Thursday, June 9, 2011

I WAS HERE...and I left my shoes

Driving east from 29 Palms, California to Flagstaff Arizona, on either Route 62 or Route 60 (I can't remember exactly) in the middle of nowhere, we found yet another Shoe Tree...well actually this was more like a shoe fence. I think this is the first Shoe Fence we've seen. I know I keep writing about the Shoe Tree phenomenon, but I keep coming across new ones on my Byway travels. And I find it fascinating.

In an area that is about as hot, dry and brown and depressing as I've seen on my travels, on what had once been some kind of structure, perhaps a home, that was now burnt to the ground and surrounded by some kind of beat up wire fence, someone decided to start leaving shoes, and of course, you know what happens. Then everyone has to leave some shoes. Or a cooler or a lawn chair. Or a stuffed animal. Sometimes marked with names and dates. To let the world know that they exist.

I WAS HERE. And I left my shoes to prove it.

Living my entire life on the east coast of the US until now, living and traveling in both urban and rural areas all over the place, I had never seen a shoe tree. Have you? I think this is a western thing. A desert thing perhaps? I've only seen shoe trees in California and Nevada, in the desert, although I've read you can find them back east and in the south. They just keep appearing on our Byway travels.

My husband doesn't really care for these shoe trees and finds them creepy. I am delighted and fascinated by them. I liken the shoe tree to the rural version of urban graffiti. Out there in the middle of nowhere, there are no buildings to mark (although this site did provide some spray painting opportunity given that it had once been a structure), so what is a bored young person to do? I grew up in a rural area and I remember how bored I could get as a teen. With friends we would drive around aimlessly looking for something to do, some excitement. Where I grew up people would go out and tip cows. Yep, cow tipping. Next time you laugh about how dumb a shoe tree is, think about that. For the record, I have never and would never push a cow over. That is just wrong.

I find these shoe trees to be so symbolic of America. And the West. And youth and all of its dreams and angst.

Another phenomenon like this, that I spotted in Nevada along a very lonely stretch of road, was people using stones to spell out their names and their loved ones' names, and little messages along the sandy dirt incline that lined the road. So as you were driving down the road you passed miles of this to the left and the right. I've only seen that once so far and it was really fascinating given how far out in the middle of nowhere we were. No sign of life except for that. It was very poignant. A message out to the world from people who want you to know that while they may live out in the middle of nowhere, they still exist. I wish I had taken some photographs.

I find this urge that people have to leave their names at places - whether spray painted on a building or a rock out in the wild, or carved into a tree, or scratched into the wall of an elevator or stairwell, or on a bathroom wall, fascinating. I've seen graffiti in the craziest and most respected of places. I saw ancient graffiti on the rocks of ancient Sigiriya in Sri Lanka. So, discovering these shoe trees, and those miles of words from tiny stones out in the desert, just adds more examples to the intrigue. I love it.

If you have any shoe tree experiences or sitings to share, please do. See my earlier posts on shoe tree discoveries:

RIP Shoe Tree - You Shall Be Reborn

Have You Seen A Shoe Tree?

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