Do shoe trees only exist in Oregon? I've seen three of them in my life: one west of Burns, one south, and one here, on the way to Salt Creek Summit. In case you haven't seen one, it is a roadside tree, typically deciduous, into which people have tossed up all sort of shoes and boots. The one near here is particularly delightful because some whimsical soul threw up a pair of blue flippers, way up high.
I love shoe trees. I ponder each pair of shoes: the high heel bridal ones, the stout hiking boots, the inevitable sneakers. What's the story behind all of this footwear? And who started this concept, and how did it migrate across the state?
What's so endearing about shoe trees is that there aren't very many of them. That would dim the mystery, quell the excitement, if there were trees festooned everywhere. The fact that there are only a few, popping up on some deserted stretch of road when I least expect it, makes them fascinating. And there's the quirkiness of human nature. Say one person hucks a used pair of shoes in a tree. Ha ha, he thinks, and drives on. How long does it take for someone else to notice them, stop, and think: Hmm. Maybe I should contribute a pair?
Now that I think about it, why wouldn't I expect to find a shoe tree in this remote, off-kilter part of the world? Here we have an odd stew of Republicans, hippies and hermits, musicians, crazy backcountry skiers, and a gathering that calls itself the "Sarah Palin Discussion Group." (A digression: really, how much is there to discuss?) We have no Walmarts, no stoplights, and no airport. We have a bunch of impossibly tall mountains and a big glacier-carved lake and creeks and rivers and a canyon that is deeper than the Grand. And we have a shoe tree. I'm pretty happy about all those things.