“Why do people throw their shoes on a wire?”

Shoes hanging from a telephone wire in Gothenburg, Sweden. (Image: Moralist)

One afternoon as we were driving down Route 1, The Four-Year-Old noticed a ratty old pair of sneakers hanging from a telephone wire along the road. “Mommyo, why do people throw their shoes on a wire?”

I had nothing, but as usual no amount of shrugging would satisfy The Four-Year-Old. So when we got to storytime, I Asked the iPhone while The Four-Year-Old was distracted by Huck the flower-eating goat.

Turns out there are nearly as many reasons for throwing shoes on a wire as there are people to throw them. Some of the reasons are pretty unsavory and involve explaining details of life that I’m not ready to share with The Four-Year-Old. Fortunately, there are lots of G-rated options to offer.

Tops on the family-friendly list:

  • To decorate one’s environment, because nothing says home sweet home like a ratty pair of sneakers hanging overhead
  • To keep away ghosts
  • To mourn the death of a loved one
  • To commemorate a rite of passage, such as the last year of school, a marriage, completing basic training, and so on

The shoe tree at Woodstock, IL. (Image: Avanderbosch)

On a related note, telephone and power lines aren’t the only things we humans like to festoon with shoes. Wikipedia reports that there are some 76 shoe trees in the U.S. alone. Some of those trees have themes (like the shoe tree dedicated to high-heeled fashion statements).

“Mommyo, can we go visit every shoe tree in Texas?”

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About Shala Howell

Writer of things ranging from optical network switching white papers to genetic testing patient education materials to historical fiction set in an 1880s asylum. When I’m not scratching my head over pesky characters who refuse to do things how I want them done or dreaming of my next book (which will of course be much easier to write and research than the current one), my writerly self can be found sifting through the stacks in my church’s archives looking for a few good stories to tell, blogging about life with a very curious Six-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, or musing about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.wordpress.com.
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