Ok, not really an ode but I want to pay homage to the largest shoe tree in the world. It lived not far from here, about 70 miles from Reno on Highway 50, The Loneliest Road in America. It is along 50 that I travel to get to my property in Central Nevada where I plan to eventually build myself a little house. I have made this trip dozens of times and will make it hundreds more. I searched for the right piece of land for years. One day I took one of my daughters and a friend of mine from the south who hadn't seen much of Nevada out to look at more parcels. When you travel through that part of the state you see many interesting things; there is Sand Hill which looks like it belongs in the Sahara and always has people who appear as tiny as ants in the distance playing on the hill in their dune buggies. When I drive by the Big R Ranch, Farm and Home Supply store in Fallon my heart goes pitter pat at the site of the stock tanks and fencing panels in the outdoor yard. There are the alkali flats where people gather black rocks and spell out messages along the side of the road. There is the mysterious sign that reads "Naval Centroid Facility" pointing to a stretch of barren desert. That sign always reminds me of a dear friend who died a couple of years ago. Once when traveling that road together he said, "I am just suspicious of anything that ends in 'oid'. It can't be good." The sign brings him to mind and a smile to my face every time; we had such a good time on that trip. Then there is the Shoe Tree. On the day I found the property of my dreams I was busy explaining about the Shoe Tree to my friend when he shouted, "LOOOOOK!!" He had actually spotted a big horn sheep on a rocky outcropping just before the Shoe Tree. We were both very excited. We had to stop at the tree just to catch our breath from seeing the magnificent animal with the huge curling horns. My daughter had brought a pair of shoes to sacrifice and she lobbed them way into the sky where they caught on a branch and we watched them swing from side to side until they came to rest, at peace in their new home. The cottonwood was old, had been standing there while countless people passed by, some stopping for the momentary protection from the desert sun that it provided and in later years, to marvel at the thousands of shoes against the impossibly blue Nevada sky.
Shoes decorated every branch, some signed, some with wheels, some with spike heels and impossibly thin straps. Legend has it that the first shoes were thrown into the tree in the 80s by an angry groom on a wedding night to keep a new bride from walking off. Hard to say if that is true or not but the image is striking.
Last week someone took a chainsaw and felled this glorious tree, splaying the old limbs and the cargo of shoes out across the snow-covered ground. I don't know why. It doesn't really matter. There are some things about people that I'll never understand. I grieve for the loss of the tree. Just as the Navy sign makes me smile, that clearing and tree stump beside the road will make me forlorn each time I pass it.
Today's five items are, appropriately, all shoes:
1. A pair of running shoes
2. A pair of slippers with knitted legging attached
3. A pair of blue flip flops
4. A pair of boots
5. A pair of high heels made from herringbone patterned cloth