Al Batt: It wasn’t a horse that threw the shoe of course

Published 10:06 pm Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Tales From Exit 22 by Al Batt


I awoke to a world in turmoil.

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My shoelace had broken and no spares were available. I did what resourceful people do. I tied the two parts of the injured shoestring together in an ugly knot and off I went. It was either that or use duct tape. It was necessary. I’m no Shoeless Joe Jackson.

Shoes are important. They changed Cinderella’s life. Wearing sensible shoes might engender common sense. I appreciate the protection shoes offer from stubbed toes and sharp objects. I heard men of authority (teachers) approaching because of the metal heel plates worn on their shoes. Women teachers could be detected by the clicking of high heels. They were called wingtips because the detailing on the toecaps resembled bird’s wings. They must have resembled angel’s wings, too, as wingtips went to church regularly. I knew twins years ago that I couldn’t tell apart. They were identical and then some. To make it even tougher to differentiate the pair, their mother insisted on dressing them just alike. One of the two was athletic, the other musical. I asked one how they could tell one another apart. He said that when he got up in the morning, he picked up the clarinet. If he couldn’t play it, he knew he wasn’t his twin brother. How did their mother tell them apart? They wore different kinds of shoes. I had to look at their shoes before I made eye contact. I’ve no doubt they occasionally switched footwear just to fool her, but they were known by their shoes.

I went to a Red Wing shoe store so my mother could buy me shoes needing breaking in. Most shoes did in those bygone days. I’d try to wear them out before I outgrew them. I was a sole-destroying child. I didn’t wear many tennis shoes — rubber-soled, canvas shoes that were worn by many for everything but playing tennis. 

On the road of life, I saw a shoe. I don’t brake for shoes. I’ve seen many shoes on roads. Nearly all of them on paved roads. Are they running shoes that had run away from home? I never see a pair. That’s because some guy even cheaper than I am had already picked them up. Free shoes are difficult for some to pass by. The price is right.

I’ve worked in parts of the world where it is summer all year. Shoes dangled from utility wires. People threw the shoes with shoelaces tied together so they’d hang overhead. A number of explanations have been proposed as to why this happens. I suspect it’s done for many reasons. I’d never have tossed them up there. Some of the dangling shoes looked to be in better shape than the ones I wore.

I went shoe shopping with my wife once. We weren’t long into that adventure before I’d determined it was something that we needed to stop doing. It had turned my jolly into melancholy. We went to 19 stores. At the 19th store, she pulled one shining shoe from a shelf and asked for my opinion. I said, “Oh, it’s precious. Please get it.”

We went home without any new shoes and we don’t shop for her shoes together anymore. I may be nuttier than squirrel droppings, but I like having my wife go shoe shopping with me. I prefer having her do my shoe shopping for me.

I try to get as many miles as possible on a good car. The odometer lets me know how I’m doing. I try to do the same with good shoes. Thanks to various kinds of fitness trackers, steps can be calculated on a pair of shoes. There must be commercials hawking a pair of faithful shoes by proclaiming the incredible number of steps they’d provided an owner.

I don’t know much about footwear, but I’ve learned that life is too short to wear anything but comfortable shoes.

My father came from a large family. He told me that he and his brothers took turns wearing a single pair of shoes. I didn’t believe him even though he was wearing wingtips (church shoes) at the time he related the story.

I told my grandchildren that I was too poor to have shoes when I was their ages. In the winter, I wrapped my barefeet in barbed wire to keep from slipping on the ice as I walked uphill both ways to the school bus.

I was wearing flip-flops when I told them that.

They think I’m still too poor to have shoes.

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Saturday. This week it was moved to Thursday because of the Fourth of July holiday.