Texas jailhouse cobbler's short walk on freedom road

Sun Dec 22, 2013 2:57pm EST
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By Jon Herskovitz

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (Reuters) - Lawmen would come from across Texas just to walk a few miles in the boots made by inmate Arnold Darby.

Darby, 64, soft-spoken, bespectacled and tattooed, was once one of the most prodigious bootmakers in the Texas prison system, turning out more than a thousand pairs of custom-made footwear for police, FBI agents and the governor's office, prison officials said.

But freedom put an end to that.

After 37 years behind bars, serving time for robbery and murder, Darby was released on parole in 2011.

The highly skilled bootmaker was looking to open his own shop in a state that loves its boots. But lacking start-up cash, he settled for making boxes at a food-processing plant.

After only a year on the outside, Darby violated parole by driving while intoxicated and was sent back to prison.

This time, however, he has not been in the new unit long enough to earn what is considered a privileged position in a workshop, and the once-vaunted jailhouse cobbler is not sure if he will ever make boots again.

"I was working six or seven days a week, and I started drinking a little bit. That is what brought me back," said Darby in an interview from the Goree Unit prison in Huntsville, about 70 miles north of Houston.   Continued...

Inmate Arnold Darby speaks during an interview in a holding area at the Goree Unit prison in Huntsville, Texas December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Jon Herskovitz