If The Boot Fits, Wear It!
Annabelle Hickson didn't plan to live in regional Australia but she fell in love with a handsome farmer from Western NSW so she thought she'd give it a shot. In her life as a mum of three, wife of a Pecan farmer and Editor in Chief of Galah Press, she wears out soles of shoes and boots faster than you can say Toowoomba (which is incidentally three hours drive away from their property and the closest urban centre.)
Here, Annabelle talks about the boot she didn’t know she needed, R.M.Williams’ new seasonal Erica boot for women - fashioned after the best-selling comfort Craftsman.
Annabelle, tell us about your shoe rotation before Erica turned up…
After seven years of living on a farm, as the high heels from my former city-life sit in my cupboard blanketed by a growing layer of dust, my strategy has been to embrace footwear of the flat and el cheapo kind. What’s the point of anything else when they’re going to get covered in dust and mud?
I’ve gone for a two-pronged approach: crocs on the farm (so light and hose-downable) and ballet flats for town. Try as I might to avoid cross-dressing, I invariably find myself in waist-deep grass, secateurs in hand, cutting big bunches of fennel wearing now filthy ballet flats as snakes slither past, or in a meeting in town wearing crocs and socks while trying to appear professional. Neither are ideal. Or actually cheap, given how many pairs I’ve gone through.
It still surprises me how many hats - or perhaps in this case shoes is a better metaphor - you end up wearing in what I had assumed would be a simple country life.
And how is that ‘simple country life’ working out for you?
When I left my job as a newspaper reporter in the city and moved to what is now home on a pecan farm an hour away from a town I can drive to without passing another car, I thought my opportunities would be limited. That’s one way to put it. Career suicide is another. I thought the move would be good for my young family, good for my husband, but bad for me.
I was naive. Life out here can be as busy as you want it to be. And if the holes in the soles of my shoes are anything to go by, the opportunities are many and varied.
Freedom, space, solitude, resilience, a sense of agency, community, accountability … and above all courage … these elements of country life have led me down a path I did not anticipate. Here I feel emboldened to try things that, in my city life, I had not thought I was qualified to do. It’s a small valley and comparison - that thief of joy – is nowhere to be found. Dreams to build massive overhead floral installations, even though I’m not a professional florist, or to start a print publication, even though I’m not a huge publishing business, don’t seem so farfetched.
I underestimated country life. Now, I can barely keep up.
So are your Erica boots helping you keep up?
In the short time I’ve owned them, they have withstood the sharp teeth of a Jack Russell puppy and the muddy walk to the letterbox at the end of the driveway.
They have softened the shed-like concrete floor of our kitchen (you know those mattress toppers that people talk about which turn their beds into soft clouds .. there is something like that going on in the sole of this boot. I don’t know what it is, but it is very good), and they’ve helped me grip onto wobbly stools when I’ve been precariously stringing up branches for an overhead floral installation.
I’ve worn them to a meeting with the school principal, a party at the Gold Coast where my oldest child has just started boarding school and a walk through the creek. I’ve put them on for my zoom meetings when I feel like I’m playing dress-ups pretending to be the editor of a national print magazine and have to remind myself that I actually am an editor of an actual magazine.
I think I’ve finally found a shoe that can work for me wherever I am. And with all the opportunities available to us in regional Australia, these shoes need to cover a lot of ground.