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.The Texas parole board said in an emailed statement: "Mr. Darby was revoked on August 29, 2012, after he waived his hearing for DWI, failure to stop and render information and violation of the GPS monitor."
His next parole review is in March 2015, and Darby does not expect to be at a bootmaking bench until then."He was once a model prisoner and he made boots for everybody" said Larry Fitzgerald, a longtime spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice who has since retired."You have to be, to work in the craft shop - because you are surrounded by weapons of all kinds," he said.Fitzgerald himself owns three pairs of Darby's boots.
Darby went to prison in 1974 for aggravated robbery. He later received life sentences for killing two fellow inmates in gang violence. There was also an attempt to escape along the way, where he was shot in the head."My biggest regret of all was getting in the game," Darby said.