Wimberly, Texas’ Boot Whisperer


I think the thing city lovers really look for in small towns is the small piece of the place that reminds them of a city….that one good gallery, or artisan jeweler with a flare, or the exposed wood-decor, farm to table restaurant with a decent wine list. At least in America. (In Europe, we can refer to them as ‘villages’ and thus assign an innate charm to local life.) Having grown up in a small town in West Texas, I can be honest and say that small American towns are seldom actually attractive to city lovers until they have been adequately ‘discovered’ by city-based visitors, re-populated with their second homes, and graced with a few city-acceptable storefronts. And, if they haven’t given over entirely to becoming a cliche tourist village. In other words, an appropriate mix of adapted and authentic. Recently, returning to Texas, Biff and I found a couple we think qualify in the Austin area.

Wimberly, Texas stands out because of a singular phenomenon: Ulli Johnston, the Boot Whisperer. First, the media gave her this name years ago, which makes it a little less weird. She earned the brand because, with a high success percentage, she can fit anyone with a COMFORTABLE pair of western boots in two steps: she feels your feet while you are seated, then she observes you standing. Let me testify, I have had several pair of western boots and they have NEVER become comfortable. But Ulli delivered on the first pair she pulled from her large inventory of pre-owned boots. (Most of these boots looked custom made, and little worn by their original owners. People seek her out to sell her their expensive boots.) She encourages anyone who wanders into her shop when she happens to be open to the public (seldom since she normally works by appointment-only due to her wide ranging reputation) to let her “give it a try, no obligation to purchase because I don’t need the money and I enjoy the challenge. After all everyone should be Boot Whispered once in his life.” That bucket list item is hard to dispute, when you think about it. At any rate, she is charming, fun, oddly German retaining her native accent, and I ended up with a beautiful pair of black lizard boots for Valentine’s Day.

Barbara Motley


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