Jun 292010
Authors: Hannah Cornish

A tattered, vintage Greeley Stampede T-shirt and a North Korea Veteran hat barely brush the surface of long-time boot salesman Joe Hannabach’s lifetime.

“I have a background that if you ever knew it, you would roll over seven times,” he said at the 88th annual Greeley International Stampede from the shade of his booth that he’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.

“If it holds still long enough, we’ll make a boot out of it,” 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 “Jose Quervo,” 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, “but we don’t talk about hat stuff,” he said.

He mentioned in passing that his family played a part in all of America’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 wasn’t the first of Hannabach’s obstacles.

His parents died when he was 15 years old and he came to the U.S. from Canada to finish high school.

“But then they found me by my Social Security number,” 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.

“I wouldn’t sell at Cheyenne if they gave me a booth for free,” 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, “I like to deal with the little people.” And that’s what keeps him coming back.

Staff Writer Hannah Cornish can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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