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Life in wine country is full of decisions. Like, “Should we have a Pinot Noir or a Cabernet?” Or, “When should we take the cover off of the pool?” Then there is the decision that is pending every single day, “Should we go out to dinner or stay in and cook?” But the decision that is most critical and has wide-ranging implications every day is, “What shoes should I wear?”

The options for any visitor are limitless, ranging from gladiator shoes to cowboy boots. Visitors are easy to recognize based on shoe choices that are most likely to be the most impractical shoe they can find. But who can blame them? Doing a quick Wikipedia search on the right shoes to wear in wine country — yes it exists — tells me that the best footwear for these parts includes loafers, boat shoes, crocs, and other closed-toe footwear. Crocs?

I am here to tell you that no one consults with Wikipedia before they figure out what to wear here because most visitors to our place wear flip-flops or sandals. The wearer of the flip-flops is always the one too who asks, “What can I do to help?” Because of the shoe choice, the responses to the question are now limited to those activities where I don’t need help. Ever try to use a rototiller wearing flip-flops? How about gopher hunting or raking leaves wearing flip-flops? Probably not.

Forget flip-flops. Although certain occasion might demand certain shoes, the best option for wine country is … work boots. The locals wear them. Separate yourself from the visitors from Delaware. Work boots will protect you from rattlesnake bites at your ankles, keep your feet dry in the rain and will gain a certain patina that shouts to onlookers, “I belong here!” And who doesn’t want to maintain a look that says, “I belong in Wine Country”?

At Christmas I tried to help the family grapple with the shoe question by buying work boots for everyone. In one fell swoop I bought six pairs of brown lace-up work boots, the kind you see construction workers wear. I took educated guesses on sizes for both men and women and wasn’t far off. Work boots where I shop don’t come in women’s sizes so there was a lot of guessing. The cashier at the checkout counter asked if I was the captain of a Boy Scout Troop. I replied that I was trying to solve a problem. The problem I was trying to solve is the excuse of not being able to help because the right shoes are not available.

Now that everyone has the right shoes the challenge is getting the family to wear them. Or, better said, getting people to wear the work shoes so that they can be helpful in chores like pushing the truck with the dead battery or cleaning the gutters before the next rain or digging up the now frozen and dead lemon tree.

Others I know in wine country maintain a big inventory of hats so that guests don’t get sunstroke. I am borrowing that idea because I am convinced the work boot idea remains a good one. After a few more shopping trips I am now able to outfit anyone in the vicinity who wears between a size 7 and size 11. Forget the sandals, forget the loafers, leave the flip flops at home, there is work to be done and only those with work boots on can participate in the fun.

No more need to wrestle with shoe decisions or stand around to watch others while they use a posthole digger to put that new bird feeder in the ground. Work boots are the way to go; someday you will thank me.

Rich Moran spends his time in Wine Country pondering decisions big and small.

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