Shoes on the Wire

Someday when the spirit and genius of Tesla triumphs there will be no ugly power line wires running above every street in New England. (First wired in not the last century, but the one before and saddled with old infrastructure.) Everything will come into your home by energy wave. Like your cell phone or old-style TV’s.

Then people will have to find new creative places to toss their shoes.

The frat houses across the street have a single pair of sneakers hanging on the cross wire over the avenue.

Now there are pessimists who would say that tossed shoes denote gang activity or drug dealing, but they don’t know Donald Smoot. He was my first shoe flinger. And he did it just to be mean.

Don’s territory has changed dramatically. In fact it’s been in a near constant flux. The main highway, off which it sprang, was an Indian trail, cutting from the valley floor up into the hills where the river ran south. Then it became a vital link to the Litchfield settlement and Albany in the New York Colony. The stages left Hartford twice a day. The road also connected to the east and terminated in Providence in the Kingdom of the Clam. There is a restaurant, just west of the three corners, on the hill formed by the first rocky outcropping that has been the site of numerous taverns, inn’s, victualeries and houses of assignation for centuries. The tavern was the home turf of some of the nastier colonial valley residents who engaged in smuggling, bear baiting, cattle rustling and horse stealing. Some were veterans of the Seven Years War, but fought in the colonies. Leaving them with a lust for marauding ways.

The area around the inn has been the site of many tragedies. Deadly car crashes, pedestrian deaths, and suicides in the nearby woods are routine. In 1878 the inn burned down and a headless body, a century old, was found in the clay cellar. The town judge wrote he believed it was the remains of Guy de Tailliavent, a French Army paymaster who disappeared after leaving Hartford for Saratoga to pay his French officers. He, his silver, his horse and all traces were never found. Except a pair of half rotted boots were found years later, hanging from a swamp oak in the marshy land near Secret Lake. I got this info from books and stories and Mrs. Whitestone. She was a plain old yankee with a good name who had married a bit of a bum, who also had a good name, and hated work. The Smoot’s were not her kind of people, but she now had to live with them.

Today there’s a shopping mall on the land I remember as an old golf course. But Mrs. Whitestone remembered when it was an apple orchard. About the time old dead Guy turned up, old, old, Mr. Lowell built a summer camp on the shores of Secret Lake. It wasn’t for the wealthy, they went to Lake Congamond or Watch Hill or Fisher’s Island. These cottages were for the foremen and the chief clerks not partners or upper management. They were nice, small with outdoor kitchens. They swam and fished and lived more primitively. It was a Chautauqua, a pioneer outing, a sleep-away camp. Fish fries, peach pies, kettles of chowder, quilting and shucking bees. Honey and sunshine and fresh air and hiking. And as good as it was,  it was already nearly over when the Depression hit. The summer cabins got rented or the families moved in after losing their in-town homes. There was no money for upkeep. That’s when Mrs. Whitestone bought her home. A faux log sided cabin with a breeze porch on two sides. And she soon had eight kids filling it.

When her oldest Danny came home without shoes she blamed him, but a few days later as she walked to the market she saw the nearly new Thom McCann’s hanging from the power line. The Smoot boys she thought. Fearing electrocution she nixed climbing the pole or using a long stick to knock them down. So she got her husband and he, between beers and on the third try shot them down with a bow and arrow. It severed the lace completely and they fell to the ground. He would have got it on the first shot if he used his rifle, but Mrs. Whitestone worried that the bullet might hit a passing car on the turnpike. But Donald was at it again the very next day with Shari Goldman’s ballet slippers. Thankfully it was the early 1950’s and Don was soon in the Navy due to the draft.

And that’s how I saw my first tossed shoes.

Mrs. Whitestone’s husband died of a stroke in 1967. In 1974 she inherited her aunt’s estate and moved out of Secret Lake, across town to Piggot Lane where she sat on her flagstone patio or on her breeze porch and looked out over the valley every night.

Donald traded his shoes for flippers and became San Francisco’s premier underwater demolition contractor with his brother. It combined his need for destruction with his love for explosions. He died, unexploded in 2007.