Promotional image for Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 chart “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'”

“You keep saying you’ve got something for me.”

Aiming down from the observation deck of the tower, Charles slowly pulled the trigger of the Remington and the first student dropped on the quad. He was surprised that all of the other people down there didn’t panic and run. Maybe if he killed enough people the monster in his head would stop making him do this.

“You’ve been messin’ where you shouldn’t have been a messin’”

The second person went down. Most people don’t think actual rifle shots sound real. They think it’s firecrackers going off, or maybe a car backfiring, or construction equipment operating.

His Timex said about four minutes had passed since he started shooting when he saw the first cop.

“one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.”

Now there were two cops behind that stone wall. There was just enough space to…yes, he got himself a cop. “Please make it stop. I can’t stand the pain.”

Charles got a fresh magazine out of his footlocker briefly spying his other equipment, the carbine, sawed off shotgun, the Magnum, all the extra ammo. He’s already taken the Excedrin but it didn’t stop the monster from hurting his head.

Five more people were down. One kid was being dragged away. Can’t let that happen.

“You keep lying, when you oughta be truthin’”

“I’m sorry, Karen. I love you very much.” Another person went down. “I loved you and your Mama both, but I know you wouldn’t want to live with what I’ve got to do here.” He pulled the trigger twice more. “You’ll always be my only love, Karen. I know Jesus will take care of you in Heaven.”

“and you keep losin’ when you oughta not bet.”

Why did that damn song have to keep playing over and over again on the radio? He hated it but it was stuck inside his brain with the monster.

“Now what’s right is right, but you ain’t been right yet.”

Someone was shooting back at him from the ground. Now that plane is shooting. Charles fired back at the light aircraft and it flew off but not far enough.

“Have to stay low. I’ve got the high ground. They can’t stop me.”

Charles looked at his supplies again. “Must have gone through fifty rounds already.” His Timex said it was past one, almost twenty past.

“Where’d that rifle shot come from?” He heard it but it wasn’t from a shooter on the ground and the plane was circling too far away.

“Boots.” He could hear them coming around the corner of the observation deck, two men, cops. The one firing his revolver keeps missing.

tower shooting

FILE: In this Aug. 1, 1966 file photo, one of the victims of Charles Joseph Whitman, the sniper who gunned down victims from a perch in the University of Texas tower, is carried across the campus to a waiting ambulance in Austin. AP

The monster inside screamed as Charles was thrown backward by two shotgun blasts. Then there’s the sound of the third and finally silence. The last thing he saw was his blood on their boots.

“These boots are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.”

I wrote this for the Music Challenge #23: “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’” by Nancy Sinatra #musicchallenge #MLMM hosted at Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie. mandibelle16 decided to use Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 “one hit wonder” These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ which has since been recorded by a ton of other artists and was on the soundtrack (in a highly edited version) of the 2005 film The Dukes of Hazzard (which I’ve never seen and will never see).

Sinatra’s version, which was written by Lee Hazlewood, charted on 22 January 1966 and eventually reached No. 1 in the United States Billboard Hot 100.

It isn’t exactly my favorite song but I thought maybe I could use it as “background noise” for some other more interesting event that took place in 1966.

As it turns out on 1 August 1966, Charles Whitman, a former Marine sharpshooter, ascended the University of Texas tower in Austin and from the observation deck, used one or two rifles to kill 14 people and injure 31 others after having murdered his wife Karen and mother-in-law earlier that day.

Over an approximately 90 minute period, law enforcement officers and civilian volunteers heroically attempted to reach and stop Whitman while others managed to pull the wounded out of range and to waiting ambulances.

I’m not really satisfied with the story I’ve created but it was the best I could come up with. Whitman was known to have violent thoughts and impulses and an autopsy revealed a brain tumor which may have been the cause (hence my creation of “the monster” inside of his head).

Oh, among his other equipment, he packed a transistor radio and it’s quite possible that if he had it tuned to a pop station, he would have at one point heard Sinatra’s song, although there’s no evidence for this. I made it up along with all of his internal dialogue.

11 thoughts on “Boots

  1. I could say this is topical James but I won’t. The current gun situation in your country beggars all logic as far as I can tell. Lunatics with guns is a problem in itself, lunatics giving them the go-ahead is something different altogether.


    • I’ve said in other commentaries and venues that firearms have been just as accessible if not more so in the past 50 to 60 years but these so-called mass shootings are only a few decades old. Access to firearms hasn’t changed so that’s not the problem. What is?


  2. Tough one. Writing a story from a killer’s point of view showing his crazy while he thinks he’s not crazy. Not the sort of thing I generally read but you did a good job of it. The story felt disturbingly real.


  3. This is a fascinating and terrifying take James. Well done, and unique from the song. I guess also shows at that these mass shootings aren’t just happening in the modern world. I’m quite sure the brain tumour would have a lot to do with what he was experiencing sadly. Even if he had mental health issues they were likely caused or a result of having that tumour first. Such a sad story but well done, it’s eeeie how well Nancy’s lyrics fit into the scene. Well done and thank you 🙂


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