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Denver man works to maintain cowboy culture with custom boots

Mickey Mussett discovered custom cowboy bootmaking when he was 56 years old.

DENVER — In the middle of the city is a place that's all country. Mickey Mussett, a custom cowboy bootmaker, creates art in his Denver garage workshop.

"How I got to be a custom cowboy bootmaker is like an impossible story, but it's true," Mickey said.

Before he started his country art, Mickey was a man of the city, working in advertising for more than 20 years until he lost his job.

"I came from six figures to riding a bicycle and painting apartments to keep food on our table," Mickey said.

When the 75-year-old discovered bootmaking, he realized this was his new calling.

"I was 56 years old," Mickey said. "And it was like a big hand on the middle of my back that turned me around and I said, 'God, is this what you want me to do?'"

When he decided to do it, he became good at it, studying under a local master bootmaker who died years ago, according to Mickey.

"One of my friends who's over on the Western Slope, he said, 'Mickey, you were born a bootmaker.' It just took me lots of years to find out," Mickey said.

Mickey now runs his own brand called Ghost Rider.

"It's Ghost Riders, the spirit of the Old West," Mickey said.

He has customers around the country, including current U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper when he was governor of Colorado.

"He got married in them and he gave his State of the State talk in them. That was one of the real high points for me," Mickey said.

At one time in Denver, Mickey said, there were 20 custom cowboy bootmakers.

"And now there's like two," Mickey said.

That's why even here in the city, he works to keep country alive.

"I believe there are two purely American art forms," Mickey said. "One of them is custom cowboy boots and the other one is jazz."

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