Appalachian Thursday–Feet of Steel

BarefootGrowing up on the farm, we pretty much took our shoes off on the last day of school and didn’t put them on again (except for church) until summer ended. I ran through the yard without a thought for bees. Walked across the rocky driveway without flinching. Hopped from rock to rock in Laurel Fork without slipping. (Well, maybe once or twice.) The bottoms of my feet were like rawhide.

At night, Mom sat my brothers and I one by one on the toilet lid and wash our feet with a warm washcloth. It wasn’t always worth the trouble of taking a bath, but she would at least scrape the grime from the bottoms of our feet.

Once upon a time, people in Appalachia went barefoot to save their shoes. They didn’t have 30+ pairs lost in the back of the closet. Even my dad, when he was a kid, had limited shoe resources. But when I was a young it was nothing more than a preference. I remember begging to go barefoot in the spring when Mom would decree it too cold. There was a joyous freedom in feeling soft grass between my toes.

Now I wear shoes to walk across the kitchen tile. I have to work up my nerve to dart barefoot into the yard to fetch one of Thistle’s toys. (I mean, there are bugs and stuff.) I wear “water shoes” to go in the creek and consider wearing flip-flops in any shower outside my own home.

My toes are tender. My heels easily bruised. My nails are pearly pink and my shoes are adorable (especially the ones that chafe.)

And I find myself missing my feet of steel. Longing for the relief of never needing to match my footwear to, well, anything. So here, in the midst of July, I pledge to go barefoot. To brave the grit I like to pretend isn’t on my floors. To let the grass tickle my toes. To dip my feet in the creek. And to honor the passing of summers long gone–those glorious days without shoes.

10 thoughts on “Appalachian Thursday–Feet of Steel

  1. mom

    I rarely wear shoes (year ’round) in the house. Haven’t for many years. Now I’m beginning to wear (at least) socks most of the time because these old feet have become so ugly… thick yellow toenails, miss-shapened joints, dusky colored. Still I like to walk in the grass with my feet free, but can’t make it in the rocky road!! 🙂 Thanks for the memories.

  2. Karen Richmond

    I use to be the same way Sarah. I never wore shoes in the summer and nothing bothered my feet! If I go outside barefoot now I find myself saying with each step “ouchie”, “ouchie”, “ouchie”! Thanks for the memory!!!

  3. I remember the grass in Gramma & Grampa’s backyard in New York was so soft, and it was fun to run around barefoot there. Back home in Georgia (which is where I still live), thick weedy blades of crabgrass detracted from the experience considerably. I do love my flipflops, though. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s