.

The best part about this story is that it didn't just happen once. Brain farts, like chow, sleep, and intell updates, can be continuous. Needless to say, I don't melt the polish anymore.


Hammer said...

My dad gave me a pair of boots he wore out painting B52s. Once I scraped all of the chemical stripper and crud off, it took me a year to get a polish on those things.

I need to try the melting thing...outside

Mark said...

I got this in Military school, Kemper Military school to be exact before I went to basic in 85. Take the lid of your polish can, fill it with a bit of rubbing alchohol, about 3 cap fulls, and light that then dangle your liberally polish applied boot into it to melt it all. then go to town with spit and polish. My second day of Basic the Drill Sergeant noticed my boots were "Glass Packed", and I was detailed to teach everyone else in my platoon how to polish thier boots.

Deborah Aylward said...

Good Grief!!! What is it with men and fire? Please, don't answer!

All you need to have a glass-like polish to leather is any of the following, in order:

1. Saddle soap---yes, the kind used for horses' saddles.

2. Champagne---used on the leather, NOT for drinking until after boots are polished. You only require a split...the little bottle of Champagne.

3. Soda water, if none of the above are available.

4. A proper chamois for the best polishing.

However, none of the above make for as nearly good a tale!

Veritas et Fidelis Semper

jon spencer said...

I used to use a blow dryer to soften the polish.
It also kept the leather warm and receptive.
But when you are in dire need of a quick shiny polish, high gloss black spray paint will work.
It will ruin the leather after a few times.

Dan O. said...

Water and real cotton cotton-balls, not the synthetic cosmetic balls gave a mirror shine without the pyrotechnics. But hey, fireworks are cool!

Old NFO said...

Saw the same thing happen in Boot Camp in '70, except the idjit blew the burning black polish all over the freshly polished linoleum deck. We damn near killed him... :-)