There are certain trees along the side of desolate stretches of highway that are covered in hanging shoes.
Deranged Christmas trees festooned with well-trodden ornaments. There is no outstanding motive to account for why one tree would be so adorned while many others remain barren to grow old in with naked dignity. The question of why may have never been explored.
Maybe it’s the way the light hits these shoe trees when the sun lays down in the distance, or that they have the familiar canopy of the arboreal archetype—I am thinking Bob Ross cum Window OS stock background bundle. It could be that this tree springs up around the point in the road when anyone too drunk to stay put becomes sober enough to reconsider, say a lonely hustler on a surreptitious escape from the gold-ringed clutches of Reno’s rhinestone and dandruff gangsters.
But why would a person be driven to launch a pair of shoes into their branches? To take a pair of shoes off of their feet and tie them together to spin them alongside the body in triumphant mimicry of the diminutive David and then, after centrifugal efficacy has been achieved, release those most pedestrian of objects into the air towards the jumbled skeins of outstretched branches.
This act is committed, of singular intention, and such that retrieval would pose a significant health danger.
Nothing about this is spontaneous. The shoes must be gathered and prepared. Is this done in a state of inconsolable rage due to the memory of an unfaithful lover? As a celebration of a triumphant journey? Perhaps this is a premeditated act, these shoes the representative icon of a long thankless job. It is likely that the first pair that swayed easily from those high branches were not alone for long. Many drivers might pass by, tuned into the road, hypnotized by its hum not noticing these gallowed soles while others might have wondered at the simple spectacle of this tethered pair for a few moments before returning to the pedestrian problems of grocery lists, taxes, and infidelity. They carried on, their feet comfortably swaddled in the sweaty confines of their footwear or perhaps their soles free on the pedals with their shoes safely kicked off to the side.
Then as if struck by lighting, the urge to make a contribution and join this mysterious pair would come over a lovestruck diver, enraged passenger or some not lost psychedelic wanderer and off come the shoes. Two pair, three pair, four pair thrown at the tree hung in their branches and with each set the attraction grows.
This spectacle is now fully underway, like bees to honey or flies to shit driver after driver fling pair after pair into the branches. The need for community, the desire to become apart of something more than oneself is a fundamentally animalistic trait that cannot be denied, and while the first shoe may be a mystery there is no denying that humans have been contributing their refuse to totemic stockpiles since the dawn of civilization.
The Middlegate, Nevada shoe tree was destroyed by vandals in late 2010.