Zipping along through the Gold Creek Wilderness Study Area in Oregon, Len and I drove past a roadside tree and then looked at looked at each other quizzically. “We’re those shoes?” we asked in unison. “Let’s turn around!”
Pulling off the road, we saw perhaps a hundred pairs of shoes had been slug up into the tree. Almost all of them tennis shoes, most of them nice. Mind you, we’re in the middle of nowhere. Someone would have to drive a long way out here—on purpose.
A bit of internet research reveals that slinging shoes over telephone pole lines could mean anything from exuberance at passing a sexual milestone, to gangs marking their territorial boundaries. I also learned that the Southwest has a similar practice of placing boots upside down on fenceposts by the side of a road. And in the military, some soldiers pitch their boots over wires when leaving a post. But I didn’t find a single thing about slinging shoes into a tree. Particularly a tree in the middle of nowhere.
If you’ve pitched your shoes in a similar manner, why?
Oh my, interesting! I can´t imagine why they would be there. Perhaps it was a sports team celebrating a victory. (or a stag night) There could be a story there.
Darlene — You’re right; there’s definitely a story there! (at minimum, a writing prompt) 🙂
We have a similar tree alongside the road on our way to the cottage – and here’s a link to another one near Barrie, ON. I’m not a fan, personally. I fit into the “eye sore” category, and I especially hate it when people nail the shoes into the tree. I think people see the tree and spontaneously add on. You might be surprised by the number of people who drive by the middle of nowhere.
Arlene — I agree that it’s an eye sore. I followed the link you provided. Oh my gosh, it’s even worse!
A photo in my album shows Ukrainian girls tying pastel-colored ribbons in a tree to show their wish to marry. Your shoe tree is puzzling, but provocative.
I’ll return to see if another reader has a bright idea. 🙂
Marian — Now that (pastel-colored ribbons) wouldn’t be an eye sore 🙂
How bizarre! A walking expedition got tired of walking or celebrating their end of the trail?
Fatima — Bizarre, indeed! I like your idea that it might signify the end of a walking expedition 🙂
I’ve seen shoes slung over telephone wires. I always marvel at how someone did that. Must be a pitcher or a quarterback. A shoe tree…..must be a bottle tree close by…..
LoisaJay — You’d definitely have to have a pretty sure shot for that! 🎯
Ah, sweet mystery of life, again you’ve found me.
You and Len have such fun sounding outings.
Janet — We have a complete and total blast together 🙂
Laurie, you hit on a big trend. Here’s what I found …
“In 2000, disaster struck. A wind storm felled the Great Beaver Shoe Tree — perhaps aided by the unnatural burden of hundreds of waterlogged hangers-on. The road department hauled off the branches and fallen footwear, and the mighty loss could be felt across all of Shoetreedom…
But something magical happened. In subsequent months, locals and visitors continued to bring their cast-offs, heaving into the trees surrounding the gap. A few trees contended as replacements for the Great Shoe Tree.” End Quote
Apparently, on some shoe trees, shoes have messages written on them in magic marker.
I found a list of states (some with multiple shoe trees) on this site: https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/29064
By the way the list shows one in Kuna, Idaho with only 3 pairs of shoes. Oregon has 5 shoe trees. There’s even on in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
I hate to be a kill joy, but this creative practice is NOT good for the trees. 😦
Audrey — Thank you for sharing your research results. I agree with your sentiments that it’s not healthy for the tress to have hanger-onners.
Enjoy the word, “hanger-onners.”
I am sure it is someone statement of something. I can hardly remember to pitch my shoes into the closet let alone up a tree or elsewhere.
Jeff — Your last sentence made me laugh 😂
Hi, Laurie, we’ve got a tree like that in Snohomish, a town a little north of Seattle. It has hundreds of shoes hanging like ornaments from every branch, and they’re mostly sneakers and athletic-type shoes. My understanding is that kids from the local high school are the “decorators,” though I don’t know what event or milestone qualifies them to hurl their shoes. Not sure I want to know.
Donna — I’m with you: “not sure I want to know.” 🙂
I have seen shoes up in trees and over wires, but have never been inspired to mimic these feats. I am betting there are hundreds of different motivations for this.
Kathy — I’m willing to lay a $5/bill alongside your bet that there’s a wide brushstroke of motivations for slinging one’s shoes into trees or over telephone wires 🙂
I always wonder about how and why a shoe is hanging from a wire when I see one. When we were in Maine a few years ago, some of the little islands off the coast would have trees decorated with buoys – they were colorful and somehow, welcoming. But shoes – unless they’re worn out, shoes are not cheap so tossing them away seems kind of silly to me.
Carol — You’re right. And the shoes in this tree weren’t old, raggedy, castoffs. Some of the pairs were practically new. It boggles my mind! 🙂
Sounds rather weird, if I should say so. 🙂
ReadInPleasure — We’re definitely on the same page 🙂
The only shoes I’ve tossed have been to Goodwill.
Rose — You just made me laugh. Thank you! 🙂
We have a shoe tree here on Beaver Island. A few years ago, it was the location (rather a facsimile of it, on the stage) of a play written about island lore. It remains a mystery here, too, how the act of flinging shoes into the tree got started, and why it persists.
Cindy — Based on the comment thread, it seems to be a widespread “thing.” Who knew?!
I skimmed through the interesting comments and noticed that it hadn’t been mentioned yet and so I jumped at the chance. In Big Fish, one of my favouite movies, the protagonist tosses his shoes over a wire. I interrupted the act to mean: I’m home. I don’t need my shoes anymore because I don’t plan to leave. A few days after watching the movie I saw a pair of shoes tossed over a wire on my island home. : )
Leanne — That’s a great addition to the conversation. Thank you for sharing it! 🙂
We have similar things here in New Zealand, shoes in some, bras in others – or on fences.
As to who started them or why, I have no evidence.
I suspect that it is some aspect of a sense of fun, a sense of daring, a sense of the ridiculous, a sense of starting something that others might follow.
I do find it amusing to be driving in some far flung, out of the way place, and come around a corner to see a fence decorated with hundreds of bras – but that might just be my sense of humour, and a “having grown up in the 60s” sort of thing.
I have never myself contributed shoes, bras or any other sort of clothing item.
A few years ago we had something similar happen with rocks on one of our local rocky beaches.
Someone built a cairn. Someone else built another a bit larger. Within a few months there were thousands of little rocky spires 3 – 4 ft high. They’re all gone now. A big storm redistributed the lot of them.
Ted — A bra tree. Now THAT would be a sight! 😂
Awesome, Laurie… In some neighborhoods of Buenos Aires and other Argentine provinces …. sneakers hanging from light cables mean that there is a dealer willing to sell drugs in the roundbouts, hence it is also something related to gangs marking their territorial boundaries, as you pointed out above. This tree though, seems to have a more trascendent meaning….Who knows what it stands for? 😉 Love & best wishes 🙂
Aquileana — A good sign for “steer clear.” 🎈
Maybe a shoe fanatic ran out of places to keep shoes at home. Or these are discarded shoes not longer wanted? if the latter, why. not give them away to charities that take used clothing.
Or perhaps somebody’s bad idea of art or a bad joke?
Who knows? But I bet the smell was ripe.
Sharon — strangely, they were all fairly new 😉
It’s certainly a different definition of “shoetree.”
LakeAfton — It sure is 🙂
Hi Laurie! Very interesting! I love a mystery. I grew up in NYC and when my family and I visited a certain part of town we would see sneakers hanging from telephone wires. We found this curious but never knew what it meant. I’d love to know why there were so many shoes hanging off that tree. I’l be thinking about this for a while. Ha, ha! 😉
Vashti — Curious, isn’t it?!
Thank you for following Tuesdays With Laurie. I just followed your blog as well.
If you send your email address to me (Laurie Buchanan at me dot com) I’d like to email you a .pdf file with 365 Internal Inventory Questions for a year’s worth of journaling.
Ha! This was an amazing discovery Laurie! I’ve seen sneakers over telephone wires in our urban/suburban environs but never a tree with as many as birds! I did always think it meant something positive! 🙂 I’m always pitching my shows, but so far no dividends! 🙂
Sam — I can just see you slinging your shoes up high! 😀
No interest in shoes in trees. But I do have an interest in two lovebirds who turn their car around and go back to check out something unusual along the highway.
Shirley — Thank you for the face-splitting smile 🙂
I did see a video of a couple of men in a truck who stopped besides a huge tree, then opened up the back doors, to reveal a contraption , that looked like a huge catapult . One man ( a rather large man actually) hooked some boots on the contraption and catapulted it through the air , aimiming them for the tree , and much to my amazement made it , but why is a mystery .
Cherry — Oh. My. GOSH! I’d love to know the WHY behind it!
My guess is: probably a right of passage onto some sort of elevated stage or level where obviously, “No shoes are no problem.”
Sounds like my kind of place.
Dennis — You just made me SMILE 🙂
I took some pictures of the Kuna tree and two in Oregon this week. They turned out pretty awesome.
You can find them on Instagram or Facebook akfishinggirlphotography
Melissa — I just found you on Instagram and started following. The photographs you posted are FANTASTIC!
I’ve had a good time reading all the comments to your post here. Every so often I see a pair of shoes hanging over a telephone wire, and think, “hmmmm.” I like to imagine the person doing that even more than the reason WHY. We humans are strange creatures, truly. I feel kinda sorry for the tree branches, needing to carry all of those shoes (and think how heavy they are during a rain storm). I wish a big wind would blow them all away into shoe heaven.
Pam — SHOE HEAVEN. I like the way you think! 🙂
Laurie, how odd!! I’ve only seen this on American films (then over the wires as you describe) and never in real life…what gets me is how people have to drive out a long way for the specific purpose of flinging their shoes up the tree! Will they just be left there or is anyone responsible for getting them down? In winter out on walks I will see odd gloves on tree branches that have been lost and put there in hope its owner will find it…that I feel is heartwarming and cute.
Annika — It’s quite possible us Americans are nuts! I love that you’ve seen gloves on branches in the hopes their owners find them 🙂
Laurie, my husband and I went out for a long walk today and saw a trainer hanging over a fence with a woolly hat over the fence post! Couldn’t help but think of your post and the tree of sneakers!
Annika — I LOVE IT! 🙂
Perhaps they were dared to go out on a limb. 🙂
Elmediat — I love it! 🙂
Well, I live in NYC and depending on what street you walk on there will be old sneakers hanging on the power lines the traffic lights are on. Especially up in Harlem and the Bronx. It’s very old school.
Dropping by from Susie’s party. Very nice blog!
The Regular Guy NYC — Welcome, and hank you so much for visiting by way of Susie!
What a mystery Laurie!👀. I guess hanging their shoes would mean we’ve been here or we’ll come back soon haha or maybe they want to share their shoes to others who might need them???Thanks for sharing😊