Most artists wouldn’t be overjoyed to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. After all, art is a lofty profession. And Guinness honors such achievements as world’s oldest pig: Ernestine, 23 years, 76 days, from Calgary, Alberta.
But Bob “Daddy-O” Wade, of Austin, isn’t most artists. Wade creates big, funny stuff. His 35-foot-3-inch tall, pointy toe cowboy boots on Loop 410 in San Antonio next to Saks appear in the 2016 edition of the Guinness book, recognized as the largest cowboy boot sculpture.
You’ll find a photo of Wade, on page 91, dwarfed by his creation.
Wade isn’t the first Austinite to make it into the Guinness book. Many Austin dogs contributed to the world’s heaviest ball of dog hair (201 pounds) rolled up in 2012 by Texas Hearing and Service Dogs.
Wade’s achievement didn’t come easy. It took him 2½ months in Washington, D.C., to build the boots, which are made of recycled steel beams he grabbed from demolished buildings and wire mesh sprayed with urethane foam. The job was done in 1979 on a vacant lot at 12th and G streets, three blocks from the White House. The lot had been loaned to a group of artists who were using it to entice sculptors to work on their sculptures there.
“And I was the first guinea pig,” Wade said.
At the time, Wade said, the streets of Washington were loaded with street people. So he spent half his workday answering hobos’ questions about what he was doing and what the boots were made of.
“I would yell back ‘ostrich skin,’” Wade recalled.
Fortunately for Wade, a tall guy in an Uncle Sam hat who said he’d been designated by Congress as the nation’s official Uncle Sam showed up to give Wade a hand by answering the street people’s queries.
“He was helping keep these lunatics off my ass,” Wade recalled. “They were freshly let loose, shall we say.”
So you had a man in an Uncle Sam outfit and an artist, who once made a so-called Bonnie and Clyde Mobile for the Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans by spraying a laundry truck with bright orange paint and riddling it with machine gun bullets, answering artistic questions posed by street sommeliers. Now there’s your weirdo quinella.
I should mention that for his boots achievement, Guinness presented Wade with a framed certificate.
Oddly, and doesn’t this entire story fall under that category, the Guinness certificate doesn’t mention Wade. Instead, it honors Andre Ortolf, who ran the world’s fastest 100 meters while wearing clogs in 16.27 seconds at the Ernst-Lehner Stadium in Augsburg, Germany, on Oct. 25, 2013.
I should mention that Wade’s big cowboy boots sculpture is so large that one of the boots briefly provided low-income housing.
A couple years after the boots were installed in 1979, a homeless guy moved into one of the heels. The San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo was going on, and some DJ’s from a country and radio station were broadcasting from the top of the boot, which attracted cowboys from the San Antonio Rodeo.
One of the cowboys kicked a hole in the heel of one of the boots. “Don’t ask me why. He got excited,” Wade said. So when a street guy wandered by and saw the hole, he crawled inside and took up residence.
After school, some of the neighborhood kids would go inside to visit the homeless guy and smoke cigarettes. To add to that smoke, the homeless guy began cooking over a sterno can. So when the combined smoke wafted up to the top of the boot and out into the air, officials at the adjacent mall thought Wade’s boots were on fire.
“I said, ‘They can’t be on fire, they’re not flammable,’” Wade said.
But the homeless guy was evicted anyway. Maybe Wade should have charged him rent.