By Alicia Lacy
Killeen Daily Herald
These boots weren't made for walking, but rather the stuff legends are made of.
Lampasas, known to some as the Saratoga of the South because of its numerous springs and its healing abilities, will now be known for its boots and murals.
In the spirit of the late, great legendary boot maker Ray Jones, the city of Lampasas and the Vision Downtown Lampasas committee unveiled a 15.5-by-46.5-foot mural painted on the side of Jerry Goodson's Surveying Inc. building downtown, which was revealed to the public on Nov. 13.
One common thread tied people all over Lampasas, Lampasas County and Texas boots.
Through the project, Lampasas-area residents all had the opportunity to be a part of town's history. Beginning with the initial boot call to the actual painting of the mural, the close-knit community of 6,000 was active in the project every step of the way.
Following the city's recent separation from the Texas Main Street Program, the city established a task force called Vision Downtown Lampasas, which is a partnership involving the city government, Lampasas Economic Development Corporation and volunteers from the community.
The committee's mission is to enhance the aesthetic, social, cultural and economic welfare of the historic downtown district.
The committee knew it was going to paint murals, but needed subject matter.
"There were quilts, there were vignettes of happenings in town, there were dignitaries, there were springs and boots. We have so many boot makers in town, and through the process of elimination boots were the first ones," VDL art committee chair T.J. Mabrey said.
After the committee decided on a design, approval from the city was needed.
"The slow part was in the planning stages," Mabrey said.
An inventory of the buildings in town was taken to find the best location for the mural. The committee chose the corner of Western Avenue and Fourth Street.
"Even though it's not exactly on the corner, it's visible from the intersection, which is a state highway," Mabrey said.
After a location was chosen, the committee was required to present a plan to the City Council.
"We had to write standards and guidelines for the art and the artists of what was expected of us and what they expected to have when we finished," Mabrey said.
Following the completion of the legalities, the committee organized a boot call in April. On April 26, more than 150 boots were brought, laid on a tarp and photographed. The original photographer was unable to make the event, so local photographer Kellie Hughes stepped in. Ten days after giving birth to her third child, Hughes lay perched over the pile of boots on a fire truck extension ladder. Hughes photographed the pile of boots and each pair individually.
"She not only gave us some excellent, professional photographs, but she gave us the copyright." Mabrey said.
The image of all the boots was then posterized and divided into a grid pattern of 75 3-by-3-foot units. The original image had more than 175 colors and was reduced to 34 colors. Dan Yates of Lampasas Sign Company produced 75 color transparencies, which were used to project the image onto the wall. Two overhead projectors and 20 markers later, the outlined image was transferred.
The committee used a paint-by-number design. With the paint-by-number system, anyone in the community was able to pick up a brush and take part in the town's history.
Ischy Ron Masonry donated a scaffolding, and the committee received discounted paint from Lampasas Builders Mart.
A Texas Ranger emblem, two spurs, two boot buckles and two conchos were placed on the mural to give it an added touch of reality. The extra pieces were created by a local steel company and made of donated stainless steel. After more than 840 volunteer hours and approximately 700,000 brush strokes, the committee completed the mural.
The mural was inspired by local boot legend Ray Jones who once had a five-year waiting list to get boots made.
"I just look at Mr. Jones as the father of the boot maker in Lampasas," muralist Sheryl Estes said.
Jones took orders from Texas, Oklahoma, Nevada, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Alaska, Louisiana, Wyoming and countries such as Canada, Greenland, Italy and Panama.
Jones started his own shop in 1936. He trained the now local legend Pablo Jass. Jass began working for Jones in October 1971. In 1983, Jass opened his own shop while working for Jones. Jass said Jones' boots were good and heavy, using the finest leather. For one standard, a 12-inch Jass boot made of pigskin, calfskin or bull skin costs $925. Other materials Jass uses included ostrich, kangaroo, elephant, hippopotamus and lizard.
"I'm just following what I learned from him," Jass said.
Jass trained his brother John Jass, who now owns a boot shop in Lampasas.
Jass was photographed with some of the boots he created.
"That mural's pretty good," he said.
Lampasas resident Janie Perkins recalled a trip to Alaska when another traveler asked if she was from Texas because he recognized her Ray Jones' boots.
"I got them in 1949, $75 is what I remember paying. In 1949 that was extremely expensive," Perkins said.
"Everybody knew him and that he did good boot, but we didn't know he was famous," Perkins added.
The boot mural is not the last mural for the city. In February, the VDL will begin work on its second mural, at the Lampasas Hardware building.
The mural will be taken from a sepia-tone photograph of the building from the late 1800s.
"It's of the building it's being painted on. The owners were instrumental in that. It's sort of a documentation of a previous life," Mabrey said.
"Lampasas is on the map again – as a mural town," she said.
Contact Alicia Lacy at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7476.