Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wednesday's Words for September 29, 2010

Mr. Ashbury and I are relative new-comers here in town. We’ve only lived here twenty-three years. My brother preceded us to this community which bills itself “the prettiest town in Canada.” He moved here in 1966.

In his time as a resident of town, he’s been elected to town council a couple of times and even served on the county council for a term. He knows a lot of the people who live here or work here; his wife used to work at the Library so between them there isn’t much about this town or its denizens he doesn’t know.

So imagine my surprise and yes—my sense of one-upmanship—when I realized there was something about this community he didn’t know, until I told him about it.
He didn’t know about the shoe tree.

We first noticed the shoe tree one afternoon on our way home about three years ago. The tree is located on a road just within town limits, a road that plays host to farm fields on one side and undeveloped industrial land on the other. We passed the tree, and I thought, “I didn’t just see that…did I?” Being me, I stopped the car, put it in reverse, and slowly backed up for a better look.

There, on the trunk of a tree standing at the side of the road, were two pairs of summer sandals—his and hers.

“I wonder what that’s all about?” I asked Mr. Ashbury.

“Kids,” came his standard reply.

Willing to concede the shoe tree might in fact be some teenagers’ idea of an amusing diversion (more creative I say than cow tipping), I nonetheless smiled, and then drove on.

Over the course of the next few months, more and more shoes appeared on the tree. There were running shoes and deck shoes; sandals and flip flops; there were work boots and kids’ boots. There were not, of course, any ladies’ pumps. Mr. Ashbury asked why that would be, and I shook my head at him in pity as I replied that of course, in order for there to be any women’s pumps on the tree, women would have to voluntarily part with their shoes.

Not going to happen.

The presence of the shoe tree drew the attention of the local paper, which ran an editorial featuring letters from readers speculating as to the meaning of the collection, and the identity of the person or persons responsible. The most imaginative response was that they’d been nailed up by a family of philanthropic squirrels as the best way to collect the most nuts to be shipped overseas to other, poor, starving squirrels.

Then one day in the spring of the following year, the unthinkable happened. It was the day of the “annual spring clean up” campaign when volunteers flood the area to scoop garbage from the streets, sidewalks and ditches. To our great sadness, when we drove past the tree that afternoon, it was bare!

I don’t believe this town has ever seen such a hue and cry as that which arose when this travesty was discovered. No one would own up to having taken the spirit of “spring cleaning” so far as to denude the tree of its footwear bounty. However, the mood of the people had been measured, and that mood was outrage. I’m proud to report that the people of this community didn’t stop at voicing their opinions in their letters to the editor. Oh no, the people of this community acted!

This time, when the shoes went up, they really went up. I am pleased to report that during subsequent “spring clean campaigns” this tree—the original of which was established, not by teens but by a retired couple—has remained sacred.


1 comment:

Grammi6kids said...

Wow that is a wonderful story. The tree is amazing.