David Courtney, better known as the Texanist, grew up in Temple, was given his first cowboy boots at age three, and now owns five pairs, including some custom-made Camargos with his initials stitched on the sides. Tom Foster, our editor-at-large, was born in Binghamton, New York, and didn’t buy his first pair of boots until he was an undergrad at Trinity University, in San Antonio. Today, though he owns a nice pair of Luccheses, he’s seen much more often sporting blue-suede Vans. Despite their very different backgrounds, both men have long been fascinated by the mystique of Western footwear.

Tom, who conceived and edited this issue’s cover story, “The Power of Boots,” observes that cowboy boots seem to be more popular than ever. “You’re seeing more of them on hip-hop stars and on fashion runways,” he says. And they evoke as much passion from new fans as from veteran ranch hands. That’s fitting, given that, in Texas, boots have long been embraced by women as well as men; by Mexican vaqueros and black and Anglo cowboys.

The idea for our boots package, which looks at the distinctive footwear from a variety of angles, grew out of an interview Tom conducted with singer-songwriter Lyle Lovett, for Garden & Gun magazine. “Lyle is so visually refined,” Tom says, “and he was so articulate that I suspected it would be great to talk to him about why he loves his boots.”

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David, in his role as the Texanist, frequently fields questions about cowboy boots, so I asked him if there’s anything that could be done to encourage Tom to wear them more often. “Well,” David replied, “Tecovas has a new zippered thing with a shorter shaft. That might work with those skinny-legged pants Tom likes to wear.”

One contributor to our cover story, executive editor Katy Vine, also wrote this month about Texans afflicted with Lyme disease who have turned to self-medication—with the venom of live bees (“The Sting Operation”). In her 22 years at Texas Monthly, Katy has developed a special interest in the state’s colorful characters, including the Kilgore Rangerettes and a three-member family circus. “My reporting constantly reminds me,” Katy says, “that there’s no such thing as an average Texan.”

When they’re not wearing cowboy boots, many Texans lace up the combat boots issued by the U.S. military. We rank second only to California in active and reserve service members. To better cover this vital part of Texas’s culture, we’re pleased to have enlisted as a contributor Dallas resident David Wood, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for his coverage of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In “Surgery in the Dirt,” he reports on how combat medics are training to save lives under what are expected to be much more challenging circumstances in future conflicts.

I hope you enjoy David’s and Katy’s stories and our boots package and the rest of this issue. Please let me know what you like and dislike and what you think we should cover next.