AUSTIN - While legislators elsewhere in the State Capitol on Wednesday deliberated over highways or education costs, Room 3W9 just behind the House gallery was a bustling marketplace. Throughout the day, representatives of El Paso's famed Lucchese boot company displayed their custom-made wares to a steady procession of staffers, lawmakers, lobbyists and the occasional tourist.
The annual boot-fitting is a State Capitol tradition that goes back to 1983, when then-State Sen. John Montford initiated the idea to promote one of Texas' iconic products. Virginia Carter, a former Montford aide, has kept the annual event going with the help of her husband, former State Rep. Bill Carter, who represented Northeast Tarrant County until leaving the House in 2001.
Now their friends, State Rep. Vicki Truitt, R-Keller, and her husband Jim Truitt, a former Richland Hills mayor, are joining in the cause. During Wednesday's House session, Rep. Truitt invited those who were interested to drop by the third-floor display.
"It's a tradition and we're just trying to keep that tradition alive,'" said Jim Truitt, lifting up a pants leg to show off his black-cherry European goat boots emblazoned with a Texas seal. He described himself as Virginia Carter's "apprentice'' to help organize and oversee the yearly boot-fitting.
Some visitors gasped when they turned over hand-crafted boots displayed on a table to see prices reaching past $2,000. But Lucchese marketing director Fred King, who took more than 80 orders through mid-afternoon, said he was selling the boots for less-than-retail prices, some in the $200 range. "We want to see everybody that leaves this capitol in cowboy boots - whether it's ours or not," he said.
-- Dave Montgomery