Farewell to the Shoe Tree
January 11th, 2011

Central Nevada is abuzz over the latest catastrophe—the cutting down of the famous “shoe tree” by vandals in the dark of night. The stately roadside cottonwood, its limbs bedecked with hundreds of cast-off sneakers, flip flops, boots, sandals, loafers, wingtips, high heels and pumps was the area’s foremost tourist attraction—that is, ever since the brothel at Salt Wells burned down.

Among the suspended footwear were shoes belonging to some prominent figures—including, I suppose, Shoeless Joe Jackson and The Barefoot Contessa. My own were not among them. Silly me, I never think to venture out into the desert with disposable shoes.


According to local folklore, the first shoe tossing came about the result of an argument between newlyweds. The story goes that the groom tossed his bride’s shoes skyward in order to “calm her down.” Another version has the bride tossing her husband’s shoes for the same reason. In neither story does the diaphanous specter of a jilted bride appear standing in the middle of U.S. 50. Which happens more often than you would think out there on America’s so-called “loneliest highway.”

A bartender at Middlegate laments that fewer tourists will now be stopping by. The sheriff of Churchill County is looking into what he says may or may not be a crime. Myself, I am appalled whenever a good tree in the Great Basin goes down. Understand, there is a dearth of shade in that part of the country. Because I’m not a lizard, I am constantly looking for a spot to get out from under the blazing summer sun, or to camp for the night. When I can’t find a decent tree, I don’t sleep well.

So I am saddened that the stately shoe tree stands no more, but I am equally saddened that it was singled out for special treatment—or mistreatment, as it were. I feel the same way I did last week when I kicked our Christmas tree to the curb. I hope it enjoyed being “special,” because now it’s dead and gone back to sawdust.

-Richard Menzies