Monday, January 21, 2008
Viva Shoe Trees!! Last week-end I was visiting my dad in our Texas Hill Country hometown, a little piece of paradise where he and I both grew up. Since he does not get out that much (gave up driving at age 94), when I am there we always go for rides around town to see what we can see. This time we were almost back to his house and something caught my eye and caused me to detour around a little drive called Bluebonnet Circle. We were just about to return to the main road when I spotted a tree up ahead that looked a bit odd. As we passed by, I realized that it was COVERED WITH SHOES! This was my first experience with SHOE TREES! I did a 360 and went back, and verified that we were indeed looking at a tree whose trunk was literally covered with shoes. I am pretty sure they were not all nailed to the poor trunk, but rather connected one to another in many cases. They extended up about 10 feet or so and trailed out at the bottom for 2-3 feet…shoes…big shoes, little ones, sneakers, brogans, pumps, oxfords, slippers, wedges, espadrilles, you name it, with some boots tastefully displayed at the very top. Wow! I said, gotta have a picture of THIS, jumped out of the car (Dad is somewhat used to me doing this) and snapped some shots with my handy iPhone.
As we were driving home I mused…shoes…a tree…covered with…shoes…and then (yes I am a little slow on the uptake)…exclaimed OMIGOSH A SHOE TREE!!! Dad has some of the OTHER kind of shoe trees in his closet. We were delighted with this play on words, and talked about how San Marcos was such a great town where people were free to put up a shoe tree if they were so moved. We agreed it is every bit as impressive as the car art on display out on the freeway. Our chests swelled with civic pride. Good old San Marcos, home of the shoe tree!
That evening we settled in our comfy chairs for several hours of our favorite pastimes, reading, napping (Dad), and surfing the Net (me). On a whim I Googled “shoe tree” and voila! I discovered that our local display is not unique. There are shoe trees all over the place! In fact one of the first ones to come up was a shoe tree a mere 15 or so miles away in Martindale, TX, near the San Marcos River. I found other trees in Oregon, California, Missouri, and several other states. Further, and this does not come as a surprise considering their popularity, Wikipedia has an entry for shoe trees. It includes the kind I saw and also the ones where two sneakers are tied together by their laces and thrown over things like wires and trees. Also not too surprising, I am not the first person to blog about the phenomenon. Here is the blog entry describing the Martindale tree: http://fimpress.blogspot.com/2006/09/shoe-tree.html There is also a YouTube video about another tree. Big websites like Roadside America and Road Trip America share locations of trees and other fun attractions.
But why is this worth including in a blog about technology and librarianship? I think it is an example of the increased communication and connectivity we have today via the Internet. People have always enjoyed quirky yard art and other displays, such as car art, bottle trees, and other creations. In nearby Wimberley, TX, for instance, you can enjoy the bottle house, again one of many such structures. Now we can share our findings with the world! Kids could enjoy searching the Net for examples of quirky public creations, and perhaps photograph ones in their own towns.
There are even literary tie-ins. E.L. Konigsburg’s The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place tells the story of a young girl’s experiences trying to save her uncles’ creation, a wonderful sparkling tower the two brothers had assembled over many years. Some townspeople object to the structure and campaign to have it destroyed. This clash between tastes is being played out in my childhood home town over another creation, the car art planter which showed up several months ago in front of a local business. The local paper has been reporting the fight between those who would remove the “art” and those who love it. Needless to say, Dad and I want to see it stay.
I shared my online findings with Dad, who is becoming convinced that you can find ANYTHING on the Internet. He said in an aggrieved voice, “Isn’t OUR tree on the Internet? It should be up there too!” So this is for you Dad, the tree is now officially online. Not only that, I am posting a picture of the car planter located on the I-35 feeder road in San Marcos, Texas. Maybe some folks will share their local oddities here!
PS. If you are from Texas, check out John Kelso's Texas Curiosities books. I am proud to have visited a number of the locations including Texas Stonehenge, Forbidden City, Giant Pecan, Popeye Statue, The Orange Show, The Beer Can House, and others. Naturally "others" includes Luckenbach, which I do not think of as a curiosity but rather a revered landmark.