A tattered, vintage Greeley Stampede T-shirt and a North Korea Veteran hat barely brush the surface of long-time boot salesman Joe Hannabachâ€™s lifetime.
â€œI have a background that if you ever knew it, you would roll over seven times,â€ he said at the 88th annual Greeley International Stampede from the shade of his booth that heâ€™s held for 17 years. He and his daughter Carolyn sell their boots at events like the Stampede, a Northern Colorado tradition, to make a living.
â€œIf it holds still long enough, weâ€™ll make a boot out of it,â€ Carolyn said. The duo calls Queen Creek, Ariz. their home but said they travel a lot, doing about six shows a year for their business.
Hannabach, who jokingly coined himself â€œJose Quervo,â€ rehashed his not-so-pleasant past when asked the significance of his Korea Veteran hat.
Drafted at 19 years old, Hannabach was a demolitions expert in the Army, â€œbut we donâ€™t talk about hat stuff,â€ he said.
He mentioned in passing that his family played a part in all of Americaâ€™s wars. His younger brother fought in Vietnam, his older brother fought in WWII and his father fought in WWI, all of them drafted.
Being drafted wasnâ€™t the first of Hannabachâ€™s obstacles.
His parents died when he was 15 years old and he came to the U.S. from Canada to finish high school.
â€œBut then they found me by my Social Security number,â€ he said, explaining that he was drafted shortly after his high school career ended.
Aside from a past, mapped out by the wrinkles on his face, Hannabach is the typical western man. Even though he lives in Arizona, he can easily be considered a Coloradan because of his angst toward Cheyenne.
â€œI wouldnâ€™t sell at Cheyenne if they gave me a booth for free,â€ he said.
And while it might be a mundane lifestyle, being a boot salesman, it is one he enjoys wholeheartedly.
His favorite part: meeting people and learning their life stories. Though Hannabach travels to towns like Vegas for shows, the Stampede has remained a staple for his business over the years, he said.
But as the self-acclaimed Jose Cuervo puts it, â€œI like to deal with the little people.â€ And thatâ€™s what keeps him coming back.
Staff Writer Hannah Cornish can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.