April 14, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Kyle Rosfeld keeps waiting for Daryl Hannah to call him. He fitted the actress for a pair of cowboy boots last summer when she came to Lincoln and he needs to know what design she’d like.

“Well, I guess I’ll just have to call her,” Rosfeld deadpans.

She’s on speed dial?

“Yup.”

While the name-dropping game plays out with good-natured fun, the owner of Sandhills Boot Co. in Cherry County boasts a seriously impressive customer list.

“I’ve made boots for Neil Young, Willie Nelson, and Nelson’s two sons, Lukas and Micah, who are with the band Promise of the Real,” Rosfeld says. “I met Daryl Hannah through Neil. She’s his girlfriend.”

These veterans of the entertainment industry can now attest to the talent of the boot maker. Rosfeld’s meticulous craftsmanship and artistry attracts people from all over the country to his shop in tiny Cody, Nebraska—population 156—where faded ’60s-era welcome signs along Route 20 declare it, “A Town Too Tough to Die.”

Rosfeld’s business opened in 2000, but his construction methods reflect the turn of the last century. “I handcraft each pair from the finest leathers,” he explains. “I don’t use plastic or glue. I use wooden pegs to hold the shank at the bottom, no nails.” He operates an 1896 Singer sewing machine on a treadle for the topstitching.

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Even Rosfeld’s personal look channels Wyatt Earp. “I’ve been growing the handlebar since I was too young to drink,” laughs the 47-year-old father of four. “My wife has never seen me without it.”

Quality—especially the old fashioned kind—doesn’t come cheap. A pair of pull-on cowboy boots costs about $1,250; a pair of lace-up boots goes for $800. Rosfeld also makes handbags from old boots for $300. When a customer comes to the shop for a fitting, he asks for half up front. “That way I know they’re committed,” he reasons.

Rosfeld, who grew up 40 miles away in Valentine, Nebraska, builds about 14 pairs of boots a year, putting in 40 hours per pair. Asked if he makes any money on the deal, he just shakes his head and concedes he holds a second job delivering mail.

Sandhills Boot has a website, but sometimes “who you know” proves more valuable. A few years ago, Rosfeld made a pair of bright red and gray boots with cranes on them for Jane Kleeb, founder of the environmental activist group Bold Nebraska (and featured in the July/August 2015 issue of Omaha Magazine). Loving the way they fit, Kleeb asked Rosfeld to make boots for Young, Nelson, and his two sons as a gift for singing, free of charge, at the 2014 Harvest the Hope Concert to benefit Bold Nebraska.

Rosfeld shipped Willie’s boots to him, but personally delivered the other pairs when Young and the Nelson brothers played in Lincoln last July during the Rebel Content Tour.

“Lukas and Micah wore their boots on stage that night,” says Rosfeld, “but I didn’t get a chance to give Neil Young his, so I gave them to Daryl. And that’s when I measured her feet.”

Now, if she’d only call…

Visit sandhillsboots.com to learn more.

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