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Neile's Hometown Heroes: Cowboy boot maker keeping traditions alive

James Smith works on a pair of boots

TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) -- In this edition of Neile's Hometown Heroes, we meet a man who has kept the true handmade cowboy boot tradition of Blucher Boots alive.

Customers end up with a 1900s-style, one-of-a-kind pair of boots and a great story to tell.

In the heart of Beggs, Okla. sits a shop just off Main Street called Blucher Boots. Walk in the door and you'll hear a friendly hello as if you've been there a million times before.

And within minutes, the organized chaos that surrounds owner James Smith quickly becomes a history lesson.

"I have the same wooden lasts. They were all made from 1920 to 1949. I have to have them to fit and you build your boot," said Smith.

With his humble demeanor, quick wit and classic style, it seems Smith has somehow survived the technology revolution by avoiding it as much as possible.

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"I've got a little go phone that I carry, and that's about the extent of my computerization," said Smith. "I'm as mechanized now as they were in 1950."

And in fact, he's following the same steps he's used for some 40 years. It all starts with a precise measurement.

"I'll come out here and find a boot last that is as close to your measurements as I can get, then build it up and dial the fit in. Pretty much like you would tune a radio," said Smith.

Customers choose from a style book and can even add their personal flair.

"Everybody's personality being different, no two boots are the same," said Smith. "No two pair are exactly the same. And certainly not with their feet. No two people's feet are ya know exactly alike."

Smith makes the patterns for the boot tops, adds the fancy stitching and sews the inlays.

"From there the tops are put together from the vamps and counters, which is the foot, and then I side it up on this harness machine behind me I'll side that up put the side seam wrong side out and then I trim the side seam. I have to turn them right side out," said Smith.

Even the heels he shapes by hand. And he says, there's no rushing the process, which by the way includes a handful of boots all in different phases.

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"It takes what it takes as far as time," said Smith.

But customers know the risk and expect a wait.

"I'm a little to popular for my own good I think sometimes," said Smith. "There's around nearly two years and there's just me. So people put down their deposit and get in line. Just hope nobody passes away."

But if everybody makes it the buyer ends up with a one-of-a-kind pair of boots that'll stand the test of time, and Smith gets to keep doing what he loves.

Smith does have a kit he can ship to people overseas but he says most folks, if they are in the states, choose to drive in and have him take their measurements.

He says the boots start around $1,200 a pair and go up from there depending on how fancy you want to get.

And a neat side note, if someone needs a certain pattern recreated that's not in one of his style books or that they can't find in the store, he calls the Cowboy Hall of Fame where he says they keep a log of the Blucher Boot patterns for just that reason.

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